Education profile: Patrick Condon

James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Livable Environments, University of British Columbia

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      Patrick Condon is ready for civil disobedience, ready to block machinery, and ready to be arrested if it means he can stop the provincial government’s Gateway Program.

      “I would risk arrest,” Condon told the Georgia Straight from UBC, where he holds the James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Livable Environments. “Civil disobedience, in the face of injustices of the past—in South Africa or the American South and to some extent the Vietnam War era—was an important thing to do for many people. So I feel similarly moved in this case.”

      On a cold night in East Vancouver last December—with temperatures dipping to below freezing—Condon joined others at a Gateway site to protest a major part of the multibillion-dollar project, the widening of Highway 1 from East Vancouver to Langley. Crews showed up and Condon and other protesters stood their ground. However, they did not cross the line and get themselves arrested that night, meaning the event was a dry run for what might come next.

      In his role as landscape architecture professor, Condon thinks a critical skill for students in the future “is not to be able to understand facts or understand narrow specialties, but to be able to think across issues and across disciplines, and be able to synthesize or pull together information from a lot of different areas into solutions that connect to a lot of different areas”.

      In his work, Condon added, this always involves the “three Es—ecology, economy, and equity—which are the legs of the sustainability stool”.

      “So any problem that we attack, and they are nearly almost all defined as sustainability questions”¦[it] requires us to include in the equation issues of ecology, economy, and equity in the solution,” he said. “You can’t get much broader than that. What does that leave out? Basically nothing.”

      U.S.–born Condon was raised in Massachusetts and graduated from university there in landscape architecture. He came to Canada in 1992. Such are his political convictions, he still votes in elections both here and south of the border, where his last state of residence was Minnesota.

      On the home front, Condon has four children and four grandchildren. As befits his modesty, he said the focus should be not on him but on future generations. The day before this interview, Condon was reading about the emerging clinical state of “despair”—not depression—that has gripped those looking at climate change’s implications for humankind.

      “Despair is reasonable,” Condon added. “In the face of the facts, one can feel a sense of despair. So I feel a sense of the emerging despair among some people I speak to, and it’s really horrifying. I think that many of us who are working in these areas—[UBC community and regional planning professor] Bill Rees would be one of them—it’s pretty hard to get up in the morning sometimes. You end up focusing on these issues long enough and the activities of the decision makers is slow at best.”

      They might respond quicker if they see Condon in handcuffs on the evening news.



      Evil Eye

      Jan 28, 2010 at 12:13pm

      Mezz, one tram (1) driver is as efficient as 6 buses (6 drivers) and for every bus or tram operated, one must hire at least 4 people to drive, maintain, and manage them.

      On a route that requires 60 buses (could be Broadway) only 10 trams would be needed to move the same about of passengers. About 240 employees would be needed to operate the buses, while only 40 employees would be needed to operate trams. Do the math, the cost saving are very large for trams.

      It's the kind of math that sells LRT in Europe!


      Jan 28, 2010 at 3:32pm

      But Condon isn't advocating LRT on a high density corridor. He is putting trams in vancouver that for the most part already have trolleybus infrastructure. (page 8)

      Are those routes running at capacity? Will it increase mobility for the regular transit user? Both modes are zero emmision anyway.

      I know know that he is trying to advocate for streetcar, but a few of his studies that made headlines are unclear with methodology, and going over the top with assumptions that can be challenged works contrary to that purpose.

      "from the caption “typical vehicle occupancies for the transit modes were calculated from operating data reported from existing systems using these vehicles” ...I am not the author of the report, I have no insight into how this data was calculated. However, it is obvious that there is spare capacity on every transit system off peak weekdays, at peak periods in the “return” direction, and on weekends. "

      Stephen Rees


      Jan 28, 2010 at 3:47pm

      In a presentation in 2004, Patrick Condon articulated at length on the reasons for his opposition to freeways. He believes that freeways will result in cheaper residential real estate in metropolitan areas.

      Our Differences Are the Same
      Patrick M. Condon
      February 2004

      In order to grasp the nature of Condon's argument, readers should pay extremely close attention to the contrasting hypothetical cases of Mr Rangel and Mrs Campbell which Condon presents on pages 13 and 14.

      Rod Smelser

      Carmen Mills

      Jan 28, 2010 at 4:32pm

      An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law. - Martin Luther King Jr.

      We can stop this freeway. It's not a done deal.

      Evil Eye

      Jan 31, 2010 at 7:40am

      Mezzy, trams are LRT, the only difference is a tram operates in mixed traffic and light rail runs on a HOV lane for trams. It is the HOV lane or reserved rights-of-way, that makes a tram light rail.

      Why is such a simple concept so hard for you to understand?

      Oh yes, I know, if it is not SkyTrain, you don't want to know.

      The Olympic streetcar line is a perfect example: It is in fact LRT because it operates on a reserved rights-of-way.


      I hope so?

      Bernadette Keenan

      Jan 31, 2010 at 9:56am

      I thought Patrick's Condon's remarks at the Gateway protest at First Avenue in Vancouver were inspirational and look forward to seeing him at further actions. Maybe in Surrey next time.


      Feb 1, 2010 at 11:38am

      How is it that most readers DISAGREE! with posting a link to one of Condon's articles?

      Rod Smelser