William Lachance 
Member since Apr 3, 2009

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Re: “Nova Scotia needs a new deal

Doctor,

Anonymity allows people to avoid being held accountable for what they say. I won't deny that there are occasional legitimate reasons for this, but it's also used by many as a license to say things that they'd probably be embarrassed to have attributed back to them... for good reason. I don't think it's coincidental that discussions where people are using their real names tend to be more civil and constructive (more of a forum and less of a shouting match).

Anyway, this topic is two deviations away from the subject of this article, so I'll stop there. You can have the last word if you like.

Posted by William Lachance on 07/04/2009 at 2:25 PM

Re: “Nova Scotia needs a new deal

The first four responses to this article are a case in point of people not responding to things they don't want to hear.

With respect to renewable energy, Dan Roscoe in particular articulated a very cogent argument in favour of moving to renewable energy despite its seemingly higher up front cost. Of course this are perfectly debatable, but it's interesting to me that the three (anonymous) commenters didn't even try to engage the issue, resorting instead to trite right-wing talking points.

This quality of public debate makes me fear for our future.

Posted by William Lachance on 07/03/2009 at 3:36 PM

Re: “HRM By Design hearing

From what I gather, the scope of HRM by Design is to provide development guidelines improve the urban design of Halifax, taking into consideration social, economic, and (yes) environmental factors. If you want to have a discussion on how it fails on those counts, ok. But it hardly seems fair to fault it for not solving all the world's problems.

I'm not sure why you think it's controversial that high-density, mixed use development is more energy efficient than suburban sprawl. There have been abundant studies on this type of issue, even if it weren't entirely obvious from the fact that this was the urban configuration in a past where energy was much more scarce than it is today.

I'm sure as time goes on it will prove necessary and desirable to alter development guidelines to accord with things like a regional transportation plan. Unless I'm missing something, I don't see why HRM By Design couldn't be altered retroactively to do this. In the mean time, I think the plan's stipulations on things like parking and active transportation when it comes to the street scape are steps in the right direction.

And yes, it's totally possible that people will blow any efficiency savings from living in a more compact urban arrangement on air travel, negating any energy (and thus carbon) savings. But this just goes back to my original point: we can't solve all the world's problems simultaneously, and incremental progress is better than none.

I also have to say that I find the ad hominem attacks on Fusion in the original editorial really disappointing. Can't we just stick to arguing matters of fact?

Posted by William Lachance on 05/09/2009 at 8:12 AM

Re: “hbus, the transit day tripper

Google hasn't ever demanded an exclusive right to Google Transit Feed formatted information to my knowledge. In fact, they've done an awful lot to encourage the innovative use of transit information, by making the GTFS specification public and producing the Google Transit Data feed library:

http://code.google.com/p/googletransitdata…
http://code.google.com/transit/spec/transi…

Read all about how a city submits information to Google in GTFS here:

http://maps.google.com/help/maps/transit/p…

Note that nowhere does it say anything about
how Google has an exclusive license to use the information
In fact, you can find a list of cities that have made their transit feeds public on Google's own site:

http://code.google.com/p/googletransitdata…

I think Google (and Google Transit) are awesome and I salute Metro Transit for giving them GTFS-formatted information. I just think that (1) competition (especially local competition) is always healthy and (2) there's a lot of scope for innovation in services beyond what Google has to offer. If it's possible to produce a site like hbus in just six months of part time work, imagine what else the creative programmers in this city might be capable of! Why shouldn't we encourage that? The cost is basically zero.

Posted by William Lachance on 04/09/2009 at 9:08 AM

Re: “hbus, the transit day tripper

(hbus's author here)

Doctor, the software behind hbus is not a google maps rework. In fact, it doesn't use google maps at all. The core elements of the site (pathfinding, user interface, and geocoding) were all written from scratch by myself. I did take advantage of some fantastic open source software (Django, YUI, CloudMade's Map Visualization API, and pyparsing) to help build the site, but that's pretty normal for this sort of thing. You never start completely from scratch.

You don't have to take my word for this. I've made the route finding source code opensource for others to examine and build upon:

http://github.com/wlach/libroutez

As for the disclaimer bit, there's several on the site. The very first paragraph, in the top left hand corner, says: "hbus.ca is an *unofficial service*". The second says "This site is *still under development*". Of all the people I've heard comment about hbus (and there have been many), you are honestly the first to say that my non-affiliation with Metro Transit is remotely ambiguous.

Finally, feel free to tell me what hbus should have calculated for your route on http://hbus.uservoice.com. I'm always on the lookout for cases where the path finding software performs poorly.

Posted by William Lachance on 04/03/2009 at 8:58 AM

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