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Revisiting free city Wi-Fi along Fairview’s West Broadway—block-by-block

Late Sunday afternoon (January 21) the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue was flooded by water backing up from both washrooms, with the result that the restaurant closed seven and a half hours early, at 4:30 p.m. If I couldn’t sit and write, I thought, it was a nice afternoon—I could at least do some neighbourhood research.

I decided to stroll east up West Broadway Avenue to Cambie Street and back again to test how accessible the City of Vancouver’s free #VanWiFi network signals were, coming as they mostly did from within private businesses.

Two days earlier I had written critically of the fact that over 64 percent of the city’s new free Wi-Fi coverage in the Fairview neighbourhood was located inside private businesses along a few blocks of West Broadway Avenue. I questioned how freely available this Wi-Fi was and whether it would be available after the stores hosting it were closed for the day.

What I found when I tested the actual availability and strength of the #VanWiFi network along 10 blocks of West Broadway Avenue, between South Granville Street and Cambie Street was honestly much better than I expected—there were blocks-worth of strong Wi-Fi coverage, quite accessible from the sidewalk.

At the same time, the coverage was patchy. Signal availability and strength varied by block; it varied by where I was standing in a given block and—quite significantly—it depended whether I was standing on the south or north side of the street (with the former being much better than the latter). Read more…

Nearly two thirds of “free” city Wi-Fi in Fairview isn’t freely available

A detail of the City of Vancouver’s Google map of #VanWiFi locations.

The City of Vancouver on Friday (January 19) announced what looks like a massive expansion of over 500 new locations to its free public #VanWiFi program. But looks are perhaps a little bit deceiving. In the Fairview neighbourhood at least, over 64 percent of these “free public” Wi-Fi spots are not located on public property but inside of retail businesses and doctor’s offices!

The #VanWiFi program began 15 months ago, on October 2015, in partnership with telecom provider Telus and saw free Wi-Fi offered in six Vancouver Community Centres to begin with.

The stated goal of the program in 2015 was to bring “free public Wi-Fi to civic locations throughout Vancouver.” But today’s massive expansion of the #VanWiFi program, including a large percentage of retail locations (if Fairview is any indication), is an indication of broader coverage goals.

The program likewise has a different telecom partner now—Shaw Communications, which is also a sponsor of the city’s Mobi Bike Share program—a fact that plays a part in today’s #VanWiFi expansion.

Read more…

Fun East Vancouver graffiti sticker is on the ball

In case anyone is interested, the black and yellow Playground Zone sign on the northwest corner of both 8th Avenue and Manitoba Street and Jonathan Rogers Park has been artfully stickered so that the sign’s silhouette symbol of a child with a ball is now wearing the uniform of the Toronto Raptors, which happens to be Canada’s only team in the U.S.-based National Basketball Association (NBA).

And we’re not talking just any old Toronto Raptors’ uniform but the purple and black version, circa-2000, bearing the number 15, which was worn by the great American shooting guard and small forward Vince Carter when he played for the Raptors between 1998 and 2004. Read more…

What’s open near me Christmas Day (2017 edition)

Every Christmas Day I wonder where I might go on the Westside of Vancouver to get a hot coffee, a bite, a live plug-in and a strong Wi-Fi signal. This year I’m wondering with only three day to spare, which is just not enough time to make the hundreds of necessary phone calls.

At least I can confirm that a few restaurants and coffee houses will be open on December 25 in and around the Fairview neighbourhood (which is my personal concern).

Blenz Coffee (I confirmed this location in person)

McDonalds (these locations were confirmed by the franchisee John Marsh)

Starbucks (the location finder erroneously lists a lot as open. The following locations were confirmed by phone)

  • Broadway & Granville—2505 Granville St., Vancouver: 8:30 a.m-5:00 p.m.
  • Burrard1855 Burrard St., Vancouver: 8:30 a.m.5:00 p.m.
  • Granville & 2nd1500 W. 2nd Ave., Vancouver: 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Oak & 12th—2787 Laurel Street, Vancouver:  6:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Waves Coffee House (hours are from the store locator but I confirmed Hastings hours by phone. Most others I called will be closed)

  • Chinatown—495 Main Street, Vancouver, (604) 568-9283: 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Hastings—492 W. Hastings St.,Vancouver, (604) 568-8568: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

White Spot (I confirmed the following location by phone. See store locator for other locations)

  • Kingsway & Knight—1476 Kingsway, Vancouver, (604) 874-2825: 11 a.m.3 p.m.

I’m guessing that all locations of Denny’s, the 24-restaurant, will be open on Christmas Day, same as every other day.

While I would be happier to have many more locations on this list—particularly independent coffee houses and restaurants—the above bit of detective work was frankly enough to tucker me out. Next year I promise to start earlier.

Anatomy of one holiday homeless care package

The contents of a homeless care package that I was gifted with on Tuesday.

Tuesday, (December 19) I was sitting in a McDonald’s restaurant, focused on my laptop and the blog post I was writing, when a finger tap on my shoulder brought me back to the real world.

The finger belonged to a well-groomed young man with a confident smile, who didn’t waste time on introductions. He straightaway handed me a hefty little white plastic bag, which he said was from both himself and his girlfriend and then he left the restaurant. He may have clapped me on the back as he left but I’m not positive.

The bag contained a “homeless care package”, namely a large, re-sealable zipper-lock storage bag filled with the following toiletries and stuff:

  • 20-pack of wet wipes.
  • 130 ml tube of toothpaste.
  • 2-pack of toothbrushes.
  • 4-pack of triple-bladed disposable razors.
  • 74 ml tube of shaving cream.
  • 100 ml tube of skin care lotion.
  • 85 g stick of roll-on deodorant.
  • 140 g bar of Castile soap.
  • 15 or 20 individually packaged bandages in a smaller zipper bag
  • 2 pairs of new socks.
  • Restaurant chain gift card (marked as loaded with $10).
  • Loose change ($3.25).

This is all good stuff and as a homeless person I am grateful to have received it. If I had a quibble it would be to argue for liquid soap to replace both the bar soap (which is awkward to store after it gets wet) and shaving cream (which is messy and useless (and maybe even harmful) and easily replaced by liquid soap.

For people looking to produce their own care package for homeless people, I will say that everything in the package I received on Tuesday has universal utility to homeless people of all genders and includes five of what I deem to be the most useful items: razors, socks, a deodorant stick, a zipper-lock bag and a restaurant chain gift card. Read more…

Another no-warning snow morning

10:24 a.m.: Rain turns to wet snow at the intersection of West Broadway Ave. and South Granville St.

It was exactly a year ago today that unexpected heavy snow stomped the morning commute and, wouldn’t you know it, history repeated itself!

Just after 10 a.m. this morning (December 19) light rain turned unexpectedly to snow at the intersection of West Broadway Avenue and South Granville Street—not to say anything of the rest of Vancouver. And it goes without saying that everyone’s morning commute sucked worse than usual.

10:26 a.m.: The temperature warms as the the snow gets thicker and stickier.

With no advance warning from weather forecasters, the City of Vancouver can perhaps be excused for not salting or brining the roads overnight but the surprise and lack of road preparation (in the Fairview neighbourhood at least) meant that the snow stuck and piled up quickly—even on the heavily-trafficked West Broadway Avenue. Read more…