Canada Line


The missing link. The seawall is finally connected in Coal Harbour. Gordon Price visited to check it out and found that on the whole, the link is pretty confusing. A second visit revealed that not much had improved on one of our most famous and beloved urban spaces.

Pipe exchange. Keeping in line with it's harm reduction strategy, Vancouver Coastal Health and Insite will be adding pipes to the paraphernalia that they distribute to drug users in the Downtown Eastside. While intended to slow the rate of HIV and Hep-C infection and result in cost savings for the healthcare system, they're expecting it to be a hard sell with the public.

What does life in the DTES look like? Ryan Fletcher lived on the streets for a week for his story in The Tyee and found community, charity and lots of characters.

Canada Line. TransLink announced this week that it will be adding extra trains to the Canada Line, reducing platform wait times. But some question whether the infrastructure is enough to accommodate the ridership of the future.

Pantages. The city's Urban Design Panel has rejected the developer's proposal for the site of the Pantages Theatre as the community and the developer continue to disagree about what amenities and housing are needed for the area.

Little Mountain. Open File visits a public consultation about the new Little Mountain project and talks to the developer about how not to repeat the Olympic Village experience.

False Creek Flats. The city is receiving many proposals for the revitalization of the False Creek Flats, and is looking to maintain a variety of industrial uses in the space. It's come a long way from the cows pasture it was.

Pedestrian deaths. As pedestrian friendly as the city tries to be, far more pedestrians die in car accidents than people in homicides ahead of both Montreal and Toronto.

Wait for Me, Daddy. A commemorative monument is being planned in New Westminster for one of the most iconic Canadian photos from the Second World War.

Urban gardens. Also in New West, a group of residents and their strata council transformed the roof of their building into a community garden, showing yet another model for the creation and ownership of collective gardens.

And now, a video break: crowds gathering and dispersing at the Celebration of Light and bike lanes in action.

Image: Mark & Andrea Busse, via flickr.


Digital video billboards: a vibrant addition to the landscape or ad creep? Planners didn’t have them in mind when they originally drew up rules about ads and signage in the city. These new flashy signs present their own set of problems and issues.

Casino expansion. In spite strong numbers opposed to the latest proposal to expand gaming and casinos downtown, and some notable opponents, it seems to be an uphill battle. The leaders of the movement lament that it’s just not as easy to get people interested in actively opposing it.

** I’ve since heard from Vancouver, Not Vegas that things are not as dire as the article suggests, that their list of supporters has gained the attention of City Hall and that they are gaining support as more people hear about the proposed casino expansion.

Bike lanes. The City released the usage stats for the Dunsmuir and Hornby bike lanes and is seeking public input on how to make them work better. For doubters, a City engineer issues a challenge: check the data yourself.

Canada Line vs. small business. A decision to award damages to a business owner affected by Canada Line construction has been overturned by the BC Court of Appeal.

#1. For the fifth year in a row, The Economist has ranked Vancouver as the most liveable city in the world, but don’t rejoice just yet because the rankings don’t take income or cost of living into account.

Olympic Village again. Sales have resumed and the new prices have been announced, but some advance sales have roused some complaints about the process. Meanwhile, sales companies are going after buyers who have backed out of their purchases.

Please drive. Not enough people are using the Golden Ears Bridge, so toll revenues are far below expected and what is needed to pay for it’s costs. TransLink is planning a marketing campaign to get people to use the bridge more. Stephen Rees comments and considers how to pay for transportation.

Image: rufousfelix, via flickr.



Farmland in the city. A blog post on the Vancouver Sun provides a good overview of many of the challenges of farming in Richmond, where often farmland and residential or parkland are situated next to each other and where there is intense pressure to develop. One of the farmers featured is Harold Steves, whose farm is also featured in our Home Grown exhibit.

Housing first on Howe. Bosman’s Motor Hotel has reopened as part of a study of a ‘housing first’ approach to dealing with homelessness, mental illness and addiction. For the next three years the hotel will provide stable housing to 100 hard-to-house residents before the property is converted into condos.

One year on the Canada Line. An article in re:place magazine looks at ridership statistics and impacts of the construction of the Canada Line, one year after it’s completion.

Charting Change. A new online atlas of Burnaby links historical photos and stories with an interactive map of Burnaby. Very cool!

Salmon! Last year’s run was disappointing or frightening, depending on how you look at it, while this year it is inexplicably huge. 30 million, the largest run in 97 years. The only problem is that nobody seems to know why.

Image credit: Gord McKenna, via flickr

Farewell 2009! Here's to 2010

Been a quiet holiday season at MOV (and quiet on the blog front! It’s been awhile!). Consider it the calm before the storm. In just under two weeks we’ll open Art of Craft, an exhibit that comes to us via the Cultural Olympiad. The exhibit is a national survey of Canadian craft with a section devoted to works from B.C. and the Yukon, and another section featuring 47 objects from Korea. (More posts on Art of Craft to come. Meantime, buy your tickets to the opening party on January 13 here.) A second exhibit from the Cultural Olympiad opens on February 4 and features the incredible immersive work Tracing Night by Toronto artist Ed Pien. Details here (and, again, more to follow in upcoming posts). In addition, we’ve extended the run of Working Wood, our look at the work of five Vancouver woodworkers, to February 7. Ravishing Beasts continues to the end of February. It’s a packed house.

But before we get too far into 2010, a quick look back. 2009 saw many changes to the physical landscape of Vancouver. A few things stand out.

—The Canada Line subway/SkyTrain system opened in September, and already draws 90,000 riders a day. Overdue?

—The Pennsylvania Hotel completed a painstaking and inspired heritage restoration in early January (image above), providing 44 studio apartments and on-site services to the area’s homelesss.

—The removal of the scaffolding around the original Woodward’s building revealed—at last!—the store’s old painted advertisements on the brick, reminding us of a time when picking up stationery was a regular errand.

—Outside Woodward’s, more neighbourhood changes. The storied Only Sea Foods (sic) restaurant closed after a drug investigation; Pigeon Park reopened after a lengthy redesign, though still seems in a state of transition with area residents continuing to gather half a block away.

—Across town, Slickety Jim’s Chat ‘n Chew—the cluttered east side eatery that drew a crowd long before Main Street was cool again—burned to the ground. Part of Slickety’s appeal was its tired decor and resistance to the new, minimalist polish underway at many of its neighbours. What will take its place?

—The reallocation of a car lane on the Burrard Street Bridge for bicycle traffic was a major news story this summer, and then the lane opened and, well, nothing happened. It just seemed to work.

All that talk of the cyclist’s place in the city worked in our favour, and timed out perfectly with Velo-City, our exhibit on Vancouver’s ongoing cycling revolution. It was a year of changes for us, too. We’ve written about some of them extensively here on the blog, so let’s just leave it here: 2009 was an incredible year of change for the Museum and the city. And 2010? More ahead. We’re looking forward to all of it.

Bicycle Parking at Canada Line Stations: A missed opportunity?

I rode the Canada Line from the King Edward station last night and noticed these mud-brown boxes (pictured left) just outside the entrance. At first glance, they appeared to be electrical transformers. They’re actually bike lockers, 10 stalls in all. No signage. No way to access them without a key. No number to call for rental information. A bit of sleuthing reveals that C Media, a company contracted by TransLink, operates similar “lock and ride” boxes at many SkyTrain and West Coast Express stations. The lockers rent for three-month periods at a cost of $30 (plus GST and a security deposit). The lockers outside Canada Line stations won’t be operational until next week, with billing and rental agreements scheduled to start September 1. No details about this on C Media’s website yet, so it’s unclear how many lockers there are and which stations actually have them, but you can download the rental agreements and get the process going. The page is linked here.

As Velo-City draws to a close, the Museum is looking at what lies ahead. Throughout the exhibit, we’ve been considering whether we’re on the verge of becoming a true cycling city, by hosting events on topics like bicycle parking, and offering bicycle tours that explore our recent urban planning and architectural history (the tour route uses much of the city’s cycling infrastructure, including the new dedicated cycling lane on the Burrard Street Bridge). We’ve got a few more cycling events planned yet:

On September 3, we’ll be looking more closely at where Vancouver is at in its cycling revolution, by examining other transitional cycling cities and doing a little compare and contrast. Sean McKibben of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition and Amy Walker of Momentummagazine will be joining us for the discussion. Reception with cash bar to follow. Admission is free.

On September 6, we’re hosting a double bill of two cycling documentaries. Veer looks at cycling culture in Portland, following a colourful cast of characters; You Never Bike Alone is a locally produced and shot film that examines how cyclists are changing Vancouver. The screenings are free with regular MOV admission. I’ll post more details on all events as the dates approach.

One thing I know for sure is that Vancouver won’t become a true cycling city until City Hall and the various regional transit agencies better communicate the cycling infrastructure that is available to would-be cyclists. One shouldn’t have to launch an investigation to find out what’s up with the brown boxes outside the Canada Line stations. In a perfect world, those lockers would have been up and running by the opening of the line, when crowds upwards of 100,000 people turned out to ride the trains and learn about the system. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce large numbers of Vancouverites to commuting by bicycle and rapid transit, and it was missed.

And what of the new bike and pedestrian bridge that opened quietly last Friday? Most media didn’t even pick up the story, but the bridge is a major contribution to regional cycling infrastructure and cost $10-million to build. For those who haven’t heard: the bridge is located beneath the Canada Line’s North Arm Bridge over the Fraser River, and connects the Marine Drive and Bridgeport stations. Video of the bridge is linked here. As seems to be the pattern, much of the commentary about it hasn’t been positive, but rather, a chance for cyclists and motorists to sound off on each other online, and for cyclists to lobby for another such bridge to be located more centrally. Read the comments linked to CBC’s coverage here.

In the trailer for Veer, one of the characters says, “You can’t have a revolution, if you don’t involve a lot of people. It doesn’t work that way.”


Image credit: Rosemary Poole

The Souvenir of the Day

Here’s a late post (a caption, really). Pictured left is a boarding pass for the first Canada Line train. These passes were given to VIPs who gathered at Vancouver International Airport early this morning for the first northbound departure. Something to add to the Museum’s collection, perhaps?

Image credit: Rosemary Poole


The Canada Line opens Monday. What happens next?

Vancouver is just days away from opening its new rapid transit system, The Canada Line. It’s a big deal here, one decades in the making, and remains unpopular in some circles, a landmark achievement in others. There has been much debate about this line—where to locate it, how to build it, who should pay for it, the impact of construction on businesses along it, etc. etc. Add to that the many recent station open-houses and photo opps, and one can’t help but feel the official opening is somewhat anti-climactic.

It’s hard to pinpoint precisely where the firsts are here. The Canada Line is functionally a SkyTrain (something we’ve had since the mid-’80s), but serves a denser, more urban swath of Vancouver than either of the two SkyTrain routes, and the Vancouver portion of the line is entirely underground. Our first subway! It’s certainly the biggest construction project in the city’s—and the province’s—history, at least in dollar figures. $2.05-billion in all. And if nothing else, it comes at a time when few other cities are building transit projects of this size and scale; it’s the equivalent to a 10-lane highway and expected to remove 100,000 cars from the daily downtown commute.

Yesterday, at the Yaletown-Roundhouse station (pictured above), construction crews were busy restoring brick and concrete outside the new building; essentially righting a landscape obscured by construction fencing for nearly three years. I’d set out to review the design of the individual stations, starting with this one. I soon realized why there hasn’t been much written about them to date: they’re designed to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Here, glass panels on four sides offer clear site lines from every angle (a safety measure, to be sure), while concrete and wood lend structure. Though different architecture firms worked on different groups of stations along the 19-kilometre route, they all look and feel pretty much the same. Dull? Maybe. But they’re also simple, streamlined, and self-explanatory. A nice premise. The real disappointment is the way-finding signage, which looks to be designed to the exact specs of other TransLink projects. The aim there, as with the stations themselves, seems to be to fit into an existing system, an existing context.

After the ribbons are cut on Monday, the question will be how that context—i.e. those streets in the immediate vicinity of the stations—will change. This question was at the heart of the debate that took place in Cambie Village, the section of Cambie Street between West Second and King Edward Avenues. Businesses in that area were particularly vocal about the negative impact the line’s cut-and-cover construction method had on their livelihoods. They sought compensation. At least one judge ruled in their favour. So, why didn’t Yaletown or Richmond Centre merchants respond similarly? Launch their own lawsuits? Because the identity and fate of those areas was decided long ago. The Yaletown station sits amongst historic brick warehouse buildings that have already survived major redevelopment; it looks like it’s been there for years, providing an obvious and needed rapid-transit link for a populous neighbourhood. Anti-climactic indeed.

Cambie Street, specifically Cambie Village, has a far different story. It grew up along very different lines, and is comprised mostly of its original low-rise, “six-pack” apartment buildings and single-storey mom-and-pop shops. Aside from a few big-box developments that have recently sprouted near Broadway and Cambie, many of the sites have never been redeveloped. That will soon change. The zoning along Cambie Village allows for multi-storey residential buildings with commercial storefronts on the main floor (picture the Olive condo development at Cambie and West 16th). When will the landowners redevelop? Which businesses will stay? Which will go? Which will come? Stay tuned.

Image credit: Rosemary Poole

Subscribe to Canada Line