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MOVments: Flirting, Getting Good Grades, and Hitching a Ride


 
This week brings some new takes on common Vancouver themes like public space interventions, cycling, and transit. You'll learn where to track down a mobile park, what people want in a bike route (and how to flirt while riding), and about a potential downside to our new transit fare system.
 
Park-A-Park. So the parklet at East 1st and Commercial has been around for a while (since the end of July) but by now many of us have had a chance to experience its unique and diminutive charms. As Julien Thomas, the urban interventionist who created the mobile Park-a-Park in collaboration with Emily Carr explains, the space is meant to encourage connection: “Sometimes conversations with strangers are very surface level, but I think if you add a twist, say, in a disposal bin on the corner of a busy street, really interesting conversations can happen.”
 
Cycling Report Card. The Vancouver Sun recently spoke to Kay Teschke about what Vancouver is doing right, and what it needs to work on in terms of cycling safety and infrastructure. According to Teschke, a UBC professor and cycling advocate, separated bike lanes are the way to go, hands down, for reasons of accessibility, comfort, and safety. Another possible benefit? Facilitating bicycle flirtations
 
Transitional Transit. We've all heard about the controversy around the Skytrain no longer accepting bus transfers with the implementation of the Compass card system. But the Georgia Straight brings up another valid point: the $6 price tag attached to Compass cards could make it very difficult for social service agencies to provide transit support to people living below the poverty line
 
Happy Birthday, Stanley Park. And lastly in honour of Stanley Park's 125th anniversary, an article exploring its influence on the city. (Oh, but wait, there's a bit of a dark side). 
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: The Narrows, Stanley Park, ca. 1900. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 677-487]

MOVments: Design Futures

Re-designing from the bottom up: The City of Vancouver unveiled its new sign design for rezoning and development projects last week. The new simplified design is a response to the previous hard-to-read and overly technical signs. Meanwhile in other parts of the city, glitz and glamour are being favoured over simple design, with multi-million dollar homes and surreal hotels marking the horizon. And in Grandview-Woodland we have a radical new plan for redesign and redevelopment. This week we explore Vancouver's stylistic tendencies, ranging from the flashy and ornate, the clean and (not quite so) simple, to the contentious and complicated.

Luxury Living. The Vancouver Observer gives us a tongue-in-cheek take on the fanciest (and most expensive) houses in the city. And yes, those are home cinemas and private bowling alleys that you're seeing. In other multi-million dollar news, Trump Tower is coming to downtown Vancouver. The $360-million Georgia Street development will include a hotel complete with champagne lounge, spa, and banquet and conference centre. It's expected to be finished in summer 2016.

Clean Slate. On the other end of Georgia, removing the viaducts and streamlining the area between Chinatown, Gastown, Strathcona, and the Downtown Eastside, is beginning to seem like a better, and better idea to many, including Mayor Gregor Robertson. As a recent report remarks, "In every city's evolution there are rare opportunities to take bold city-building steps to advance the city's goals and livability or correct a past planning wrong. The potential removal of the viaducts provides an opportunity for the City of Vancouver to do both."

Riding in Style. And for something that is perhaps neither simple or flashy, TransLink is shopping around various options for funding future upgrades to Metro Vancouver's transit system. One idea is road pricing, which could mean anything from bridge tolls to charges for drivers based on time of day or location. Could road pricing be the simplest, most elegant means of funding future transportation infrastructure or is it a complicated solution to an equally complicated problem? Your thoughts?

Decision-Making Style. It looks like Grandview-Woodland will be going through a drastic redesign. As Charles Campbell explains for The Tyee, "The Grandview-Woodland Community Plan calls for a radical remake of the area around the Broadway SkyTrain station: a possible 36-storey building on the Safeway site behind the station, towers up to 22 storeys in "transitional" zones including the area between 11th and 12th avenues near Commercial Drive, and more high-rises up to 26 storeys between Broadway and 7th towards Woodland." But for Campbell (and many others), the question remains: Who decides?

At the MOVeum:

June 26 - Upcycled Urbanism Volunteer Orientation night
July 6 - Curator’s Talk & Tour Foncie's Fotos w/ Joan Seidl
July 13 - Upcycled Urbanism: A Design+Build Project for Everyone - Granville Street Build Day

[Image: Expo 86 Georgia Viaduct and Saskatchewan pavilion, 2001. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, 2010-006.517]

MOVments: Pocket Change

This week's MOVments is all about the bottom line: money, moola, coin. Well, not exactly. After all, when is business ever really just about business? News of W2's near-eviction from the Woodward's building, TransLink money problems, and falling housing prices, has us thinking about the social and political change that necessarily accompanies fiscal shifts (and vice versa) in our fair city. 

W2.0 After receiving an eviction notice for November 23, W2 Community Media Arts Society has been given a 90-day stay by the City of Vancouver so that it can restructure its finances. Megaphone quotes Councillor Kerry Jang for their article on the situation: “It [W2 Media Café] wasn’t making any money,” said Jang. “The business model that was there clearly wasn’t working. That’s what our city staff and everyone are trying to figure out now: how to reinvent the space, how to reuse the space in order to make a go of it.” But as the comment section for the article suggests, W2's brand of social development may not fit so neatly into a conventionally profitable business model. Problematic? Sure, but it sounds like Mayor Gregor Robertson is supporting the organization in exploring some creative possibilities for a sustainable business plan, at least for the time being. For a thorough exploration of the complex relationship between the city and W2, check out this Globe and Mail article.
 
Mo' Transit, Mo' Problems? In response to the new proposal for a subway system along the Broadway corridor, Pete McMartin has written a rather existential piece for the Vancouver Sun. In it, he poses a couple of philosophical questions about the meaning of, well, TransLink; he asks "Is [TransLink] an agent of change or reactive to change? Does it create cityscape or service it? Most important, in this time when the effects of global warming are making themselves apparent, is it an environmental agency or merely a people mover?" McMartin argues that we need to start answering these questions in order to move away from car-based transportation infrastructure. He also suggests that the Fraser Valley region should take priority over Broadway for rapid transit given the sheer number of vehicles moving from this area to Vancouver everyday. Your thoughts and feelings?
 
Chilly Housing Market. It appears that just as we head into some more wintery weather, the housing market in the Lower Mainland is cooling off as well. As the Vancouver Sun reports "the number of home sales dropped to 10-year lows in the Vancouver area and average sale prices dipped across the region." Some of us don't need to be told that there could be benefits to a drop in housing prices, but the Vancouver Sun makes it official, reporting that while a further drop in prices will hurt some, it would also boost the economy by encouraging movement to BC by both retirees and first-time homeowners. As with other economic trends only time will tell where these falling prices will take us but we will be keeping a close eye on the developments.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
January 17 - Built City: Reinvest
 
[Image: W2 Woodward's, Perel Gallery. Photo by Kris Krug]

MOVments: Imagined Communities, Imagined Vancouver

The way we envision, project, and ultimately imagine a community into being is immensely powerful (just ask Benedict Anderson). This week we're looking at how Vancouver is being shaped by our imaginings and ideas (or in some cases lack thereof) around streetscapes, public space, transit routes, and Aboriginal education.

Civic Bling. Have you ever tried to imagine what East Hastings might look like with more bike racks, trees, and street furniture? With Blockee, a new web-based app, you can redesign it completely using images taken from Google Street View. It's a pretty fun little project put out by Code for America, but as OpenFile reports, there are more serious applications. For example: with 150,000 more trees to be planted in Vancouver over the next eight years, OpenFile produced a greened up, and blinged out, vision for Hastings between Dunlevy and Gore, an area which has long been conspicuously free of greenery

Reimagining Public Space. GOOD and the BMW Guggenheim Lab have announced the winners of their 2012 Transform a Public Place competition. With over 120 submissions proposing innovative ways of making public space more comfortable, Vancouver's own Rodrigo Caula was awarded one of the top five spots. His team's Ingrain Reclaimed Street Furniture Project converted a 205-year-old fallen tree into a public bench that is currently being displayed on Granville Island. As he says, "...Our intention was to give it new life and to use its story as the foundation of a movement that seeks to better respect our precious resources." Woot! Go Vancouver!

West Broadway Woes. So far we've heard about creative types re-envisioning Vancouver in unexpected ways, but the idea of a rapid transit line along West Broadway may represent a crisis of imagination for the city. Or so says Gordon Price in last week's Globe and Mail. He argues that given the endlessly complicated negotiations between TransLink, various levels of government, UBC, and private partners, we shouldn't expect to see a rapid transit line heading out to Point Grey within his lifetime. While TransLink is putting together preliminary reports on what form the line might take (above ground vs. underground), funding questions are up in the air and Surrey may actually be next in line to receive money for increased rapid transit infrastructure. Read more about the problems and the possibilities here
 
(Mis)Imagining Native History. Finally, this week The Tyee printed a revealing piece on the general public's knowledge of Aboriginal history and cultural in this province and across the country. In a recent online survey, when Canadians were asked about the relationship between Native peoples and the federal government "over two-thirds of respondents believed that not only are aboriginals treated well by the government, but also they receive too much federal money." As The Tyee points this couldn't be further from the truth: infrastructure like water systems and housing are incredibly underfunded across the board. What the survey ends up telling us is that we are not doing enough to educate around the ongoing struggles of Native groups in our school curriculums. On a positive note, UBC's faculty of education is doing its part to prepare its students to meaningfully engage with these issues in their classrooms through a course called Aboriginal Education in Canada.

At the MOVeum: 
 
[Image: Blockee image courtesy of OpenFile. With files from OpenFile's Trevor Pritchard]

MOVments

TransLink. As it celebrates Skytrain's 25th year, TransLink reports another year of record ridership, with little funding to increase service to meet the demand. The question then, is how to fund improvements?

Social housing. A social housing project for girls and young women is the latest space of controversy in the Downtown Eastside, because some feel that the location leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. Francis Bula shares a letter from Janice Abbot explaining the project. Debate in the comments is both interesting and heated.

Robson square. Granville Street and Robson Square are soon to return to normal when they are opened to traffic on September 5. Spacing shares a video of what it looked like during Picnurbia and other public programming by VIVA Vancouver.

Buskers. The Dependent remembers the beginnings of regulations targeting buskers and other street performers on Vancouver streets.

Nude-in. On August 23, 1970 demonstrators held a nude-in at Wreck Beach to protest the arrests of nudists at the beach. The court case and the ensuing protests helped ensure Wreck's place in our collective consciousness.

Curtain call. The Pantages Theatre and neighbouring buildings are finally coming down. The Straight has pictures of the extent of the demolition.

Velo-city. Copenhagenize shares some vintage photos of Vancouver cyclists during a time when the car was king.

It's a dirty job, but... OpenFile visits the sewers with one of Vancouver's dragging crews.

Beatlemania! Hysterical fans got so out of hand at the Beatles' only appearance at Empire Stadium that Red Robinson was called in to quiet down the crowd. The Beatles told him to "get the fuck off the stage," but ended their set shortly afterward and made a hasty escape. Tickets were just $3.25. Thanks, The Dependent and Past Tense for digging this trivia up this week.

Image: fi_chince via flickr

MOVments

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.

MOVments

Cycling. Translink has released it's regional cycling strategy meant to encourage cycling and make it safer. Good thing, too, because safety is one of the major concerns that keep women in particular off the roads.

Evergreen line. Negotiations to build the Evergreen Line took a huge step forward when Metro Vancouver mayors voted in favour of increasing the gas tax to pay for it. Spacing explores other sources of funds for a cash-strapped Translink.

Shoebox living. A new development under construction features 270 square foot condos. Is that even livable? Well, Gordon Price made it work in the 90s. But in spite of their size, these units aren't as affordable as you'd think.

Status quo. While the city develops around it, the West End has remained more or less the same.

Olympic Village. While many of the housing units at the Olympic Village are still empty, businesses are slowly starting to open.

The dark side of 100 mile. An exhibit on right now at W2 Media Cafe shows the unsavoury side of local food - the exploitation of new immigrants and temporary foreign workers who work on farms in the Fraser Valley. It's an issue also covered in our Bhangra.me exhibit on display right now at MOV. If you have the chance you should come down and check it out!

Public square. Gordon Price wants to get rid of the fountain in front of the art gallery to turn the space into a proper gathering area.

Crime. Did you know that Vancouver is the bank robbery capital of Canada?

Image: LastGreatRoadTrip, via flickr.

Moving Through (Redux): 3 Locations, 3 Architects, 3 Planners.

On a bright and sunny Saturday morning in February, 75 Moving Through participants embarked on one of three architectural walking tours organized by MOV, as part of a multidisciplinary exploration of Vancouver's built environment, called "This is Not an Architectural Speaker's Series".  As some of you know, the groups were completely full, so not everyone was able to join.  The good news is, we recorded each walk, and the podcasts are now available for listening and download!

Listen: Moving Through Podcasts

Three concurrent walks and groups set out from Stadium/Chinatown Skytrain, Commercial/6th, and King Edward Stations, and joined together for lunch and an all-group  Q&A and wrap-up session lead by Gordon Price at SFU Woodwards.  Our intrepid guides report:

Mini-Walk A: The Path(s) Not Taken: Viaducts, Expressways, and Almost Vancouvers.

(*Guides: Vancouver Public Space Network, Michael Green, mgb architecture)

Most Vancouverites rarely spend any time in the parking lot across from Rogers Arena, but standing there looking up at the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, it is easy to feel like you've been transported to the overpass wasteland more typical of LA or Detroit.

Demian Rueter and Brandon Yan, transportation coordinators from the Vancouver Public Space Network and Michael Green of mgb architecture have thought a lot about these overpasses and about what could have been if the downtown freeway started in the early 1970s had been completed. Walking through Gastown, it is easy to see what would have been lost. The European style streetscape that was jeered for so long as a tourist trap left behind by Expo 86 has become in recent years a dependably fun spot for a night out and home to some of the city's best restaurants. If the freeway had been built, not only would this be lost, but also large chunks of Strathcona and Chinatown. By passionately opposing this plan, the residents of these neighbourhoods prevented this plan from occurring. A widely forgotten casualty of the project was Hogan's Alley, the neighbourhood Vancouver's Black community called home.

When we start to think about these great neighbourhoods surrounding the viaducts, it's easy to imagine that parking lot becoming something really exciting if the viaducts were to come down.

Mini-Walk B: Speed and the Shape of the City: Vancouver’s Evolving Transitscapes

(*Guides: Andrew Curran/Translink & Graham McGarva, VIA Architecture)

Graham McCarva sees transit stations differently than most people. Graham was the lead architect behind Commercial/Broadway station, it is informative to walk with him through the station and surrounding neighbourhood. "A subway station is a place to buy flowers," he told us, a place where everyone should feel comfortable walking past at any hour. This idea informed the of this station, which responded to neighbourhood concerns of unsavoury characters commanding the intersection. Previously the location of the busiest pay phone in the region, it is now home to the busiest Shopper's Drug Mart. The main action on the Drive used to be north of 1st Ave, but since the station was renovated the neighbourhood has grown right down to 12th Ave.

Andrew Curran, senior planner at Translink, introduced the concept of Marchetti's Constant, and helped put the station into historical perspective, explaining that this, the highest traffic station in the system, serves the same function as did the former streetcar station (now a post office) at 6th and Commercial. Like the streetcar station before it, Commercial/Broadway Station connects two suburban lines to lines bound for Downtown (and UBC), moving thousands of people each day.

Andrew and Graham sparked many questions among the group, making the ride to SFU Woodwards a lively one. We were better able to see the role that transit has played in the development of the lower mainland, and puzzle over the role that the Canada Line and other future lines will play in the area's ongoing growth.

Mini-Walk C: Evolution in Station-Area Planning the Cambie Corridor

(*Guides: Jim Bailey, City of Vancouver & Peeroj Thakre, pH5 architecture & Urban Republic Arts Society)

Tucked beneath the streets at King Edward Skytrain station, Jim Bailey, senior planner for the City of Vancouver's Cambie Corridor Station Area Planning project, led us through an engaging discussion about this interesting, and perhaps under-discussed area of Vancouver. Ranging from the Cambie Village to Marine Drive, Bailey divides the area into 5 Precincts, suggesting each has room for development of a unique character and livelihood. However, while single family homes are currently at a market value of $1.5million near King Ed station, it is clear that increased density will be necessary for more affordable living situations. As we walked through the laneways surrounding the station, Peeroj and Jim discussed with the group, how optimizing transit, cycling, and walking opportunities, as well as increasing public amenities, and opportunities for community engagement will be key for the future of the Cambie Corridor.

See the Moving Through photoset here.

MOVments

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.

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.”

Precisely.

Image credit: Rosemary Poole

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