The Interurban Tram, 1950-51

Fraseropolis Interurban tram 1951 from YoutubeMy sister Morna has shared a link to a one-hour video record of interurban trams in Vancouver and Burnaby, dating from 1950 and 1951.

A brief history on the TransLink website states that these self-propelled street railway cars were “like streetcars, only larger and more powerful.” The video speaks to a time when the pace of life was slower. The area that is today’s Metrotown (at about 20 minutes) appears semi-rural.

Seeking the best cities for work in B.C.

In early December, BC Business published its annual “Best Cities for work in B.C.” index.

Infill housing, Sapperton, New Westminster, 2017

The publishers and their research partner, Environics Analytics, deserve credit for collecting and posting data on 46 B.C. cities, from Squamish (ranked #1 for 2019) to Port Alberni (ranked last).

Unfortunately, I don’t know what they are trying to communicate. Is the District of North Vancouver (ranked #3) a good place to find a job, or a good place to live if you want to look for a job? What kind of job? How does high average income in a community affect the on-the-job experience of a teacher, a firefighter or an electrician who happens to work there? Or are we simply talking about the local opportunity to earn a higher income in our chosen profession? ($51,000+ is available to a Step 1 Category 4 schoolteacher in New Denver in the Kootenays, $48,000 for the same teacher in North Vancouver, so…) Why are municipalities that sit next to each other so far apart on the scale?

To keep it short, I’ll look at a simple pairing. Coquitlam is ranked #11 on the index, and New Westminster, across the freeway, is ranked #43. The unemployment rate in both places is 4.5 per cent, presumably because they both sit in a larger Statistics Canada zone. Average shelter spending is $21,236 in New Westminster and $23,917 in Coquitlam, giving the edge to New West under the contest rules. Average household income is higher in Coquitlam, vs. $107, 029 vs $88,727, but what does this mean? Average commute times for residents in both places are more than 30 minutes, indicating that many residents are earning their incomes in Vancouver or Surrey in any case.  Coquitlam households spend more on recreation than households in New West ($5,000 per year vs. $4,000), but what does this have to do with their status as places to work?

It’s possible that BC Business is appealing to ambitious readers who want to adopt — or mimic — an upwardly mobile lifestyle in the financial or real estate sector, and who want to live among people who are doing the same, but this is just a wobbly guess. If I wanted to meet a rich mentor so I could ride around on his yacht, I would not move to Port Alberni (#46 and last), but neither would I move to Prince Rupert (#6), which is (a fine and respectable place but) even more stormy and remote.

Austin Heights, Coquitlam, 2012

A new SkyTrain plan for Surrey

Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route fraseropolis

Route for the proposed SkyTrain extension from Surrey Central to downtown Langley, posted by TransLink in early 2019. The former light rail route from Guildford to Newton has been demoted to express bus status.

From 2011 until last year, city government in Surrey (population 500,000) worked diligently on a plan for light rail transit. This would be the first at-grade LRT system in British Columbia; similar systems are in service in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa. By 2018, $1.65 billion in funding from regional, provincial and federal sources was in place, with construction teams to be selected in 2019.

But a new municipal government elected in October 2018 moved quickly to kill the Surrey LRT scheme. LRT, according to an active group of opponents, was too slow, and it would get in the way of cars and trucks. SkyTrain moves more people over longer distances, and it has big city prestige. Continue reading

2018 local elections: backlash, reform, status quo

Coquitlam Central, 2014

October’s local elections in urban southwest British Columbia showed no clear trend. Each of the more than 30 municipal jurisdictions has its own political cycle, based on local history and personalities. In Surrey and Maple Ridge we saw a return to the past; in Coquitlam, New Westminster and North Vancouver, something like the status quo; and in Mission, Port Moody, City of Langley and elsewhere, the rise of a new generation. Continue reading

A pop-up village at the University of British Columbia

A promotional photo from DiscoverWesbrook.com showing new high-rise development at UBC

In just seven years, the University of British Columbia has created a highly densified residential neighbourhood on its southern perimeter.

Not everyone loves the Wesbrook project. The University sits outside the City of Vancouver, and there is no local government to put the brakes on the University authority. The University Board develops its lands as it pleases, with some provincial government oversight. Continue reading

No quick fix for North Vancouver traffic

A detail from the 2018 joint agency report on North Shore traffic, with a bunch o’ recommendations on how to reduce congestion.

It seems Fraseropolis got it wrong in 2014 when we downplayed reports about traffic jams on the North Shore. I said that with almost zero population growth, an ageing demographic and improving transit, traffic volumes in North and West Vancouver should be subsiding.

A photo used to promote a public forum on traffic, from the North Van Parks and Rec Commission.

However, a new report from a multi-agency task force points out that industrial and commercial development on the North Shore is drawing thousands of workers from across the Burrard Inlet, and heavy truck traffic is increasing as well. North Vancouver is now one of the region’s traffic hot spots, especially around the two major bridges in the afternoon rush.

“Employers have expressed their frustration and challenges with attracting and keeping employees who either must commute from other parts of the region on congested roads and bridges or make a long transit journey.” Continue reading

The Haney-to-Hammond family cycling route: a proposal

A cycling route from Haney to Hammond as proposed by Fraseropolis and HUB Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, with a potential loop at the western end. The map was developed by Cindy Farnsworth

The John Hammond house, c. 1893, on the proposed route.

In 2017, the local government in Maple Ridge asked our friend Jackie Chow to develop a tourist-friendly cycling route in the urban part of the city. Jackie asked me for help, since she knew me as an oddball urban explorer and mapmaker.

We agreed to focus on flat, safe, easy cycling to accommodate kids, parents and seniors. This restricted us to a couple of choices, since much of Maple Ridge is hilly and the direct east-west routes are very busy. We settled on a route connecting two historical zones, downtown Maple Ridge (also known as Haney) and historic Port Hammond. At the western end, cyclists get a view of the Fraser River at one of the few public access points in the city. Continue reading