The Arbutus Skytrain extension – a phantom tour

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J Trudeau

During Canada’s recent federal election campaign, Prime-Minister-to-be Justin Trudeau promised funding support for transit in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland — “to extend rapid transit along Broadway to Arbutus, bring light rail transit to Surrey, and increase SeaBus service during peak periods.” It’s part of a commitment to invest C$20 billion in Canadian infrastructure projects over 10 years. This announcement may breathe new life into a transit project that, judging from online discussion, appears to have lost momentum over the past three or four years.

Track's end, near VCC

Track’s end, near VCC

The proposed extension of Skytrain into the west side of the City of Vancouver has been on the books since the Millennium transit line was built in the 1990s. The Millennium line runs west from the Coquitlam border through Burnaby into Vancouver, ending abruptly near Vancouver Community College, almost at the dividing point between the east and west sides of the city. The western extension of the line would relieve pressure on Vancouver’s Broadway Avenue bus corridor, home of the limited-stop B-99 services that had 55,000 boardings per day in 2013. Continue reading

The East Village — “the heart of East Van”?

New commercial + 3 structure at Hastings and Templeton, Vancouver

New commercial + 3 structure at Hastings and Templeton, Vancouver

Vancouver’s Hastings Street east from Templeton Street is seeing rapid change. Ageing one-story shopfronts are going down in favour of four-storey complexes like the one pictured above.

I walked through here recently with my sister Morna, who has lived close by for more  than thirty years. The big fruit and vegetable stores are hanging on, but the Italian deli is gone, and the shoe stores. Instead, the trend is to latte bars and niche veterinary practices. It’s becoming more like Kitsilano, an affluent and sought-after quarter over towards the University of British Columbia. Continue reading

On South Fraser Street

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My niece recently left home and moved to a different part of the world. From counter-culture Commercial Drive, she made the six-kilometre trek to South Fraser Street and found an affordable rental apartment.

A rare example of side-street excitement, South Hill, Vancouver

A rare example of side-street excitement, South Hill, Vancouver

They say the resident mix is evolving, although there’s no influx of trendy cafes or retail stores at this stage. The South Fraser area is beyond walking distance from rapid transit; in Toronto, many such areas would be served by streetcars, but this is not Toronto. There’s a standard Vancouver high street, heavy on ethnic butcher shops. There’s a low-rise condo project under construction; limited multi-unit housing on the side streets, with a couple of seniors complexes a bit further away; and rental mini-houses popping up in the laneways, Kitsilano-style. The park on 41st Avenue is the home of little league baseball in Vancouver. Continue reading

Along the Number 20 Line

Grain terminal in Port Metro Vancouver, seen from Powell St.

Grain terminal in Port Metro Vancouver, seen from Powell Street

Vancouver writer Rolf Knight published Along The No. 20 Line  in 1980. It’s a book of working-class memoirs and oral histories about the Vancouver of the 1940s.

Cordova Street

Cordova Street

The title essay recalls a 1949 trip on the Number 20 streetcar through East Vancouver, from the intersection of Kamloops and McGill streets, near where the author grew up, to Cambie and Hastings, “the informal boundary of Vancouver East’s downtown.” Continue reading

The Main Street jumble

Just-off-the-high-street commercial space - a chocolaterie on Twenty-First Avenue

Just off the high street: a chocolaterie on 21st Avenue

The urban village, the subject of frequent posts on this site, is a walkable area that combines a diversity of services and housing choices with adequate transit.

Setting the boundaries of any urban village is partly a guessing game. By one convention, the average body will walk up to 1,000 metres to get access to village services. But which services? What’s in, and what’s out? In the City of Vancouver, with the most complex development patterns in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, villages often overlap. This is certainly true of the neighbourhoods up and down Main Street: one of my favourite streets, but the result is difficult to photograph and to describe. Continue reading

Searching for controversy in the West End plan

Projected development in Vancouver's West End. The blue towers, mostly on Georgia and Burrard, represent future densification.

Projected development in Vancouver’s West End. The blue towers, mostly on Georgia and Burrard, represent future densification.

Two recent posts on Fraseropolis focused on Vancouver neighbourhoods — Grandview-Woodlands and Marpole — where resident activists have forced big delays in the City government’s area planning process.

Denman Street 2, Vancouver reducedIn Vancouver’s West End, however, City Council moved ahead last month with the adoption of a new community plan. This area is the finest urban village in British Columbia for access to services and urban life, at least as measured by the Fraseropolis index, and the City plan is advertised as a tool for preserving and enhancing these qualities. (The plan actually defines three West End villages — Robson, Denman, and Davie — but for an outsider from the deep ‘burbs, they blend comfortably together.) Continue reading

Conflict in Marpole

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Urban affairs journalist and blogger Frances Bula recently noted a heating up of resistance to densification in Metro Vancouver, especially in the City of Vancouver. A consortium of neighbourhood interests called “Liveable Vancouver” is spotlightlighting the controversy in Marpole, where the City government is trying to develop a plan to accommodate a forecast population increase. On a recent visit, we saw many lawn signs protesting against rezoning; a Marpole neighourhood group claims there are thousands.

The City’s current concept would protect Marpole’s significant stock of rental housing; enable townhome construction on many of the residential streets where there is now single-family housing; and allow condo apartments or towers on the arterial streets. Continue reading