Herb Auerbach, real-estate development consultant and author of “Placemakers” responded to this piece in the Sun on the Arbutus Greenway by Cheryl Chan:
For over 10 years I have urged the City of Vancouver to recapture the Arbutus Right of Way from
CP Rail who I believed then, and believe now, that once they ceased running trains on it they were obliged under the Transportation Act to cede the rail right of way to the Crown.
So I was pleased to learn  the City had finally acquired the right of way but was disappointed to learn that they had to pay for it.  I was also glad to hear that the current installation of a pathway and bike lanes is temporary and plans are afoot to permanently enhance what is now dubbed the “Arbutus Greenway”
So I went by Point Gray School to view the results of the “Design Jam” and speak with a number of the City representatives there.
I found little inspiration, and was further disappointed to learn that the project is in the hands of the City’s Engineering Department and not the City Planning Department.  When I asked, “why not the Planning Department?”  I was told this is just a narrow strip and has little effect on the abutting property. Of course it has effect on the abuttifng proiperties, and the Planning Department should be taking the lead on a project of this magnitude and import.
I was also disappointed to learn that the City has not given up on the idea of developing a portion of the Greenway to generate income , and I was further disappointed  to learn that the City deal only transferred the CP right of way to the Fraser River and not all the way to Steveston. The whole approach to dealing with this extraordinary opportunity to create something unique and grand,  seems lacking innovation, inspiration, vision and imagination.
Imagine a vintage  trolley car (not rapid transit) running from Science World to Steveston (and not just Granville Island as it does now or to the Fraser River as planned) and the positive impact it would have on  points along the way and the attraction it would have for tourists, and like the street cars in San Francisco would pick up and transport commuters along the way.
Imagine this right of way planted with 10,000 cherry trees and walking or riding along it and under them when they are in bloom.
Imagine the Greenway having special illumination, walkable and rideable by day and night, with points along the way for cafes where folks can rest, meet and converse.
Imagine a design which is the product of more imagination. …


  1. It’s a shame the old Steveston train was removed. It would have been a great tourist attraction. Compare that to the thrill of looking at the Gastown Steamclock.
    Imagine: Stop a Douchebag – Game of Trains. Who would have thought those crazy Russian drivers would figure out a way to balance their vehicles on tram tracks.

    1. Tourists come in droves in the summer. We do NOT need even more tourist attractions. We need efficient transportation systems for locals, all year round, not just for 3-4 month.
      A fast moving train should be considered but a slow tram is a dumb idea. It needs to be a subway for most of the dense section ie almost all off 41st to Granville Island. It cut easily be done as cut and cover is cheap on a former railway corridor. Then another route from downtown via Expo land, Granville Island to Steveston makes sense probably.
      Speed matters, not tourism appeal.

      1. Thomas, go to the Friends of the Olympic Line website, scroll down and look at some of the European videos. You will note separate LRT right of ways with autos on the sides in their four lanes with LRT cars going faster and carryng more people than SkyTrain mini-metro cars. Your idea of streetcars/LRT belongs in the 1950’s..For one interested in taxes, your support for an obsolete SkyTrain system-3x more expensive than LRT, 7 only in the world, noisy and divisive to a neighbourhood, and requiring separation and or a tunnel with costs of that, maintenance, security, and a doubling of the transit costs as buses still required above, beggar common sense. Look at the arguments for the Scarborough Toronto line-one or two stations in a subway vs seven or more LRT stations. Professor Condon’s paper and any European YouTube video will assist.

      2. Speed matters?!

        Build sufficient housing close to where people need to be, and: transit becomes less important, speed ceases to matter, housing becomes more affordable, people have more leisure time to enjoy the pleasures of life. Pleasures like… Stanley Park … the Seawall … and, the Arbutus Greenway. Good community design reduces our need for more the same old transit that NO ONE wants to be on (if we had a choice).

        What matters? Quality of life – for everyone – is what matters … and the Arbutus Greenway is for everyone. It’s gentle gradient and the absence of stairs makes it both a lovely linear park and an amazing travel route for pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, wheel-chairs….

        Herb’s got this one right, and people with his sensibilities should be guiding the Greenway planning process.

  2. A great piece and curiously sane to be featured on Price Tags.
    Paving one of the last great public spaces in Vancouver was a travesty. I opt for the Cherry Tree solution myself.

  3. Mr. Auerbach should know that the Richmond portion of the line was sold to the City of Richmond in 2010. It wouldn’t have been possible to include it in the City of Vancouver deal with CP, even if the City of Vancouver did have a role in Richmond.
    The land was sold to the City of Richmond for a greenway, a recreational corridor. It is functioning as that greenway now. With ongoing greenway development in Richmond, and a connection from the Arbutus Greenway through to the Canada Line bridge, it will be even easier to travel from False Creek to Steveston, whether walking, or rolling.
    Just a side note, but the Design Jam participants did imagine a canopy of trees, special lighting, cafes, meeting spots along the route and so on.

  4. Sadly the connection to the false creek seawall has been abandoned and no longer appears on their materials. Big gift to the west side, keep it exclusive.

    1. It hasn’t been abandoned at all, connecting to the water at False Creek remains an important objective. It was just not a design focus for this past weekend given the variables involved. It looks like connections are going to be better than originally thought, with a link to the Granville Bridge Greenway into downtown as well as the link to the water. That opens the Greenway to people coming from the downtown peninsula.
      Add in the improvements planned from the Central Valley Greenway along 1st towards Granville Island, and another group of residents will have easy access.
      You couldn’t be more wrong about keeping it exclusive.

  5. The last thing we need is to spend tens of millions on a tourist train. The ~$70 million cost estimate for the first version promoted by city staff (tram from False Creek to downtown) was likely very low. TransLink rejected the very short and relatively unconnected route as a viable transit alternative. Should the idea be resurrected, then all effort should be made to incorporate it into the transit network with regular and hopefully frequent service joining Stanley Park, Canada Place-Gastown, False Creek-Granville Island, and the entire Arbutus Corridor to Marine Gateway Station. Anything else regarding trains in this corridor is a waste of public money.

    1. I agree but the original Vancouver City Transportation Plan with the long planned False Creek to Waterfront with its mandated right of way could service both the ten million tourists to Granville Island, locals and visitors to Telus Science World, locals/tourists to Gastown and reduce car congestion in Gastown. Report suggested that it could be a city PP3 and not Translink -and further would make money ..The report is still on the city website. I know locals who used the very short Olympic streetcar line to shop at Granville Island…also it connected to the now little used Olympic Station on Canada..$18 million already spent on the Olympic streetcar LIne by city now unused…yet while many millions for sustainable bike lanes, walkways, none to an existing but unused rail resource-Why, politics, perhaps?

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