Regular PT commenter Sam de Groot linked to his blog – Dreams and Schemes – when referencing The Icepick, which largely ignored the Hub Framework intended to guide development.  So instead, he has some thought-through ideas for the the Vancouver Central Waterfront (the area between Centerm and Canada Place) worth posting here.


Sam: The railyards on the waterfront are an anachronism that beg for redevelopment proposals, and there have been a few over the years like a casino, stadium, bland office towers and transit hub. I started these ideas when the casino was proposed in the 90s, and I have revisited them over time. … My proposal is (to bridge) the railyards to connect downtown to the water (with) a triangular area ….

On this triangle I propose a tight grid of narrow streets around small blocks that get even smaller toward Crab Park. The park is expanded but directed inward.

Looking at the image above, the grade descends from downtown to the water at the right.

On the bottom chord of the triangle, the grade must be high enough to clear the railyards, and along the left chord of the triangle, the downtown grade is preserved to the northern point as the vantage point should be a bit higher than the wharves on either side. The Centerm expansion is assumed and shown in blue, and completion of the Harbour Line and removing the Seabus terminal is also assumed.

Lots more detail on Sam’s blog here – like this:

I have pencilled this in with narrow streets because this is essentially a pedestrian only precinct. ….  The shorter the buildings, the narrower the streets.

And this:

I quite like the 2nd CPR station, and it appeals to me if that were recreated in some way around the main public square, probably to the north or east:
Lots more, including illustrations of the Central Waterfront Hub Framework of 2009:


  1. Site of my master’s thesis – and I’m certainly not the only one who has looked at it over the years.

  2. What is he proposing for the SeaBus terminal to go? It has to connect with the passenger rail systems at Waterfront Station.
    The present arrangement is not as good as it should as we should have moving sidewalks.

    1. He hates the SeaBus. He wants it gone.

      I really don’t understand why we’d spend such enormous gobs of money and ignore so many environmental concerns with regard to filling a huge swath of the harbour when we have dozens of times this amount of land being poorly used throughout the city. I know that Zurich, a city probably much richer than Vancouver, has looked at building over their much more substantial and centrally in-your-face- railway yards with office development and decided it wasn’t worth the cost.,+Switzerland/@47.3883286,8.4924327,3270m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x47900b9749bea219:0xe66e8df1e71fdc03!8m2!3d47.3768866!4d8.541694

      And I also don’t understand this disdain for our railway heritage, voiced by a few people in comments here who want to hide it away. We are a port city and it is the prime reason for our existence as a major city. On the one hand some are aghast at the proximity of proposed new development next to a heritage building and on the other our heritage and livelihood should be swept under the rug? I don’t get it.

      1. Your statement: “He hates the SeaBus. He wants it gone” is not a fair or accurate representation of what I said.

        What I actually said: “Like any self respecting Vancouverite, I feel like Judas for recommending the Seabus be replaced, but it is the weak link in north shore transit. Waterfront Station to a station on lower Lonsdale is only about 4km or about 5 minutes travel time (22nd to Edmonds is 2km which Expo covers in 2:25). It would also run every two minutes or so. No matter what the view, there is just no contest between 5 minutes every 2 minutes and 15 minutes every 15 minutes.”

        1. He wants it gone. No question. He dislikes it enough to misrepresent it with an inaccurate schedule.

          It ran (pre-Covid) every 10 minutes and takes 12 minutes. Your figures represent 36% more time than the actual average crossing time. Furthermore it is the most predictable of all transit departures in the system and is largely synced with the entire NS transit system. It has a fantastic on-time record.

          There is also no reason at all that it couldn’t run at 5 minute headways if the demand was there. Given that there are two berths on each end it could conceivably run at 2 1/2 minute headways though it might admittedly leave it more vulnerable to delays. A third berth on each end would fix that. Two more berths would not be an unreasonable expense.

          Though it will always require a crew for safety it’s also a prime candidate for future autonomous piloting.

          1. I will point out that presumably one of the safety issues is being able to pilot the craft when its autonomous function fails, or there is a need to change course for an emergency etc, at which point you need trained helms people et al anyway.

            One might also surmise that an autonomous craft would be an ideal target for hacking and blackmail — as we have seen so many gov’ts lately dealing with having to pay bad actors to free their data. Not as big an issue on land, but ‘gimme some money or I remotely drive this boat into that anchored freighter over there’ is not outside the realm of possibility anymore.

            (not a fan of giving jobs to robots when humans want to do the work and contribute taxes, spending etc in the economy. Especially unionized positions that offer reasonable pay)

          2. Same could be said of SkyTrain. Running a train into another at full speed would create equal havoc. How much do you worry about that? I think we’re still ten years away from acceptance of autonomy but the SeaBus would be easier than a bus for example. And just as SkyTrain can be operated manually if necessary, the SeaBus has a crew on board that should be trained to at least guide it away from trouble in an emergency. They may not necessarily need the skill to dock it.

            We are moving toward a declining population unless we make it up with enough immigration. Who knows how many people will be available for such jobs in the future? I’m not trying to take peoples’ jobs away, but rather account for the operational cost argument that is sure to arise from those who favour SkyTrain.

            I should have also added that SeaBus would also be a prime candidate for electric propulsion having 3 minutes to recharge every 15 minutes.

          3. “Same could be said of SkyTrain. Running a train into another at full speed would create equal havoc. How much do you worry about that?”

            Worst case scenarios are something I think about a lot. Cue the unsurprised faces of anyone who has read other posts I have made here. I can imagine way worse ways to mess up Skytrain for years than running one into another, but am not going to give people ideas, or invite a visit from CSIS due to my fevered imaginings.

            Nonetheless, I think it’s a bit apples and oranges to compare scenarios with a train on tracks and a boat that is not constrained by same. Definitely not equal havoc.

            I can’t say a lack of qualified candidates for Seabus positions is something that I consider much of a worry (clearly not a worst case scenario I guess!). Those are pretty good positions with decent pay.

          4. “They may not necessarily need the skill to dock it.”

            If you can’t park the boat, you shouldn’t be driving the boat. It’s that simple. Especially in an emergency when getting people disembarked in a timely manner might be ‘life or death’.

          5. There’s more people on two full SkyTrains than on one full SeaBus. Maybe you’re thinking they’d crash two SeaBuses? Certainly not equal havoc – I’d rather be in the SeaBus crash at 1/3 the impact speed. Speed kills.

            I think you worry too much. I can think of at least 3 incidents where suicidal pilots killed their planeload. No computer hacks required. Same goes for crazies who drive trucks through crowds. It’s a lot harder to hack into computer system than to rent a truck.

            The crew wouldn’t be piloting the SeaBus if it were autonomous. Docking it manually would be an unusual emergency situation that may never arise. You don’t need to know how to dock a boat to get all the lifeboats out. That’s what they’re trained for. Society won’t be ready for autonomous vehicles until it is quite clear that it is statistically significantly safer – even with the threat of a hack.

          6. I think humans have successfully navigated the inlet for thousands of years and modern crewed ships for over a hundred. It’s not a priority to have robots drive Seabus. There are bigger issues with a better payoff in the long run.

          7. Did anybody say it was a priority? Because I certainly missed that part.

            But one thing we do know about technological advancement and the resulting shift in jobs is that it is a shift in jobs. Not a loss – usually a gain. And furthermore, just because we’ve been doing something for centuries is a terrible reason to keep doing it. I usually reserve this comment for conservatives who often seem fearful of positive change: You’d have us still in the caves.

          8. “But one thing we do know about technological advancement and the resulting shift in jobs is that it is a shift in jobs”

            Too often this shift is from skilled, semi-skilled positions to button pusher while the robot does the machining, lathing, or other task that previously was performed by a human with marketable skills.

            Perhaps ensuring people get to jobs they don’t particularly love as fast as possible is not the ideal scenario. Perhaps we should dig a little deeper into it all.

          9. Splitting a rock just so and lashing it to a fine straight piece of wood then sneaking perilously up to a huge animal along with your buddies who survived the last attempt was also a marketable skill.

            Today those same people have more time to create art, music, architecture and culture. They have more time to be educated and understand the deep complexities of what makes our world and universe and what makes it tick. They have more time to find ways to protect us from nature. They have more time to find ways to work with nature. They have more time to find cures for diseases . They have more time to invent solutions to the never ending array of problems that will always exist or creep up on us.

        2. “just because we’ve been doing something for centuries is a terrible reason to keep doing it.”

          Which is not what I said. I pointed out that the current situation has worked effectively and does not (arguably) need a bunch of engineers spending time and money on it when there are more important issues.

          Technophilia is as damaging as technophobia. And if you characterize my position as an urge to return to the caves, then I’ll suggest yours is one of blind adherence to ‘progress’ without regard for the whole picture. Automate, make more plastic junk, and then throw it away in five years. That’s largely what autonomous ships in this case would represent. While enriching corporations and taking jobs away from humans. Terrible idea that’s only getting worse as the plastic tide of disposable everything keeps coming in.

          There’s no compelling reason to take away those jobs. There’s very good reasons to position the debate as one about human dignity and value.

          1. What if positive change is recognizing that the system is working well enough for now that it doesn’t need to be ‘optimized’? This perspective is lacking in the conversation too often imo.

          2. Well, first of all, it is TransLink, not some big evil corporation, that would benefit. People are working on autonomous navigation whether you like it or not. At some point it’s going to be a no-brainer to apply it to transit in all its forms and free up those drivers/pilots to do more stimulating work. Imagine criss-crossing the harbour 24 times in a shift. The drudgery is compelling reason enough.

            “Technophilia is as damaging as technophobia.” Agreed. However I see no correlation whatsoever between advancing navigation technology and discarding plastic. It is, in fact, science and technology that is finding new more sustainable materials and systems that can get us away from our reliance on petrochemical plastics and fertilizers etc. Yes, it is also learning from the successes of more holistic traditional agriculture, for example. But there too science is applying its more objective evaluation to prove those systems actually work and selling the benefits to those who will always be skeptical of such ideas.

            Unless there is a definable downside, under what circumstance would you not want to optimize? What is the benefit of making things harder, more expensive or less efficient?

            Your worries seem to suggest that everything just keeps getting worse when that is clearly not the case. Just ask Groc who didn’t live to see forty while hunting with stones. We do get things spectacularly wrong sometimes and are often stubborn as hell to admit it and turn it around. But we do. Or else we wouldn’t be here living the long easy lives we do.

          3. I didn’t call corporations evil. It’s bad form to put words in someone’s mouth

            Translink is not in the computer hardware/software manufacturing business last I checked.

            Regardless, I think it’s telling you are taking us back to the stone age as the alternative to a critical examination of automation and its very mixed blessings. I propose we move past technological adulation to a more analytic and dispassionate examination of the role of machines in our lives.

            What if the real alternative is less reliance on technology to do human tasks? Less construction of disposable tech that is nothing more than garbage-in-waiting? What if ‘efficiency’ is just an idea rather than an unalloyed positive? Making more crap faster? How is that a good thing?

          4. I’ll try not to put words into your mouth if you agree to do the same.

            TransLink is not in the bus manufacturing business either. They buy things from corporations.

            What if less technology was desirable? Who decides? If somebody wants more and somebody wants less, should one control the the wishes of the other? Is it a given that tech is garbage in waiting? I note that, for example, battery recyclers are claiming 95% recovery in pilot projects and are now ramping up toward full scale industries. Is that just not good enough? Is there a reason this can’t be done with all tech? I’d say no, but incentives may be required. Pollution must be priced high enough to all but eliminate it.

            If you, personally, want to go back to something closer to living off grid and off the land that’s just fine. Great in fact. But will you make your own shoes? Will you put up solar panels? Where do you draw the line and why can’t others draw it somewhere else?

            I think we need a deeper discussion on the damage that some activities, products and tech can have and how we can weed out that damage to the point it is inconsequential. But I wouldn’t presume to tell anybody what tech they should take advantage of to make their lives better if it isn’t harming others. I think that’s the goal we need to aim for.

          5. “I think we need a deeper discussion on the damage that some activities, products and tech can have and how we can weed out that damage to the point it is inconsequential.”

            Well, I am trying, but you keep characterizing the attempts at this discussion as Luddism, or demanding operational specifics as to who will be my cobbler in the future.

    2. I called these “my scratchings” on the subject, and they are rough. But they do make more sense in the full posting. This is a future vision and I am assuming that an extension of the Expo Line under the harbour has been completed at that time. Hence no Seabus terminal. Although I didn’t mention it in my post, I was leaving open the possibility of some ferry moorage space by keeping a wharf along the western side of the development.

  3. “Your worries seem to suggest that everything just keeps getting worse when that is clearly not the case”

    It is clearly the case for some people and the failure to recognize and acknowledge this fact is not great. Further the trend of things getting crappier seems to be expanding to a larger cohort every day.

    1. Can you provide examples of who it is worse for and how well they’d be doing at more primitive points in time? Can you give examples of things getting crappier every day?

      How far back in time with less and less knowledge and tech would you go to reach that time to be alive that was the best it could be?

      1. “How far back in time with less and less knowledge and tech would you go to reach that time to be alive that was the best it could be?”

        1998 was the pinnacle of human endeavour.

        Seriously, it is rather a silly premise. I am proposing we move forward. Questioning the role of technology in our lives is part of that progress.

        1. It was your premise. That things are clearly getting worse for some people, which, by definition, means things were better for them before. So where are the examples and how far back?

          Is technology the factor or other things? It’s fine to question technology but to do so rationally we’ll need those examples.

  4. “It was your premise. ”

    No, everything is getting worse was a position you assigned me, with the added bonus of your counter-argument being a return to the Stone Age. I’m just saying that a critical eye on automation is a good thing, as is a discussion of the path we are on. That doing so is moving forward if you believe in nonsense like ‘progress’

    Because if we were acting rationally I’m not sure we would be shipping people from their homes so they could work at a similar computer at a different desk across town.

    1. “It is clearly the case for some people and the failure to recognize and acknowledge this fact is not great. Further the trend of things getting crappier seems to be expanding to a larger cohort every day.”

      I asked for examples and you continue to deflect.

      We are OT here and not making headway so I’m out unless you have more of relevance to add.

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