History & Heritage
March 25, 2019

Dreams of Motordom – and Nightmares that Never Happened

Over the years, I thought I had seen all the renderings and sketches for the various freeway proposals that had been put forward in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Nope.  The indispensable John Mackie, the Sun journalist with the time, interest and access to the paper’s archives, has pulled out some great pics to illustrate this week’s history column: 1967 — Wacky Bennett and Tom Terrific team up to push for a third crossing.

In the 1960s everybody seemed to have a plan for a new bridge or tunnel at the First Narrows. But nobody wanted to pay for it.

So on March 23, 1967, Social Credit Premier W.A.C. Bennett came up with a funding formula: 40 per cent from the federal government, 40 per cent from the provincial and civic governments, and 20 per cent from the National Harbours Board and the developers of Project 200, a giant highrise development on the downtown waterfront.

Bennett talked Vancouver Mayor Tom Campbell into supporting his plan. But federal Liberal Arthur Laing dismissed it as “ridiculous nonsense.” …

The same day Bennett announced his formula, a consortium of four city engineering firms unveiled a $57-million plan to twin the Lions Gate Bridge.

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The New York Times noticed that in some big cities, something radical is happening:

Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city center beginning next year. Madrid is banning cars owned by nonresidents, and is also redesigning 24 major downtown avenues to take them back for pedestrians. Paris has banned vehicles from a road along the Seine, and plans to rebuild it for bicycle and pedestrian use.

This opinion piece lays out the reasons for this move away from Motordom – or at least the reasons why it should.  This is not news to Vancouver, but we’re just at the point where the new council has yet to indicate whether we’re going to renew our commitment, whether we’re going to speed up our progress, or settle for the current pace of change.

Indeed, some are speculating that many on council would, if they could, spend the money it will take to demolish the viaducts more on affordable housing rather than on more amenity for the already blessed.



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Back to Delta, which unfortunately still advocates for through vehicular traffic befitting a 20th century suburb and does not champion safe walking and cycling design as a first priority on their streets.

Residents in Tsawwassen on Upland Drive, Beach Grove, and now at 16th Avenue at 53A Street have separately asked the City of Delta to ameliorate traffic problems and to slow traffic down to make it easier for local residents to walk and live safely and comfortably. The response for Upland Drive which is used as a shortcut and carries three times the volume of the surrounding streets was a set of speed bumps which keep vehicle movement on the speed  bump to 50 km/h. However this does not slow speed on the rest of this curving street with no sidewalks, and does nothing to stop the commuter shortcutting.

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Hitting the news feeds these days is some pick-up of a new, disturbing trend in the automobile sector.
The Vancouver Star reports the major car manufacturers are now cutting down the variety of motor vehicle models available to the consumer.
As reporter Michael Lewis points out, ten years ago sedans were almost 40 per cent of the American market; SUVs sat in the number two position at 29 per cent, with pick-up trucks at 13 per cent.
That’s all changed.

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If you picked up Friday’s Vancouver Sun, you were treated to a front page advertisement from Hyundai in bold letters proclaiming that the 2018 Sonata was “Safe and Sexy”.
So what exactly does that mean? In the very tiny print, this vehicle is a “top safety pick” IF equipped with autonomous emergency braking AND LED headlights. It has been suggested that up to 80 per cent of low beam headlights might not provide adequate stopping distances at speeds above 40 miles per hour according to the American Automobile Association.  Pedestrian deaths were up nearly 10 per cent in the United States in 2015, but that was largely due to distracted drivers, not dim headlights. As many pedestrians in low light situations will attest, the light bounce of the new LED headlights make visibility extremely difficult when using crosswalks on streets.

The  pedestrian beware message is echoed by Mercedes in this 2017  commercial spot below that shows a group of muscle cars ponying up at a pedestrian crosswalk and forcing an unfortunate pedestrian to run fast or risk getting mowed down. It is all part of a campaign to sell vehicles as dominant users of the street and also reminds active transportation users that vehicles still have the last word in any interaction. And it is also a reminder that as autonomous vehicles roll out that it is not just the safety of the vehicle’s occupant that must be paramount, but the safety of the most vulnerable street user that must count too.


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One reigning paradigm of Motordom is that we all buy a car as soon as we can, and just keep on buying every few years for decades.  Much to the profit of those who make cars and related stuff.
But it seems this paradigm is already eroding, and undergoing change.  My suspicion is that even more change is in the works when and if autonomous vehicles (AVs) become a practical and cost-effective reality.  If this does come to pass, it’s likely that the number of active motor vehicles will shrink, and the Ubers of the world will operate large fleets of AV’s at much higher utilization that the single-digit numbers for most currently-owned private cars.   This on-demand mobility looks like it may become the new paradigm.
Thanks to VanCity for this look at car-share (17-page PDF).  It seems that Vancouver is edging towards the new paradigm.
According to VanCity’s survey and research:
Vancouver has more car-sharing vehicles per capita than any other city in N.A. That’s 3000 vehicles, 4.22 per 1000 population.
Why?  Convenience (95% of survey responders); save money (62%); environmental concern (58%).
A surprising finding:  only 44% of younger responders agreed that they liked not owning a vehicle. The report’s authors point to money savings as this group’s main reason for using car-share.
Another:   26% of respondents dumped a private vehicle in favour of car-sharing; and 40% avoided buying one.
Expanding transportation choice (options) is the major benefit the survey’s respondents like.

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Scot adds to the item below with this piece from CTV News – Renting your ride: Airbnb of car rentals comes to B.C.
Turo, which is being touted as the Airbnb of car rentals, has officially launched in B.C. But it could be in for a bumpy ride due to the high cost of insurance. The service lets car owners looking to make some extra cash rent out their personal vehicles. …
Turo is relatively new in Canada, but has been operating in the U.S. for seven years where some car owners there have been able to make some serious cash. … But in Canada things operate a bit differently. Turo works in provinces that have private insurance systems. However, ICBC requires owners in B.C. to buy their own commercial insurance, called U-Drive when they want to rent their personal vehicle. And it’s very expensive. …
In order to get the app launched, the company partnered with smaller independent car rental companies that can afford the higher insurance rates. Of the 70 vehicles for rent on Turo in B.C., only two are currently personal vehicles.
The provincial government says insurance premiums need to reflect risk, but the Attorney General David Eby is willing to listen to Turo’s pitch. “We’re going to start those discussions with the legislators right now,” explained Mathieu. Those changes may take awhile, but the timing could be right since the government is already making changes to open the door to ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

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Price Tags is celebrating all things related to the Burrard Bridge and its 21st century transformation. And here is a blast from the past. This gem posted by Vanologue is on  YouTube showing the amateur film made by Vancouverite Sid Groberman  in 1934 of the drive across the Burrard Bridge and a trip to English Bay. You will notice that people are walking across the bridge on both sides, and that there appears to be two lanes of traffic in each direction. And you can park on the bridge to take photos.

Both the downtown and Kitsilano sides of the bridge sport three storey houses, and there is a billboard on the Kitsilano side. The Burrard Bridge was opened on July 1 1932 by then Mayor Louis Taylor. The three million dollar bridge was designed by Sharp and Thompson both graduates of the Architectural Association in London. These two architects also designed the winning master plan for the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey Campus.
There is a lot of folk-lore about the “raised gallery” or apartments above the central piers of the bridge. They was never lived in, but according to documentation from The Vancouver Archives served to hide the steel infrastructure, and provide a formal gesture to the downtown.  G.L. Thornton Sharp of Sharp and Thompson stated. “Both central piers were designed and connected with an overhead gallery across the road. This helped to mask the network of steel in the truss from the two approaches, and has been treated as an entrance gateway to the city.”
Those two busts and the city crest that are on the piers were carved by sculptor Charles Marega, who also sculpted the two lions on the Lions Gate Bridge. The figures are of Captain George Vancouver and Captain Harry Burrard. By the way, Burrard never got close to his namesake bridge~he was on the sailing ship Europa with Vancouver in the West Indies.

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