January 11, 2017

Everything Old is New Again- Vancouver Art Gallery Hornby Location

A compelling video from 2014 (quoting 2014 budget prices) is narrated by Vancouver architect Peter Cardew about how the current Vancouver Art Gallery could be renewed and expanded. Peter Cardew  was commissioned to look at the gallery spaces a decade earlier, and his take is very similar to that of the late architect Bing Thom’s-the current location of the art gallery is the centre of pedestrian traffic and importance in the downtown. Bing Thom Architects developed a “post-gallery” plan below the building’s North Plaza.

Like many Vancouverites,  the late Bing Thom architect extraordinaire loved the current site of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Hornby which is the place to sit, to people watch and functions as the navel of the city. Bing proposed a remarkable redo of the old gallery once vacated  to include a light-filled entrance to a 1,950 seat underground concert hall, a multi-use theatre and retail stores. Importantly he also proposed reopening the Georgia Street entrance of the building and focusing a new plaza on Georgia Street as the City’s primary public space and square.


Peter Cardew thought the Vancouver Art Gallery should stay on this site. In  this article  Peter Cardew thought “ as much as 176,000 square feet of additional space can be added to the historic courthouse building by creating additional underground spaces underneath the outdoor plaza facing West Georgia Street. It includes an underground “Grand Hall” measuring approximately 300 feet long and 70 feet high that incorporates a glass ceiling from the plaza to allow natural light to stream in. The vision also proposes to renovate the existing gallery spaces and repurpose UBC Robson Square into added space for the museum.”

At that time in 2014 dollars, Peter Cardew estimated that the cost of  changes would be $100 million less than the proposed $300 million dollar Larwill Park site  on Cambie Street across from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. And there are precedents-both the Louvre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London expanded their facilities at existing galleries.

“I don’t know any gallery in the world that has such a prime site as the Vancouver Art Gallery does. If it were a vacant site that is where the Vancouver Art Gallery would be.” -Peter Cardew


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Langley Councillor and Price Tag contributor Nathan Pachal has outlined a sensible alternative to the billion dollar proposed Massey Bridge-just toll the existing tunnel.

Nathan has reviewed the proposed Massey Bridge’s documents and traffic volumes, including the document suggesting that once the Massey Bridge is tolled, a lot of traffic will be steaming towards the Alex Fraser Bridge. Mayor of Delta Lois Jackson, who is also the only mayor supportive of the Massey Bridge project is aware this will happen, and has suggested that ALL the bridges be tolled to keep traffic on the proposed new Massey Bridge through Delta.

Pachal thinks building a new span may not be worth it. “It’ll actually end up with less traffic on that with the toll than at any level seen since the 1980s.” He suggests if you simply tolled the existing tunnel, the replacement project’s $3.5 billion tab could be better spent on improving transit in the region. “Obviously, there are things that need to be replaced. I would say, again, of all the crossings that are in need of replacement, it would be the Pattullo Bridge. That one has structural issues with it, chunks of it are falling into the [Fraser] River.”

Nathan notes on his blog  “a new tolled Massey Replacement Bridge will have less traffic volume on it in 2045 than in 1984, an un-tolled Alex Fraser Bridge will see an increase in traffic volume, and transit and tolling have been shown to reduce congestion, it appears that $3.5 billion would be better invested in improving transit in our region.”

Imagine if we improved transit in the region and then used tolls to further reduce congestion, using those monies to maintain the transportation network. A simple but inspired solution from Nathan Pachal.

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If you are of a certain age you will remember the white bicycle carts with ice cream that used to be pedalled through Vancouver neighbourhoods and near beaches. Kids would hear the tinkling bells on the handle bars of the cart and plead with parents for money to buy an ice cream.
This article provides a back story to Dickie Dee. “The Barish family founded Dickie Dee ice cream in 1959, which was retailed across North America. The famous Dickie Dee ice cream cart, a modified tricycle equipped with bells, became a household name for fun and quality ice cream products. The company began with eight ice cream tricycles and grew to became Canada’s largest merchandiser with over 10,000 units.”

Ice cream innovations such as the Chipwich, O’Henry, and Kondike Nuggets were first introduced via the Dickie Dee ice cream carts. The CBC has done a follow up story on this family-owned Winnipeg business which was sold to Unilever in 1992. At that time the carts were in 300 cities and employed thousands, mainly teenaged boys.

I have a story about a Dickie Dee cart, the Arthur Laing bridge, and Queen Elizabeth from my friend Major Gordon Bristow who was the Queen’s Equerry and lived in Buckingham Palace. He was escorting the Queen and Prince Philip from the Vancouver airport when Prince Philip saw a Dickie Dee cart from the bridge, and asked if he and the Queen could have an “ice”.

The motorcade went down the ramp and stopped while a royal aide ran over to the shocked Dickie Dee attendant, and gave a British five pound note for two “ice lollies”. The motorcade then circled and  repeated the exit cloverleaf very slowly while the Queen and Prince Philip enjoyed the ice cream. As they exited the cloverleaf the second time, the royal aide took the half finished ice creams and handed them to a lady in the crowd, so that no one would know about the unscheduled treat.

Dickie Dee carts have disappeared off the horizon of summer retailing. But a lot of Vancouverites will certainly remember the sound of those bells.


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Stanley Q. Woodvine writes eloquently in the Georgia Straight about a tiny woman named Linda  carrying a very large sign advertising the dispersal of an American Apparel store.Mr. Woodvine notes “Partly it was simply the ridiculous disparity of scale. Here was this petite young woman with bright auburn hair, tromping around in oversized gumboots and gripping in big yellow work gloves a garish plywood and corrugated plastic assemblage that towered over her comparatively diminutive frame—that was a striking enough sight by itself.”

Mr. Woodvine is a homeless writer and graphic artist. He saw the irony of  a person making $12.50 an hour to carry a sign for what was a clothing store that tried to be fashion forward with shock advertising and high prices. “The woman’s name, as I’ve already mentioned, was Linda and the huge red, black, and yellow sign that she carried was for the American Apparel store, located just around the corner on Granville Street. It read like an ad for a closing out sale: “Entire store 70-90% off…Nothing held back. Everything must go!”

“More than anything else this was a sign of just how desperate things have gotten for the American Apparel clothing chain, with the U.S. parent company now having filed for bankruptcy protection a second time in a little over a year.But it also arguably signalled the difficult economic plight of all the 20- and 30-somethings who staff these low-paying retail store jobs—if they’re lucky.I’ve been given to understand that quite a large number of well-educated millennials spend their days scrambling between various retail jobs and even lower-paying blue- and white-collar casual-labour jobs—apparently one e-transfer and a college degree away from being evicted and having to live on a friend’s couch—if they’re lucky.”

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As reported by Reuters Paris is aggressively working towards a cyclable city , banning cars outside the Louvre and announcing a two-way four kilometer dedicated bike lane along Rue De Rivoli, one of Paris’ most iconic streets. This connection will tie together Place de la Bastille and Place de la Concorde.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo noted that Paris will be doubling cycling lanes in the next four years. “Climate is the number one priority. Less cars means less pollution. 2017 will be the year of the bicycle.” The city will also ban private cars from the historical Place du Carrousel du Louvre, which cuts through the Tuileries park and the square in front of the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum with about 9 million visitors per year.

Private car use has had a 30 per cent reduction in the city as Velib and Autolib, the bike share and the electric vehicle share has become popular.Paris is also planning a public  tram bus along the Seine’s right bank  as it prepares for the 2024 Olympic bid.

While most places would be gloating over such achievements, Paris believes it can do better, noting that Lyon and Bordeaux have already banned diesel cars and reopened public access to the riverbanks. Paris has been experiencing peak pollution levels directly attributable to diesel vehicles which will soon be banned. The municipality also opened up the stretch of highway on the right bank of the Seine as a new pedestrian zone despite strong protests by vehicular commuters and  critics.

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From the Business in Vancouver’s Glen Korstrom is preliminary evidence showing decreased use of private vehicles  in Vancouver.

Insurance Corp. of British Columbia (ICBC) data provided to Business in Vancouver showed that 270,000 passenger vehicles were registered in the city of Vancouver at the start of 2016. That’s 3.8% more than at the start of 2012, but Vancouver’s population  during that same period rose 5.2% to 666,996, according to BC Stats.”

The annual City of Vancouver survey of 2,500 citizens conducted by CH2M and the Mustel Group had already identified this trend, showing that 50 per cent of trips were being made by walking, transit or cycling. That is an increase from 47 per cent in 2013. As well 26 per cent of driving aged citizens had access agreements  to car share, an increase from 20 per cent in 2014.

“Simon Fraser University city program director Andy Yan is eager to see the results of the 2016 census, which asked about transportation modes. He expects that data to be released in November and be more reliable than the city’s survey, given the census’ large sample size.”  While Vancouver is doing an admirable job, more work needs to be done across the metropolitan area  to make transit a viable option for residents in the region.

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Today is the final day of the Gordie Awards where the Editorial Committee of Price Tags ranks the good, the bad, the fun and the just plain puzzling Transportation and Planning stories of 2016.
Today’s Gordie Awards goes for “Moments of Courage”-when work occurs that is not what is normally anticipated or expected, but meets an unfulfilled need.
There were two winners in this category:
Moments of Courage
Housing Crisis Forum

A forum was held in November 2016 that was an inclusive discussion of ” The Housing Crisis is Global! Anti-Imperialist Perspectives on the Foreign Investor Myth in B.C.” This forum provided a diverse discussion and was inclusive of the dispossession of First Nations peoples from their lands. While so much could have gone wrong at such a meeting, it didn’t . Here is the link to the meeting::
Standouts about the meeting included translation in many languages, including simultaneous interpretation in Cantonese and Mandarin, the discussion of complex topics including race and housing with  underexposed demographics, the meeting was held at a location that was not downtown, and lastly provided free child care.
Fentanyl Crisis

There is nothing more important than protecting and assisting the most vulnerable of our citizens, and ensuring that appropriate care is given. This award is given to the City of Vancouver for  responding to urgent need.  A City tax increase was approved by Council  for increased first responders as the death toll rises in an awful epidemic of death.
This concludes the Awarding of the 2016 Gordies for Transportation and Planning Stories of 2016. What will 2017 bring for inclusion in next year’s awards?

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As hard as it may seem to everyone else in the country we have not been dealing with the cold, the snow, and especially the icy conditions of the city sidewalks and bike routes too well. Usually a slippery frosty day or two subsides tearfully into rain and all that messy ice disappears. But that hasn’t happened this time, and Price Tags ruefully looks at the vacationing Mayor of Vancouver in Mexico and our own Gordon Price in Buenos Aires with great envy.
There have been some news items about people slipping and falling on the ice and Global News has helpfully let us know that  “German trauma surgeons advised the public on Wednesday to walk like penguins to avoid slipping on pavements with freezing temperatures forecast nationwide over the next few days. An advisory published on the website of the German Society of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery said that walking like the aquatic birds involves leaning the torso forward so that the centre of gravity is on the front leg.”
With our shortage of road salt, some ingenious citizens have turned to the city’s beaches to load up on sand. We have all heard about property encroachment on beaches, but never people actually TAKING the beach. As CBC reported, this theft of City sand was accomplished by using scooping tools such as Starbucks cups.
The Parks Board is not happy about the beach sand theft. “Despite the high demand for a fix, Howard Normann — Vancouver’s director of parks — said people shouldn’t look to the beach for a solution. “I know some people are desperate to get something down onto their sidewalks to prevent people from slipping and falling … but we do not want people to start coming down there and start loading up truckloads of beach sand,” he said. “That’s an integral part of our ecosystem and our beachscape.”
Here’s hoping we get warmer weather and rain soon.


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An article in the New Zealand Herald  notes how diminished the pedestrian is for road space in that country.  Lynley Hood is a researcher in Dunedin who is losing her sight and has started a petition asking the government to reduce the number of pedestrians killed on New Zealand roads. In New Zealand pedestrians do not have priority over motor vehicles when crossing side roads and intersections.
Between 2006 and 2015 384 pedestrians were killed on New Zealand roads. Ninety cyclists were killed during the same time. Dr. Hood notes that the government “has more than $350 million invested in a Cycling Safety Action Plan. There is no pedestrian safety plan.” Thirty per cent of the pedestrians killed on the roads were 65 years and older. Ms. Hood notes that the 104 seniors in that 30 per cent of  pedestrians were more than the total of cyclists killed, but that no special funding was available to ameliorate the cause of this carnage.
Ms. Hood had little interest in her work except from New Zealand’s chief coroner. Since the senior population in New Zealand will double in the next two decades that means the pedestrian death rate could also double.
Older people need to walk for exercise, Dr Hood said, and they have to cross roads. They are more unstable, move more slowly and are likely to have sight and hearing problems.When crossing a road they have no protection, and they are generally poorer judges of speed and distance. What’s needed is some commitment by Government to pedestrian safety. There are a lot of young traffic designers who would leap at the chance of tackling the challenge if Government put some money into it. We’re not all petrolheads.”

In New Zealand anything that is not a motorized vehicle uses the sidewalk including scooters, skateboards, mobility scooters and Segways as well as walkers. There is no set standard for width, design, surface or grade. In a country with a population size similar to British Columbia’s it is time for motordom to accept the right of all users, and to give pedestrians the priority for safe access across roads.

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Last Friday noted journalist Daphne Bramham wrote in the Vancouver Sun a very cogent article offering a  simple solution to pedestrians trying to navigate across streets in our low light and rainy winters-don’t wear black.  A lot of responders to her article bristled at the fact that Daphne was brave enough to state the obvious-vehicle operators often  cannot see pedestrians.
We live in a province where 280 people are killed annually and 79,000 people maimed in car crashes. This is a big number and serious enough that the Provincial Medical Officer wrote his yearly report on car crashes. What causes them? Dr. Perry Kendall surmised that speed (36%), distraction (29%) and impairment (20%) were largely responsible. Rates of crashes resulting in serious injuries have risen from 38 per cent in 2007 to 46 per cent in 2009.  Road design, distraction and speed are major contributors. I’d add visibility as well.
In October 2016, twice as many pedestrians died as were killed in the last six yearsThe Coroners Service of B.C. lists that from 2010 to  October 2016, 396 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in British Columbia. In B.C., Vancouver is the pedestrian death capital of Canada-it has more pedestrian deaths than any other city, and twice those of Toronto per capita. Sixteen per cent or 64 of those deaths were in Vancouver. Thirteen per cent or 50 deaths were in Surrey. Abbotsford, Richmond and Burnaby also had high percentages of pedestrians killed. Of those dying, 57 per cent were male. One third of those dying were 70 years or older. Forty per cent of pedestrian deaths happened at intersections in Metro Vancouver, with two-thirds crossing while the light was green.
But here is the statistic I found remarkable-61 per cent of all the pedestrians killed in British Columbia were over 50 years of age. That is a huge number and a worrying one. While we have focused our attention on road safety to school children, this suggests we also need to address the older part of the population who may not be as nimble or cognitively attune to the fact they are vulnerable. Of course there needs to be a sea change in driver behaviour and education, slower speeds, and municipalities that will redesign intersections to stop the carnage of their citizens. We as citizens also must get angry and insist that politicians pay attention to this  road violence needlessly yanking out lives.
In Finland every child going to school must wear three pieces of reflective items on their clothes and backpack. The safety reflector was developed in Finland in the 1960’s and it is the law that walkers wear reflective items in the dark. Wearing reflectors and reflective clothing is completely accepted as daily wear in Scandinavia which also has the lowest incidence of pedestrian accidents. A similar program in Great Britain reduced children’s pedestrian deaths by 51 per cent.
Studies show that reflectors increase the visibility of pedestrians from 25 meters to 140 meters, increasing the reaction time from 2 seconds to 10 seconds for a car being driven at 50 kilometers per hour. That’s eight seconds more for a driver to react, and a pedestrian to survive. We can’t pretend that this is not the wild west for road violence-it is, and in Metro Vancouver we are in the leaders of carnage in  Canada. Wearing reflective wear is quite simply the right thing to do, along with lobbying for slower speeds, more campaigns on driver behaviour, and redesigning street intersections as if walkers really mattered.


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