Governance & Politics
May 25, 2012

Pattullo: No money for transit, No money for bridge

The head sums up my position, as quoted in Metro:

“You may design (a bridge) for cycling, walking and transit, but if you’re not funding the transit you can’t take that seriously,” he said. “If TransLink is at the point where it doesn’t have money to expand transit service south of the Fraser, in my opinion, it doesn’t have money for the Pattullo Bridge.”

The media are likely paying more interest on this due to the upcoming forum in New Westminster being stickhandled by Daniel Fontaine of CityCaucus:

We’ve assembled a thoughtful panel of visionaries and city officials to discuss what future possibilities for the current bridge might be. In order to get the dialogue going, our guest speakers will address everything from the feasibility of whether the Pattullo Bridge should be refurbished – to whether it could be converted to a major tourist attraction for the region.

Date:     Wednesday, June 6th

Time:    7-9 pm

Location:River Market at Westminster Quay (second floor at the top of the escalators). There is plenty of parking available onsite, but the New Westminster SkyTrain station is literally next door!

I and SFU colleague Anthony Perl will be speaking.

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Michael Kluckner, author of Vanishing Vancouver: The Last 25 Years, spoke to a full house at the Vancouver Historical Society last night.

Some insights:

Before Michael left for Australia a decade ago, he would often jump in the car and race to a site where an old building was scheduled for demolition in order to capture it in watercolour.  “I’m drawn to derelict buildings like a moth to a flame.”

He was in his car a lot.

On his return,  there were hardly any old boarded up houses waiting for demolition. In districts like Downtown South, it had all been done.  As a consequence, he noted, we’re losing the texture of light falling on old painted wood.  Modern manufactured products get old by getting moldy, not by weathering.

And that’s not the only change.

The neighbourhood movie house.

The Ridge, the Dunbar, the Hollywood – they’re the last of a form that was so impacted by the rise of television that, in 1955, 14 movie theatres closed in a week. (He hinted that their might be a reprieve for the Hollywood on Broadway.) Given that TV reception really only became possible in 1953, when CBC and KVOS began to broadcast, the uptake of the technology and its impact on the Vancouver landscape were way faster than, say, the Internet.

The Toll Bridge

After showing a bucolic shot of the new Port Mann Bridge (of 1964) set in a still-sylvan landscape, he noted that it was the first major bridge not to have toll booths installed.  But in the 1963 election, all the tolls were taken off bridges in the lower mainland, notably the Second Narrows, by the W.A.C. Bennett government.  Now tolls are going on to the new Port Mann Bridge 50 years later, ending exactly a half-century in which vehicle bridges were free and the motoring commuter could live where he wanted.

The Corner Grocery

Michael showed an ad promoting the  84 Chinese groceries that serviced neighbourhoods throughout the city.  Perhaps a half dozen are left. The traditional Vancouver corner store was much more significant than just a cute, nostalgic piece of architecture; it provided an opportunity for immigrants, mainly Chinese and Japanese who were banned from other professions and industries, to have a business that also houses their families and gave them an opportunity to establish themselves in Canada. The contrast with modern convenience stores, staffed by low-paid workers and presenting a unified corporate brand, indicates a profound social change in the city.

 The buried house.

Single-family houses were extended to accommodate suites and storefronts in 1920s and 30s to generate cash in hard times.  There are maybe a dozen of them left, all on streets that have become completely commercial in the past half-century or so.

Church Volunteers

The sort of people who volunteer for churches can’t afford to live in Vancouver anymore.


But Michael wasn’t there just to bemoan the losses.  Indeed he reflected on the yin and yang of Vancouver: the city of concrete and glass juxtaposed with neighbourhoods of medium-density apartments and restored homes, given that the quality of the old-growth wood allows these places to come back, often as condos. It’s that magical combination of different types of housing, working for different people at different periods of their lives, that makes Vancouver such a successful city.

Yes, affordability has been an issue going back to the 1910s, but so long as the city has continues to retain this mix as it evolves, then there’s hope that the essential character of this place will be retained and that Vancouver will continue to mature into the world-city status it so desperately craves.

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From the Downtown Vancouver Association:

It’s time for some deep self-reflection about who we are in Downtown Vancouver, and what we expect,” says Graham McGarva, chair of the Urban Development and Transportation Committee of the DVA, and Principal of VIA Architecture.

What are our expectations for and assumptions abut amenities in Downtown Vancouver? What aspects of amenities could be re-examined in order to improve the livability of the city?

The Affordability / Amenity Equation: Current Realities

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
7:30 – 9:00 a.m – NOTE MORNING TIME
BCIT Downtown Campus, 555 Seymour Street, Vancouver
DVA Members:  $10/forum or $25/series

Future DVA Members:  $25/forum or ($70/series)

Tickets:             Register on-line at or by phone to 604-468-7382

In recent years, tension has crept into the affordability / amenity equation. “While the amenities of Downtown Vancouver are incredibly attractive, the price to be paid for them has increased sharply,” McGarva says. “Housing prices are rising beyond the reach of average income earners. And for those in need of supportive or subsidized housing, the situation is dire.”

But instead of focusing on real estate prices, this dialogue series will focus on our expectations for amenities, and how those expectations impact the quality of life in Downtown Vancouver.

  Series Overview

Part 1 of the series will assess our current realities. The main question will be: What are the affordability/amenity challenges affecting our average-income residents?

Panelists for this first discussion will be:

Geoff Meggs, Vancouver City Councillor

Gordon Price, Director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University

Jennifer Podmore Russell, Senior Manager in Financial Advisory at Deloitte Touche in Vancouver


Part 2 of the series will identity priorities for action in each of the following categories: Live; Work; Play; Learn. This event is set for April 24, 2012.

Part 3 of the series will focus on action planning. Based on the priorities identified from Part 2, speakers suggest tangible actions that will help improve the lives of the average income earners in Downtown Vancouver. This event is set for May 29, 2012.

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Another insightful column by Charles Marohn in Better! Cities & Towns:

A STROAD is a street/road hybrid; the futon of transportation alternatives. …  they cost a ton, but financially yield very little return for the governments that must pay to maintain them.

Unfortunately, STROADS are the default design for most of our public space. …  A STROAD is created when we misapply to local transportation corridors the decades of wisdom we have gained from experimentation on highway design and construction techniques. …

STROADS are dangerous, especially for the elderly … A STROAD combines the fast moving traffic of a road with the intersections and complexity of a street. Throw in someone with reflexes and vision that just aren’t what they used to be, and you get fatality crash rates that look like this:

… Highway design rests on the concept of providing an environment where drivers can make mistakes without fatal consequences. … This thinking is entirely logical when applied to highways, but it is disastrous when used on what would otherwise be local streets.  ….   So elderly drivers must cross lanes of fast-moving traffic and they — quite understandably — have more difficulty than the average driver (who also has difficulty, it should be noted) discerning when it is safe to go.

In a Strong Towns world, the response to this problem is clear: We need to move away from the STROAD approach and start building either streets with slow-moving traffic and shared spaces OR roads that eliminate complexity (intersections) so as to move people quickly between places. This improves safety and has the added benefit of being a financially sound approach as well.

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The City of North Vancouver is currently undertaking a review of its Official Community Plan – or in less bureaucratic terms, it’s engaging the citizenry in ‘City Shaping’.

Given the City Of North Vancouver (NVC)’s often precedent-setting achievements in planning, district energy and design, I was pleased to be asked to give an opening address a few weeks ago at the launch of this next stage in community involvement.

It’s a challenge to condense all the issues that have to be considered when contemplating the future of an urban area (and then translating them into a legal document).  So I chose three themes: Affordability (of course), Sustainability, and Activability (which you can find out about by checking the video.)  Plus a few other thoughts at the end of this half-hour presentation (with no PowerPoint!):



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How badly?  That’s the questiion asked at the end of a first-class piece on the population capacity of a place like Manhattan.  Or Vancouver.

Given all the tradeoffs and rewards of living in this staggeringly complex, gloriously maddening city, there is no final accounting or projection. When it makes sense for our lives, we make do with less space. Like most things that are a matter of compromise and desire, it comes down to another simple question: Just how badly do you want what you want?

Everybody Inhale can be found in the New York Times’ real-estate section – but Amy O’Leary’s piece is worthy of a broader read.



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This incredible “sunken” bridge located in the Netherlands is giving visitors a unique way to access a beautiful 17th Century Dutch fort. Designed by RO & AD Architects, the Moses Bridge literally parts the waters that surround the fort, allowing pedestrians to pass through.

A series of moats and fortresses were built over the West Brabant Water Line region of the Netherlands during the 17th century in order to provide protection from invasion by France and Spain . Fort de Roovere was surrounded with a shallow moat that was too deep to march across, and too shallow for boats. In turn the earthen fort had remained protected –until now.

Thanks to Tom Durning.

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Mikael Colville-Anderson recommends this “brilliant TED talk about future cities now by Alex Steffen.”



Alex synthesizes a lot of current thinking and ideas into one presentation, familiar to much of this readership.  I particularly like his observations on threshold effects where, for instance (like central Vancouver), “people simply stop driving as much,” and tentpole densities, where “you raise the density a whole lot in very specific spots” (hello, Mt. Pleasant).

Watch til the end, and you’ll get some images (propaganda!) of Vancouver.

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From Next American City – “We pick the best apps, websites and software for enhancing and improving urban life.”  Mostly USA-relevant, but something for everyone under Governance, Getting Around, Living Well and Civic Engagement.

Here’s one I like:

Street Art View

Want to find a Banksy in Brussels? Or share a pic of a beloved community mural in Philadelphia? Street Art View is a collaborative site that tracks street art around the world — from New York to Juarez to Christchurch — using Google Streetview and mobile uploads to create a global map of high-end murals, elaborate graffiti and anything else that strikes the roving viewer as worth sharing.

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