December 26, 2018

Seattle’s Alaska Viaduct Has Its Final New Year’s Song

One of the most hulking infrastructure pieces in Seattle is finally being taken down. Love it or hate it, the Alaskan Viaduct in Seattle has served its purpose as a double-decker highway  moving 90,000 vehicles a day, and its demise presents a new interpretation of a section of shore front for the city.

As The New York Times reports this 1.4 mile remnant of an elevated road through the downtown is 65 years old and is “a sublimely ugly and stoutly utilitarian force of engineering .”

But remember that was part of the times, when waterfronts were dominated by industrial uses, with no question asked about any other use intervening. The best thing to do with traffic along the waterfront was to move it out of there, and a 40 foot high viaduct did just that.

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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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Simon Fraser professor Anthony Perl was perfectly right when he called the proposed ten lane multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge a “loser” on CBC radio, noting that the existing Massey Tunnel could be upgraded for trucking traffic, rail cars, and of course public transport. But the report just released by the Provincial government written by Stanley Cowdell and associates is well worth having a read. It coherently lays out the issues, the misses, and the facts on creating more capacity crossing the Fraser River near the existing Massey Tunnel.

The report which can be read here fearlessly lays out the rationale for why the new crossing was being considered by the previous Liberal government, assessed the solutions, and provides independent findings and recommendation for going forward on the crossing.

It is a document that provides the history of the crossing and how an overbuilt ten lane bridge was planned for (the span was not to have any pilings in the water) and outlines that the various governments and councils may not have agreed upon the bridge concept, but that their interests align in providing safe, efficient movement.

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Today  the Provincial government is releasing their independently appointed technical review on the  previous Liberal Provincial government’s decision to build a ten lane bridge replacing the Massey Tunnel. This project was estimated to cost 3.5  billion dollars and would  further industrialize the sensitive Fraser River delta at this location, and lay waste to fertile farmland.

There has been a prudent approach to the release of this report, with the Province hosting meetings with impacted municipalities and with the  Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council in advance of the release of the report. The previous Liberal government has been unabashed at their support for this overbuilt bridge that would have just created congestion between the bridge and Vancouver, and stressed the sensitive Fraser River estuary.

Expect to hear that the Province will fund  safety improvements to the current tunnel, and that local First Nations as well as the Mayors’ Council will have to reach a mutually agreed decision on what any  new crossing will look like.

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As public transit for a major city we have been wondering why TransLink does not have continuous public internet along the system, and why there are no washrooms, because it is a human need and everyone needs access to washrooms. We have been exploring those issues for some time in Price Tags.

TransLink has now announced that free access to internet service is coming, and will be offered on SkyTrain, the SeaBus and on transit.

As the Vancouver Sun noted, there had been cut and paste internet service offered at SeaBus terminals and on the SeaBus, but service was not extended beyond these locations. Working with Shaw the idea is to provide uniform service across the transit network, with the proviso that such coverage will take six years to be completely implemented. And yes, you will be able to access the internet even if you are not a Shaw customer. Trials will start next year, and the complete internet coverage of the public transportation system is said to the first in Canada.

And to make matters even more comfortable and convenient, the TransLink Board has approved the development of a strategy to provide washrooms on the system “over the longer term”.

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There is an extraordinary video on YouTube with Vancouver television host Jack Webster taking an early ride on the SkyTrain from New Westminster to downtown in January 1986. The video has some funny angles~Mr. Webster whose Scottish brogue made him often undecipherable has to pay fifty cents for a senior’s fare on the bus, and does not have the change. He has to dismount the bus and walk across to the station, something he grouses about.

He is greeted by Michael O’Connor, who was the Chief Administrative Officer for the former “GVRD”, the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver) and later became head of B.C. Transit.  Mr. O’Connor now heads up NaiKun, the project harnessing wind power off Haida Gwai. The “Mr. Hodgson” who is chairman of the GVRD board is actually the highly respected  Stuart Hodgson who was the first Commissioner of the Northwest Territories and worked at bringing services to run at the  community level in remote arctic towns.

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Occasional Price Tags contributor Tim Davis explains why he LOVES Amsterdam (and provides the photos).

A neighborhood in the far northwest section of Amsterdam’s core, where Amstertourists rarely venture.


It shows the incredible cycling and transit infrastructure found in a typical Amsterdam neighborhood. You get to see how people really live, away from the tourist shops.

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Six years after the adoption of Transportation 2040 by city council, work continues to expand and connect the downtown Vancouver cycling network.

Up next are upgrades to an extension of the Richards Street protected bike lane, from Cordova to Pacific, to provide better access to downtown, and of course the commensurate infrastructure for the safety and comfort for people of all ages and abilities. (Can you say triple-yay?)

An open house is happening next week where the public can ask questions and provide feedback on the proposed design:

Thursday, December 6
4pm to 8pm

Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch
Promenade Trade Fair (North End)
350 W Georgia Street

Can’t make it? You can be part of the consultation — check out the design boards and information displays, then:



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Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Richmond City Council  seem to have had a bit of inside information when they sent a letter to the Province regarding the  review of the multi billion dollar proposed Massey Bridge. As reported in the Richmond News  the letter reiterated that Richmond ” as council, think the best option is to upgrade the existing tunnel and to twin the tunnel.”

And as reports, it turns out that Claire Trevena the Provincial Minister of Transportation  has already met with the Richmond mayor and staff on November 14th. On November 26 the following memo was sent to Council which stated:

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