Un-named Skytrain Station Public Transit
October 6, 2019

Show Me The Way To Go Home

What is this — a café? A library? A corner store?

Unless you regularly travel by transit to Langara College or the Alliance Française, you’re forgiven for not recognising this as the 49th and Langara Skytrain station. This photo was taken from the west side of Cambie Street looking east on 49th Avenue.

And unless you’re standing in front and looking directly at the entrance, there’s no way to identify this as an essential part of urban infrastructure.

Why is Translink so bad at signage? The last time we travelled by Skytrain from Waterfront Station to the airport, we wondered why, unlike every other subway system on the planet, Translink didn’t have big prominent station names on the walls of the stations. One station looks pretty much like another, and when you look out the window at a station platform upon arrival, there’s no obvious signage to tell you where you are.

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These images have been sent to us by an ardent PriceTags reader who wonders why a public outreach process  was not undertaken in ascertaining the best “bus zone” treatment for Broadway. Our reader notes that the bike street green paint used for Vancouver’s bike lanes is weathering as well, and suggests it might be better to look at any national standard as a guideline instead of a requirement, and choose the best surface possible.

This is of course a temporary treatment to see whether it has any impact on vehicles parking in bus zones, and the materials are not permanent. But you can already see the oil and dirt on the painted portion after mere days.

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Maybe, actually, the development absurdity of the year.

An application has come in to build a five-storey commercial building on the northeast corner of West Broadway and Granville Street – identified as the location for the South Granville station on the proposed Broadway line.

To repeat: a five-storey building on top of a subway line.

But that’s not the absurdity. This is: “Also included in the project are six levels of underground parking.”

To repeat again: a five-storey building with six levels of parking. On top of what will be one of the busiest metro stops in the region.

 

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The best summary so far:

Over the years, Vancouver has watched as its peers have dealt with the darker sides of Uber and Lyft: muddy passenger safety records, negative impacts on congestion and emissions, flouting of local regulations, and widely criticized labor practices.

Now B.C. transportation leaders are cautiously optimistic that being a last-adopter will prove to be a virtue. They hope that strict data-sharing requirements, a stringent licensing scheme for drivers, and a long-term vision to mitigate added traffic with fees on curbside access and downtown streets at rush hour will help make ride-hailing more sustainable here. …

Meanwhile, TransLink’s buses, trains, and ferries are swelling with riders: Vancouver’s system-wide boardings jumped more than 7 percent in 2018, following nearly 6 percent growth in 2017. …

Somewhere in this mix of ingredients for transit’s success: the absence of Uber and Lyft, which have proven to be mortal foes of many transit systems in North America. … over an eight-year span, TNCs might be responsible for nearly 13 percent of declining bus ridership in a given city.

Those extra car trips have led to measurably more traffic. In San Francisco, a study by the SFMTA found that 50 percent of increased traffic delays between 2010 and 2016 in that city could be linked to Uber and Lyft. …

Local officials are also intent on mitigating congestion impacts or negative effects on transit ridership. To keep an eye on how many cars are on the road, B.C.’s new regulations require ride-hailing companies to share data upon request, including trip rates, wait times, and the times and locations of pick-ups and drop-offs. Over time, local and provincial governments may consider pricing schemes that encourage certain types of ride-hailing trips and discourage others, such as charging fees to access curbside pick-up zones, said McCurran.* The revenue could potentially help subsidize certain types of ride-hailing trips, such as those that connect to TransLink stations. …

(Andrew) McCurran is hopeful that Vancouver will be able to pull off something that no city on the continent has really been able to do—welcome ride-hailing as a complement, rather than a competitor, to public transit. …

In contrast with U.S. cities that have rushed to be first to the table with new mobility offerings—be they autonomous cars, hyperloops, or drones—Vancouver may prove that is pays to be last.

Full article here.

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In the recent history of Vancouver, it’s unusual when the built-out parts of the city – places where people happily live and work – suddenly change scale and character, when a new urban form, usually larger and different in use, replaces the local urban landscape.

Sudden change was the way we used to do it: when a single rezoning swept away the architecture (and many of the people) in early streetcar neighbourhoods, and converted them into the concrete highrise versions. (See Kerrisdale Village, Ambleside, the West End).  It can also happen where obsolete uses and rising land values come together, when industrial lands convert to residential megaprojects.  (See Collingwood Village).

Or where new transportation infrastructure aligns with new land use. See the impact of the Canada Line on Cambie Street.

Here’s the northwest corner of Cambie and King Edward in May, 2015 – a half decade after the Canada Line opened:

And in September, 2019:

Along the Cambie boulevard, the shift in scale is dramatic.

… compared to what was there just five years before:

 

It won’t take too long to get comfortable with this scale of change.  In fact, the spectacularly treed boulevard will be so much more appreciated now with gallery walls of apartment buildings, all about the same height and setback.  The parkway becomes more an elongated arboretum, less a well-treed highway median.  The entire landscape shifts with your viewpoint on the elegant curves that so gently rise and descend over Queen Elizabeth Park.  On the Cambie Boulevard, the tradition of  Olmstedian landscape architecture lives on.

When Oakridge was laid out, this was the best of Motordom in the City Beautiful, designed for the aesthetic and practical experience of moving by car.   Now, underneath, real change has come but out of sight.

The consequences of planning done after the Canada Line corridor have accelerated; the transformation is apparent, and a little jarring.  But because what was best about the boulevard looks like its being respected, what could have been traumatic change looks like it will be just fine.

When you’re hoping that Vancouverites will come to accept more sudden change in scale and character of the city and its neighbourhoods, it’s helpful to have something done well to show them.

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Bob Ransford got it right: the public art piece – ‘Off Centre’ by artist Renee Van Halm – is at the Joyce-Collingwood Station.

It’s a small but colourful piece of the just-completed station upgrade funded in the blandly named TransLink Maintenance and Repair Program – a $200 million program of 70 projects that have been rolling out since 2016.

As these small and large improvements continue, it feels like a golden age of renewal for TransLink, reflected not only in physical changes but also in additional capacity and ease of use.  Like these, as reported in The Sun:

On Tuesday, 24 new Skytrain cars will increase capacity by five per cent on Expo Line and nine per cent on the Millennium Line during peak periods.

As well, commuters can expect more frequency on 12 key bus routes with the addition of 40,000 service hours. On Seabus, sailings are being increased to every 10 minutes during peak periods. …

The regional transportation authority has implemented a new artificial intelligence algorithm that improved the accuracy of bus departure estimates by 74 per cent during a pilot project.

It can even seem excessive:

When headways are every two minutes on a Sunday afternoon, passengers don’t really need a schedule.  But hey, it shows they care.

Let’s remember this as we reflect back on the 2015 referendum – a totally cynical move by the BC Liberals, which delayed the inevitable funding and cost millions, only serving to demonstrate how easy it is to trash government if you make the price visible.  The Liberals have barely acknowledged (and never apologized) for imposing that referendum on the region.

The least they could do now is to recognize how TransLink has improved, helped shape the region, and is more necessary than ever.

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When Gordon recently posted a short item about plans to use facial recognition to speed Chinese subway users through ticket gates, I was actually riding those subways in Chengdu and Beijing.

What the story didn’t say is that the delays at the subways aren’t at the turnstiles, but at the adjacent “Security Check” where every passenger has his or her bags, purses, or backpacks x-rayed, and undergoes a wand scan for prohibited items. Millions of these checks are a part of daily life in China at subways, museums, offices, and public places.

Along with the ubiquitous video cameras, ID checks, and security personnel we found that they just became part of the routine after a couple of days.

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It seems reasonable to jump on a 21st century transit link like Canada Line and expect that there will be some sort of free internet available for you as part of TransLink’s customer service. Last year I wrote about TransLink  announcing that free access to internet service was coming, and would be offered on SkyTrain, the SeaBus and on transit. Even better, “the TransLink Board approved the development of a strategy to provide washrooms on the system “over the longer term”. 

Of course there’s a bit of “cut and paste” internet service at the SeaBus terminal and on the SeaBus itself, and sadly TransLink says it will take six years for complete transit network coverage courtesy of their partnership with Shaw cable.

But across the Pond in Britain, Transport for London is way ahead of TransLink in their announcement of 4G mobile phone technology going live on the Jubilee line’s tunnels early in 2020, with a full rollout in the next few years.Currently London’s tube stations have cell phone and internet reception which is non-existent in the train tunnels. That will require 1,240 miles of cables being installed in the tunnels which is close to 2,000 kilometers of wire.

London’s underground transit tunnels are one of the last major public places in Britain without phone reception.I find it fascinating that Transport for London is providing the underground communications service as a public space amenity. But also being British, the Guardian ruefully observes that such cellular network availability creates “new challenges to commuter etiquette.”  

The Mirror reports that the proposed new cellular coverage has mixed consumer reviews.

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I have written before about the work of Stanley Woodvine who writes for the Georgia Straight. Mr.  Woodvine is a homeless writer as well as a graphic artist, and brings a unique perspective to the city.  I wrote about his take of people carrying large sandwich boards in the city, and the scramble for retail positions in a shifting storefront market.

Stanley Woodvine also likes to dumpster dive, and his combination of interest in city events and looking for that elusive item hit paydirt. And his latest find is truly  the stuff of legends~Stanley’s  “pastimes of binning and blogging unexpectedly came together on Friday (June 28) when I pulled actual blueprints for a Granville Street Skytrain station out of a cardboard Dumpster in the 1400 block of West Broadway.”

Unbelievably a set of blueprints for the proposed new Granville Street station were dated May 24, 2019, and stamped by  architectural firm Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership (MCM) and building contractor PCI Developments. The plan showed that the new Broadway subway’s Granville street station will be on the northeast corner of West Broadway and Granville Street where the existing Royal Bank building is at 1489 Broadway.

The drawings themselves detail a five story mixed use building above ground with a curious six floors of parking for 332 vehicles below ground, completely out of keeping with the density of the project.  Mr. Woodvine surmises that the five stories being built above ground may merely be a platform or podium for a tower that will require this parking capacity as part of their development permit. The drawings indicate the location of the “future residential elevator” which confirms Mr. Woodvine’s hunch. He also notes that the future tower may be 40 stories based upon the parking capacity noting that the new 40-storey condo tower at 1335 Howe includes 430 vehicle stalls.

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