Transportation
December 5, 2016

Kickstart – Evergreen Impressions

By Gord Price
What makes me take the Evergreen Line?
Beer.

There is a cluster of breweries and craft pubs within a kilometre of the Moody Centre station on the Evergreen Extension, including the Parkside – enough motivation to take the trains out to a corner of the region.
Yes, trains.  Inspiration struck on Saturday afternoon at Granville Island, and so I took a Mobi to Olympic Village station on the Canada Line, travelling to Waterfront to transfer to the Expo Line, and again at Commercial to the Millennium.  From there, an uninterrupted ride to Port Moody.
Altogether, just over an hour – short enough for a long distance, and not something I would have done without a car before the opening of Evergreen.
In a way, it felt like the line had always been there, despite the 30 years it took to get the provincial commitment.  And that’s in part because it seems very much like the Canada Line North.
You go through a long dark tunnel and come out at a geographically distinct part of the region – this time with mountains. There’s a stretch of industrial lands and automotive landscapes, with the memory of another era along the local highway.  Then the green glass skyline of contemporary Vancouver – and another ethnoburb clustered around a decades-old shopping mall at Coquitlam Centre (Koreans more than Chinese).

The stations too are indistinguishable from the Canada Line.


Everything was familiar, from Compass card to passenger interaction.  The trains were crowded on a Saturday afternoon, in part I’m sure from people like me checking it out – but mainly, I think, because Vancouverites are already conditioned and comfortable with taking transit.
There’s no doubt the Evergreen Line will be a success; it’s not even a matter of speculation.  I’d say the line will reach its 70,000 passenger count well before 2021.
We just have to provide the supply to meet demand.

 
 
 

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This week, a look at a municipal town centre that’s trying to create a regional transit-oriented development – before transit has arrived.

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By some overly simple criteria, Coquitlam City Centre (C3) is a success because it’s attracting a remarkable amount of high-density development for a municipality in the upper northeast corner of the region, 25 kilometers from the downtown core, with congested arterials and without rapid transit (but at least along the West Coast Express commuter-rail route).

Now that the Evergreen Line has been funded (expected to be open in the Summer of 2016), more projects are underway (MThree, left).  As a sign of commitment, even Coquitlam Centre Mall is helping to fund an additional stop – Lincoln Station.

An organzing, urbanizing element of C3(and a radical departure from the precepts of Motordom) is The High Street – a right-of-way that runs from City Hall to the shopping mall, and is meant to provide the scale and services of a traditional retail street.  It’s taken a couple of decades, but the vision is now essentially complete.

Even a few years ago, there were signficiant voids in the form of surface parking lots – still evident in Streetview:

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Today, this:

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It meets all of the ‘City Comforts’ rules that determine whether you have a city or a suburb.

  • Built to the sidewalk (i.e., property line).
  • Building fronts are “permeable” (i.e., no blank walls).
  • No parking lots in front.

… as do the other buildings that line The High Street, some with more architectural success than others.  But as a whole, whether retail or residential, High Street is scaled for the pedestrian, even as the towers rise above.  It’s also wide enough (perhaps a bit too much) to accommodate normal traffic lanes and one row of parking, raised slightly above grade:

 

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The trees are tall and well spaced; there is pedestrian lighting; there are rain-protecting canopies and awnings; the street furniture, bike racks and fittings are often artful.

And then, opening up just before The High Street meets the City Hall plaza, there is Spirit Square – a gathering place, “created to help celebrate BC150 – the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Crown Colony of British Columbia,” funded in part by the Province.  Salmon, as you can tell, is a very popular motif: in the iconic sculpture, in the design of the gratings, and, in Coquitlam’s case, still in its rivers and creeks.

 

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The square is well-proportioned and landscaped, outfitted with lighting for special events, and clearly connected to the public spaces at City Hall and The High Street, reinforcing the diagonal that permeates an otherwise overscaled suburban block.

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In this part of C3, there is an abundance of thoughtful planning, well-articulated urban design, quality materials, and a long-term commitment by all involved.

And yet …

Read more »

This week, a look at a municipal town centre that’s trying to create a regional transit-oriented development – before transit has arrived.

If you haven’t been to Coquitlam for a few decades, this might be your memory – a commercial strip with a bad case of Motordom.  And much of Barnett/Lougheed Highway still looks this way (map here):

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But “Coquitlam City Centre” is a designated regional town centre in the Metro Vancouver strategic plan (details here) – and the municipal council, planners and developers have been making a determined effort to create an urban place for the last several decades, expecting, hoping, crying for the Evergreen rapid-transit line to arrive.  So it makes a great case-study in how high-density works, particularly in highrise form, when the context all around is still car-dependent.

As we’ll see, much of the urban-design has been influenced by ‘Vancouverism’ – the name somewhat vaguely applied to the tower-and-podium style that evolved out of the megaproject developments that so spectacularly changed the City of Vancouver in the 1990s.

Although Coquitlam wasn’t the only suburban municipality to adopt a Vancouver-styled urbanism (check out No. 3 Road in Richmond, Lonsdale in North Vancouver, Surrey City Centre), it’s probably the one that looks most like parts of Concord Pacific or Downtown South.

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The residential highrises, in fact, are often taller and more imposing that what might be found downtown, and the ambience of the neighbourhood is distinctly influenced by the presence of a large Korean community.

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Next: what works, what doesn’t.

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