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What Vancouver could get from viaducts land: open space, below-market housing, more?

November 27th, 2011 · 80 Comments

While everyone is distracted by the visions of being able to swim to the downtown along viaducts converted to pool lanes, courtesy of the re:CONNECT design competition, city planners and a consulting team have been working on potential real land-use plans for the area under and around the viaducts.

There’s an area about half the size of the Olympic Village, mostly owned by the city, that could be used for all kinds of interesting things.

The architecture/urban design firm of Perkins + Will plus the engineering firm Bunt & Co have been working with the city on what that could possibly be.

But it sounds like, from what I heard over the past few days from Councillor Geoff Meggs and city planner Brent Toderian, that it has to be something the public thinks is a benefit. (See details in my story.)

There’s a new thought for everyone. Until now, people have been darkly suspicious about the talk of doing something different with the viaducts.

One suspicion has been that it’s all about giving Concord Pacific, which owns a small chunk of land around the viaducts and then much more to the south in Northeast False Creek proper, some kind of windfall.

Dark Suspicion #2: It’s all part of the radical greenie plot to get rid of roads altogether in the city, starting with the viaducts and eventually continuing on to all pavement.

Few, except for a few residents in small Crosstown cluster, have seen that there could possibly be a benefit.

But the idea of using that land to create something with public value could turn the conversation. (I personally am intrigued by the idea of putting housing back in the couple of blocks where it was taken away, when the viaducts were built in the 1960s, right next to Chinatown. That’s where former councillor George Chow’s family lived when they first moved here.) Or perhaps not, in this paranoid town.

BTW: I was completely unable, in researching this story, to get any firm idea when the city’s planning work would come to fruition. Originally, Brent Toderian told me that the aim was to try to provide clear options in time to mesh with the city’s Transportation 2040 plan. Then later he said that, while the city would aim for that, it’s important to get the options right and that he wouldn’t rush the planning department into coming up with anything prematurely.

 

 

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  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    I have always been a strong believer in light industrial areas in urban cores, both so that people can have the decent paying jobs they provide without having to drive, or bus for hours, to some strip in the suburbs, and so that they don’t have to drive or bus (yeah, right!) to some strip in the suburbs to do things like getting their blinds repaired – as I was happily able to do recently right on West 7th Avenue. I suspect the light industrial there will also soon be taken over by the condos spreading like moss up from 2nd Ave and the Olympic Village.

    Dan Cooper 46

    On the Fabula, I propose, we should adopt Jimmy Carter protocols and simply go by first names. ‘Lewis’ is just fine for me, Dan.

    From one of the entries that “dared” to propose to oust the 2000 jobs to the suburbs and build mixed use neighbourhoods:

    …participants in the new economy [will be] walking to work; working downstairs; around the corner; down the block or across the canal. Their life choices look for proximity of work, home, and services in bustling, vibrant, environmentally balanced, and socially rewarding high quality places.

    We’re not going to mount a credible critique of the modern planning paradigm if we assume its errors in the preamble to our vision. Modern planning segregates work place and residence. In the new economy those things can be much more dynamic.

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    transit technology (mode) is primarily a transportation issue not an urbanism one…

    Explain that to me Voony. Let’s reference 19th century Greenwich Village. They built an Elevated train, then tore it down 30 years later to build (unless I am much mistaken) two subways.

    The problem is that the ‘El’ was just as bad for the ‘urbanism’ as the subways. I should look at a map, but I’m writing quickly from memory. The 8th Ave subway (I may have its place wrong—but it’s the one that cuts through the village like the Red Sea after Moses was done parting it)…. was cut and cover construction. And, the vast expanse of concrete, asphalt, and blight that results on the surface is very much a result of the mode choice.

    Unless we make decisions about the street design, the building types, the neighbourhood footprints, the transportation modes, etc., in a coordinated way we don’t get away from the silos of modern planning.

    It’s always about “the resulting quality of the urban space”. That’s the bottom line, and all the decision trees in the various areas of urban thinking feed into it. Or, the city we get is not the city we want.

    That would be my take on it.

  • http://voony.wordpress.com voony

    Lewis, I am afraid you have the thing in wrong order…
    it is because people had little (or a different) regard on urbansim that they choose to put the thing elevated…
    surrounding urbanism is not a consequence of it, but a cause of it…
    here http://voony.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/chronicle-of-paris/ like in some proposal with streetcar in the viaduct competition, or like in Toronto, you can see that any kind of urbanism can come with the streetcar…the same is true with the subway…

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    The chicken and the egg problem… Reptile lays a mutant egg and we get a chicken. Egg comes first.

    You can write en Francais, you know, we will follow you. The people that put up the El in Greenwich did have a “different” regard for the urbanism—a different paradigm. It was probably the initial stages of modernism in NYC, which of course came much sooner than here.

    From the link you provide:

    It is not without irony, that we can witness the Parisian streetcar leading to highrise neighborhood putting a dent in the widespread north american belief that there is a correlation between building form and transit form, namely streetcars as promoting low to mid rise development

    I don’t see the streetcar leading to the hi-rise in Paris or anywhere else.

    Mayor Adams from Portland, where I’ve done some urban design and have a little bit of behind-the-scenes-insight, was the one that said he could sell redevelopment along the tram lines with great ease. It’s not quite a “build it and they will come”. The important link between public investment and private investment. It is up to each jurisdiction to decide what shape the built form will take. Maybe Paris has caught Vancouver fever.

    I’ve just posted the Charrrette’s proposal for the Historic Quartiers. Two BRTs and one Streetcar. The latter in a radically different configuration than what the City is proposing.

    http://wp.me/p1mj4z-sw

    The points here are that:

    1. the transportation would take away commuter trips;

    2. return local streets to local function (in the so-called DTES); and

    3. transit implementation would be used to effect revitalization of Main and Hastings Streets, Chinatown and Japantown.

    That’s a local example of the silos breaking down, and transportation playing a key role in making the economic engine start running again.

    Qu’est-que vous pense?

  • A Dave

    “The Parisian architects take in consideration the transit rider experience… when the North american will see transit mostly by its exterior impact, and eventually under this view, a streetcar will eventually be the more appealing form of it.

    Why such a cultural difference?

    …because maybe in Paris, the architects and urbanists use public transit.”

    Voony, this is an interesting thought, however, I often wonder after reading your posts that maybe, just maybe, the current Parisians are making a mess that they will regret 20-30 years out? Maybe, these days, they are just as beholden to developers and out to get rich with Tower Orientated Developments?

    While human-scaled design is perhaps not as contingent on transit mode as some suggest, our elevated Skytrain has produced precious few, if any, good examples that Parisians would be happy living in, although I’m sure they wouldn’t mind traveling through them on an elevated track any less than we would mind traveling past the parking lots of Joyce Station or Metrotown.

    Why are they blind to our 25-year-old bad example (if they have even studied it)? Or, as you put it, “why such a cultural difference?”

    Well, maybe it’s because the newspapers are vastly superior there, or they aren’t faced with cracking another in a long line of insufferable Canlit epics, or the locals across the aisle dress better and are far more promiscuous than they are here?

    In other words, maybe they aren’t staring vacantly out the window at monotonous parking lots and towers of pavement as they ride to and from work…

  • http://members.shaw.ca/urbanismo/thu.future/vancouver.failed.html Roger Kemble

    A Dave @ #55

    Why are they blind to our 25-year-old bad example (if they have even studied it)? Or, as you put it, “why such a cultural difference?”

    Tourists with stars in our eyes: that’s why!

    Once we wander from the conventional our ideals waver.

    Voony, knows his Paris. But Paris comprises semi-autonomous banlieues and arrondissements which, even then, sometimes, erupt into fire-hot protestations.

    As tourists. Voony excluded, we acquire an idealistic vision of our favourites.

    Why? Because we concentrate on superficial appearances, the end results, rather than the process of which of which they are the result.

    Gran Buenos Aires, le Paris de l’hémisphère du Sud is quite beautiful until you see El barrios: mismo El Monstruo.

    La Ciudad de Mexico: comprises semi-autonous barrios with their own ayuntamentos y Alcaldes: mostly banal repetition (Nezahualcoyotl, Chicoloapan) yet, sometimes quite beautiful (Coyoacan, Linda Vista) (Lewis says its okay to show off).

    Vancouver, dominantly, comprises bland suburbs: Cedar Cottage, Oakridge {yes, even the famous Douglas Park} Norquay: more of the same indiscriminate sprawl.

    When we address how decisions are made, how the outcome is financed, cui bono IMO a reformed decision-making process is more likely to produce a humane urban environment (see post 17) than eschatological personal opinions.

    Vancouver, with it’s dominant Walls and MacDonalds, has a long way to go!

  • http://members.shaw.ca/urbanismo/thu.future/vancouver.failed.html Roger Kemble

    PS I’m cool with 17 but I meant to refer to 18!

  • http://members.shaw.ca/urbanismo/thu.future/vancouver.failed.html Roger Kemble

    PPS This isn’t the first time I have noticed post numbering has been jiggi-mandered after posting.

    What gives?

  • http://members.shaw.ca/urbanismo/thu.future/vancouver.failed.html Roger Kemble

    Lewis @ # 55You can write en Francais, you know, we will follow you.

    Actually, Lewis, NO, most of us will not follow. It’s called being oleaginous and pretentious.

    Voony’s a native.

    Me, personally, I’m okay with “Voulez-vous jigga-jig mademoiselle?”: learnt from the Free-French airmen in WWll but most people here don’t go that far back!

    You can try Españole if you like: I’m okay with that. Other’s aren’t, though, and I suspect neither are you despite your Google tourism.

    Let’s stay with Vancouver colloquialisms and I’d be really happy if we could have some insightful commentary, on the planning process, “that no one dare call it’s name“, rather than speculative nitpicking over which we have no control!

    (Errrrrrr . . . ummmmmm . . . Frank: four . . . two to go!)

    Sad really sad!

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    A Dave…. is describing what I mean by “catching Vancouver Fever”. And we are both wondering is the infection may not be catching on the other side of the Atlantic. The possible culprit? Well, how about the back room deals of spot-rezoning and land-lift profits to the Chateau du Ville?Will Monsieur le Marie stare cool hard Francs in the face, and say “Non”?

    Voony is careful to stay within the Arrondisments of 19th century Paris. The scene is less even outside of that. (BTW the built form of Haussmann took on two additional floors in the 1920’s with the advent of the elevator. Technology has always been the greatest accelerator of urban change).

    However, even if there is Vancouver Fever Contagion in Paris, the French were the ones that inherited the classical urbanism from their next door neighbours in Italy and ran with it. We have Montreal to suggest to us that there is an urbanist tradition in French culture, that even if it is under fire, has had a continuity that surpasses all the other western traditions.

    Making mistakes is part of the process building great cities. We can visit horrendous examples of modern urbanism blocks—well, maybe a mile and a half—from Piazza Navona, the longest continuously inhabited urban site in western urbanism according to some sources.

  • Dan Cooper

    Lewis writes, “Modern planning segregates work place and residence. In the new economy those things can be much more dynamic.”

    Personally, I do not want to live above an auto-body and paint shop, or next to a truck depot, slaughtering plant, or rail yard. Nor do I think it would be best for children to grow up breathing fumes and playing among trucks as envisioned by people like Bob Williams in what to me sounds frankly like a dystopia where the urban poor are stuck even more firmly into polluted and otherwise unpleasant and unhealthy arrangements:

    “Residents of newly developed co-op and affordable housing units gather in the parks by the canals, as do workers from the area’s warehouses and railways. The air is aromatic, a strangely pleasant mix of diesel, fresh-cut grass, and roasting garlic from a nearby restaurant. The sounds are eclectic too: children’s laughter, rumbling freight cars, and music from a dorm-room stereo.”

    ( http://www.straight.com/article-347233/vancouver/vision-transforming-false-creek-flats )

    Diesel fumes for the playing children from the low-income housing? Scary!

    Some kinds of business can and/or need to be put right next to housing and to other non-industrial businesses. Others cannot, yet can and should be close enough to get to easily. To make this distinction is not to question the bases of modern planning. At least, not as described later in the same article by Christina DeMarco of Metro, who I think expresses the situation perfectly:

    “Viable cities need industrial land to service area businesses and to provide for employment diversity, she argued. We don’t want to be a city of ‘shoeshiners and Starbucks baristas’ … ‘People live in these glass towers where they can’t even put bookshelves.” Part of the need of a dense core is having these storage places.’ … ‘DeMarco sees the Flats as the “refrigerator, storeroom, and repair room of the downtown’. And it’s this proximity that’s imperative.”

  • Dan Cooper

    Hmph, as usual a correction: Obviously, Lewis was the one questioning “modern planning” as he defines it, not defending it. I should have written one line above something like, “To make this distinction is not to question the value of a new economy, but to recognize that such an economy cannot and should not uniformly occupy every metre of space within a city to the exclusion of other needs of residents and businesses, or of people’s health. As described later…”

  • Frank Ducote

    Roger@59 – Well for once I fully agree with you. Lewis does have a certain drum that he keeps beating endlessly and it is getting rather tiresome, at least to my ears and eyes. The length of his missives doesn’t help matters either. It doesn’t represent views that I find anything other than romantic at best and at worst totally impractical.

    I mean this in the kindest possible way, but maybe the Prince Charles Foundation would be a better venue for your rather endless lecturing and hectoring, Lewis. A lot of people love or at least like this city which we, collectively and over generations, have built. You seem to find nothing but fault and wrongs everywhere you turn, except for the 19th century and earlier.

    BTW, to correct yet another factual error – yes, I have worked with Lewis, about 25 years ago or so. We had fun and did good work IMHO. Also sat on his architectural thesis committee. (I wish I didn’t have to correct false impressions about me on this blog, Roger.)

  • http://members.shaw.ca/urbanismo/thu.future/vancouver.failed.html Roger Kemble

    Frank

    I remember your encouraging remarks when us deniers were kicked out of the Emily Carr final City Plan meeting.

    When would that be? ’92+/-.

    Thanqxz

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    Dan, I know Christina but I don’t know if she’s a Bulista. If the three of us were having coffee, I think we would find it pretty damn easy to get to consensus. Having said that, planners in the CoV (Christina’s former employer) have a habit of parroting statements about the value of industrial land in Vancouver. Hmp!

    Vooney has been good enough to chime into our posting. I don’t think there is any industrial lands left inside the historic arrondisments of Paris. You want industrial? Hop on a train!

    The second point that we would all agree about is that your characterization of fuel and fumes is not what I’m visioning as the mixed-use economy of the next 50 years. The new economy mixes store clerks with restaurant waiters; urban designers with film industry workers; drummers with voice-over-artists; PhDs with courier services… and I have only given a smattering of the PTA at my daughters inner city school.

    There is a vitality growing in our neighbourhoods that is not being reflected… not even a little bit… by—what one hopes—is the last phase of modern planning paradigm playing itself out.

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    I have a great deal of respect for the Franks and Daves and Rons that have suffered working with me… I am eternally grateful, and genetically incapable of expressing it in any normal way.

    But, they put our clock up in Maillardville, some couple of years ago now. Have you seen that Mr. FD? In spite of it being lost in a sea of near-freeway, the damn thing holds its own.

    A pleasure to see. Cudos to our work on that site.

  • http://voony.wordpress.com voony

    A Dave says “I often wonder after reading your posts that maybe, just maybe, the current Parisians are making a mess that they will regret 20-30 years out? ”

    That is certainly possible, they have did in the past. the most recent example is Chatelet les Halles… incidentally one of the very rare project designed with lot of input community…most of the Paris we celebrate have been the product of “enlightened autocrats” imposed against the people…
    Some of the most recent examples are the Pompidou Museum and Le Louvre’s Pyramid…

    That said, I have walked as recently as September in the new district where high rise are planned, and what I have seen so far is relatively pleasing to my eye.

    You also said: “Well, maybe it’s because the newspapers are vastly superior there”

    you could have a point, at least in urbanism affairs…and Lewis is right too: it looks that more generally French take urbanism much more seriously than canadian here, and not only in the newspapers.

    I am not sure than in an french urbanism competition, entry like 19 could have got anywhere (kid work is always touching, but there is a place for it)…. the Jury here will have to toss a coin to choose between entry 125 (from Lewis) and 138. The later has been chosen because it was much more to read…so probably more thought in the idea isn’it?

    By the way, after explaining that the viaduct create a barrier, the jury -obviously stubborned against the viaducts-will also choose entry 71
    …after some here will explain that that kind of urbanism is a product of the Skytrain…
    like it or not: that is an urbanism form which got plebiscite not only by the local “urbanist” gotha of Vancouver (at least the one on the Jury) but also by the public (which for true could not have ventured much further than the site map…)

    To be fair to the jury, entries was not overall very impressive, but considering the jury values as expressed by their choice, it is not necessarily very surprising either.

  • http://members.shaw.ca/urbanismo/city/city.html Roger Kemble

    There’s a lot of stuff to wade thru perusing re:connect’s programme and submissions. I have probably missed the best parts.

    I offer this as an alternative to self-serving gossipers.

    One issue has been clarified simply by looking over the graphics: there is no shortage of developable land, viaducts to flats, in Vancouver (a worthy discussion: another place, another time).

    Land use:
    Cui bono? Clearly not the neighbourhoods.

    The issue, rages currently under the name Occupy. The City derives its form out of how much debt load it can, or cannot, sustain: hence urban uniformity: Dubai to London to Howe Street.

    Spatial:
    Design professionals are still, evidently, enamored of the orthogonal grid (viz re:connect entries passim). Yet the nature of urban spatial containment is enclosure.

    A well conceived urban design concept, especially raw land as here, eschews the grid favouring interconnected urban places each unique identifiable and purposeful. Nature never pursues a straight line. Why should we?

    Reconnecting FC with Burrard inlet is a good idea reintroduced by Bud Wood’s UBC class in the ‘70’s. Unless there is a massive cleanup in the creek and the inlet that is mighty undesirable!

    Usage:
    Mixed use, of course. Usage should be governed, only, by noise transmission, air quality, safety and mix at ground level. For traffic mix a Woonerf configuration.

    The western world has suffered an immense trauma: the FIRE economy.

    Raw logs, value/jobs, are hauled off to distant ports. Coal, that dirtiest of dirt. accrue minimum jobs and occupy productive farm lands. Wild salmon, an internationally sort after delicacy is, (intentionally, evidently), being wiped out.

    The federal government is currently considering a NAFTA with many more cheap labour nations: bad news for Vancouver’s prospects. This will impact the use of the flats profoundly: i.e. more off-shore, speculator drive bad architecture.

    I see no appropriate response in the entries confirming Trevor Boddy’s observation. Vancouver Resort City, yet it offers potential tourism precious little different to the multitude of cities offering the same.

    Administrative:
    There is much, much more to urban design than pretty pictures: indeed urban livability come from a well-conceived administrative process: re:connect misses that!

    Planning procedures, by-laws etc, have not been re-examined for decades. A 1940’s UK military format prevails. A contemporary format conceives of regulating the building shape, the building envelope, it’s volume and relationship to neighbours and spaces between.

    Usage, as above.

    I have always cherished the notion of incrementalized decision making: i.e. the city as recognizable semi-autonomous neighbourhoods.

    Vancouver planners’ ultimate concept of the neighborhood planning colloquial, Cityplan published, in 1992+/-, all neighbourhood input.

    Supposedly, the ideal public participation model of the early 1990’s, it’s final publication described the neighbourhoods’ requirements: from almost every area the unequivocal plea of neighbourhoods was local control. Needless to say it was ignored!

    Compounding problems:
    Comparing input from two current State of Vancouver blogs, as of Friday 0353 hrs winter shelter beds . . . (17), should bikes be banned . . . (152 and rising). Is there any doubt where Vancouver is heading?

    Re:connect will not be heard from again. Remember Formshift?

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    With the jury selections announced last night, its safe to go public, I suppose.

    http://www.viaductscomp.ca/view_submission.php?ID=134

    I draw your attention to the sketch at the top of the page. It shows the “alpha” and “omega” of local architecture it is true: the gable and hip roof structures. But, it’s purpose is a bit more ambitious than that.

    It also shows that sometimes canals can be more fun than big parks and open spaces. Those kayakers can row to Stanley Park and stop at Granville Island on the way home.

    But what the drawing is actually trying to represent is urban space. It is a rendering of the principle, “The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts.”

    We are not so much interested in the buildings—they are pedestrian enough that any architect will be reassured he/she can do better. We are interested in the urban fact that a combination of buildings, properly sorted out by rules that defy the ages, can create special places or “urban rooms”.

    Over to you Frank.

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    Chatelet les Halles… incidentally one of the very rare project designed with lot of input community

    Les Halles is a facinating study in an urban site skidding out of control. Regional shopping mall and regional transport hub can’t combine to equal the social space created by the jumble of public markets and industrial sheds that (I believe) Haussmann razed to the ground—although it may have happened later than that.

    Public consultation is pointless unless there is something to “consult about”. People don’t bring to the room urban culture, and in most cases in our city it is very doubtful that “urbanism” is really what we are trying to achieve. The modern paradigm tries to invent everything anew. Therein lies the problem. We don’t have to be slaves to history (Academicism); but we cannot not know the past.

    What we need to understand is what it is that we are trying to get from the past.

    [To use entry numbers to get to the presentations referenced click on any competition entry, then type the new number into the end of the URL].

    #125 BTW is Ron Simpson with minor assistance on my part (essentially layout & submission). Ron and I use these competitions to do more than just talk about urbanism, something we are both very interested in.

    His notion of connecting Georgia and Carrall I thought was very good. I think it originated from his topographic model of the site that you have to click on the first panel of #134 to see.

    In my opinion, Georgia Street was intended as the “Great Street” of the Hamilton plan for the city.

    The same topo map shows Georgia occupying the “crown” of the downtown peninsula over the three blocks that start with the Bay and end with the Courthouse. Linking it to Carrall Street, the historic boundary between the 1870 Gastown platt and the old East Side, carries a significance that Mr. Hamilton might well have used of to his advantage.

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    ADD ON TO PREVIOUS POST…

    Oh, and connecting Georgia and Carrall provides a solution to the “urban problem” that haunts all the other entries, it haunts the competition blurb, and the Hamilton Plan. Namely— finding an adequate termination for the foot of Georgia Street on False Creek.

    A crescent or a curve achieves this in the most elegant and simplest of ways.

  • MB

    @ Lewis 48: “I’m with you on connecting human-scaled urbanism with a public means of getting around. But, you lose me with the idea that planning and transit are somehow “separate” decisions. I see urbanism as one big pie. Everything is connected.”

    @ Dave 55: “While human-scaled design is perhaps not as contingent on transit mode as some suggest, our elevated Skytrain has produced precious few, if any, good examples that Parisians would be happy living in …”

    In my experience urban design is not that well understood at the municipal level (depends on the city, its leaders and individual staff) or within neighbourhoods, and therein developers have a lot of influence to increase density on as little land as possible, notably in reaction to the housing demand nearest to decent transit. Ergo towers.

    SkyTrain has unfortunately been associated with adjacent mundane or ugly towers built in clusters. But your connected absolutism, Lewis,
    leads you to conclude that SkyTrain = inhuman towers, trams = human urbanism.

    With a little more wisdom, cities can change this to a more human urban form with or without making the stiff distiction between SkyTrain or trams.

    London has hundreds of square km of often beautiful three-storey terrace houses and low/mid rise developments in vast swaths of walkable and interconnected neighbourhoods generously sprinkled with Underground stations serving no less than 11 lines and several Overgound and national rail stations. The Underground is ideally complemented by thousands of the ubiquitous red double decker buses on pratically every major and intermediate road.

    There is very little wasted land in London, and despite the density, it remains marvelously rich at the human scale. Sure, there are unfortunate intrusions with 60s tower blocks, but overall, these are not as dominant as the rest.

    The SkyTrain guideway is contained largely within rail and utility corridors, of which there are none on Broadway. Therefore, underground is where it should go due to its relatively high speed, driverless operation and regional service links. I suggest that urban design reflecting the tried and true London experience can be implemented within 1 km of an underground Broadway Line coupled with an improved trolley bus service.

    Dave, oil represents one unfortunate reality: It contains so much energy per unit and was so easily and cheaply exploited in the early days (bubblin’ crude and all that) that it was built up over the decades as the world’s number one dependency.

    There are about 22 million cars in Canada, the vast majority run on petroleum. Car dependency was married to oil dependency after WWII, and no one cared then or even now to look at the long term economic impact of depletion of this finite resource.

    Moving one human being in a car consumes a tremendous amount of energy compared to almost every other mode of transport except flight. The trouble is, there are no substitutes for oil that add up — even collectively — to the amount of energy currently consumed by all our cars, let alone other vehicles.

    You suggested electric cars could be an answer, but how many Site C dams have to be built to supplant liquid fossil fuels tom power them? I read once (sorry, lost the source) that Site C will only return the equivalent power that we have consumed by powering standby switches and battery chargers for small electronics over the last decade.

    You would have to develop practically every tital, wind, hydroelectric, nuclear and geothermal source of power to keep our cars running, or else burn coal, which would be a climate disaster, let alone maintaining the huge levels of public infrastructure that props up our car culture.

    Something has to give, and many prognosticators say it will be cars themselves.

  • MB

    Sorry, the electric car comment was in response to Ian S #47.

  • A Dave

    “With a little more wisdom, cities can change this to a more human urban form with or without making the stiff distiction between SkyTrain or trams.”

    MB, I agree with this statement, although the prevailing notion that towers=density=sustainable is clearly heavily entrenched now, even among our “environmentally conscious” council and local progressives. I personally think it is over simplistic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it conveniently ignores both triple bottom line and cradle-to-grave accounting for tower TOD. It may be politically expedient to subscribe to this logic (campaign donations), but it is lazy and shortsighted, and we will pay for it down the road (witness Ducote’s defence of the overbuilt, amenity-poor, obscenely-priced downtown he so proudly helped create).

    As Roger notes, there is also plenty of developable land in addition to the FC flats, despite assertions to the contrary, including the Gastown waterfront and very underutilized “light industrial” zone between Strathcona and Clarke. Deliberately keeping these off the public radar for the foreseeable future serves the Rennies and condo developers of the world, but is hardly in the public interest. The fact remains, we could land 100,000 more people in these areas by 2040 without ever building another tower. Think of the possibilities!

    As for Skytrain, as one who does not own a car and who transits frequently, I agree with you and Voony that my preference would be for Vancouver to have a good rapid transit network. While we started building light rail transit around the time Paris and London did, and were once a world leader in electric streetcar networks, they kept building their rail networks, whereas we eventually tore ours up. They also have the population to support it, and now have a century of infrastructure built that we don’t have.

    So, while I would prefer a well-developed rapid transit system as a user, I simply do not think it is a feasible or viable option for our region at this particular time. If, as you say, we are only a decade or so away from the collapse of car culture, then we damn well start building a light rail network to replace it NOW. The glacial pace of Skytrain development, and its overbearing cost, in this context, makes it a poor choice. If we can build at least 4x the amount of streetcar network in the same time and for the same price, it would seem to me to be a no-brainer.

  • http://members.shaw.ca/aguaflor/BCarchitecturesince1952.pdf Roger Kemble
  • IanS

    @MB 72-73:

    To clarify, I wasn’t suggesting that electric cars were, or might be, the answer. I was suggesting that electric cars might be the result of the market forces you cite in #45.

  • http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/ Lewis N. Villegas

    “… connected absolutism, Lewis,
leads you to conclude that SkyTrain = inhuman towers, trams = human urbanism.”

    MB

    I love English culture, especially its distaste for theoretical thinking. Is it absolutist to point to the facts? Or is it exactly the other way around?

    Look at the Evergreen, MB. It’s going to be towers over there. Dave gives a pretty good account of why. The light bulb is not going on at the municipal level. We need to activate the grass roots. I’m hoping the community associations evolve into Local Planning Councils and get some clout.

    We agree that Skytrain is fine along utility corridors, rail yards and… well, what about the TGV running over pastures and farm fields? Subway on Broadway, same questions as Dave: Can we afford it? How long? And is it going to be another cut & cover fiasco?

    If adding road space creates usage, then taking it away should do the opposite. But can we take it away responsibly? We’ve just posted our Charrette transportation plan here:

    http://wp.me/p1mj4z-sw

    It shows BRT on Main (Chinatown Revitalization), LRT on Hastings (Historic Qaurtiers Revitalization), and streetcar on existing rail ROW around False Creek. Dave gets his street railway back on Powell Street (Japantown Revitalization) and Pacific Boulevard (re:connect told us it was under capacity).

    The plan doesn’t go as far as BWAY, but I think BWAY is a slam dunk. Build Broadway BRT next year; then re-implement it as LRT ASAP.

    The street section for that kind of staged implementation is in the previous post on our site. You and I have posted here about the issue of safety, and you have shared your family’s tragic experience in Calgary. I think this can work:

    http://wp.me/p1mj4z-rW

    The SUNN Historic Quartiers website itself is our first attempt to show what urban design and planning by Local Planning Councils could look like. It is urbanism properly defined, because it touches on all the issues that shape community. It wears many hats, and provides the space to form consensus. No silos there, just the need for more extensive participation. We were only able to ‘model’ participation with the SFU grad students who where fantastic.

    Early next year when we complete we’ll ask Frances to do a post on the website and, if she agrees, we’ll get feed right here on the Fabula. We’re writing a report that is going to Council, and that we hope to shop around in person to key players in the ‘hood.

  • http://voony.wordpress.com voony

    My turn to post a link on my blog : a take on the viaduct competition

  • http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ Roger Kemble

    Voony @ #79

    I wouldn’t get too worked up with Stephen Lee’s blog. Stephen is another control-ista who freaks out it you disagree with him.

    I incurred his wrath, big time, some weeks ago, by referencing the Bible.

    Now I’m no “Bible puncher” or “Fundi-freakoid”, hell no, but I happen to thinq some references to the Old Testament may have something to tell us.

    Referring to the great flood of Noah’s Ark fame I postulated that the flooding of the Black Sea might indicate some catastrophic weather pattern well before we were desecrating the atmosphere with our stinking gas-guzzlers.

    Stephen lost his trousers on that one (looks to me he hasn’t found them yet).

    I dunno, I wasn’t there but I do have some respect for non-Biblical scholarly, geologists who studied the area: it make sense!

    And now, shamefully, we are about to be regaled by the, surely worn-out, nostrums, shibboleths AGW, HCCC etc. that evidently Stephen fervently believes in and I don’t.

    If you cross him, watch your loins.

    IMO I would derive comfort if you TX experts were to put away your Excel recurring, perpetual motion spread sheets and find happiness in communities that do not provide homes in Coquitlam and jobs in Surrey.

  • Norman

    What I would like is city planning. You know, like we used to have before we got into spot rezoning driven by developers? We all know who would benefit if the viaducts were torn down.