Buenos Aires 5 – The Purple Forest


I’m not sure if it was Carlos Thays who introduced the jacaranda tree to Buenos Aires – but the city certainly adopted is as a signature species.  We were there when the thick summer foliage was a monochrome green – but it would be worth it to revisit in November when city streets and parks become tunnels of violet.

Here’s a sense of what BA looks like at the height of jacaranda season in this video by a major real-estate firm.  So yes, a view of the northeast side of the city: rich, sleekly modern, beaux-arts elegant – and no visible graffiti.

Buenos Aires 4 – Urban Forest


While there are major parks along the riverfront, what partly makes up for the lack of local green space are the street trees – mature leafy deciduous trees in abundance.


It seems like all the streets in the older neighbourhoods are lined with them, almost unbroken in their canopy and coverage.


Like the street we stayed on in Palermo:



Does BA have the best urban forest for its size in the world?  It must be in the counting.  (I’d welcome other nominations.)  And there’s a reason.

Street trees have been a vital part of the city since the 19th century.  And the person who likely gets the most credit is Carlos Thays – born Jules Charles Thays in Parisarrived in Argentina  in 1889,  became infatuated with the young country and was named BA’s Director of Parks & Walkways (interesting that they specified “walkways” back in 1891.) “This position gave him significant influence over the design of the city’s open spaces, and his legacy is still strongly felt in the city’s open spaces today.”

Buenos Aires 3 – Where’s the green space?


From above, to a Vancouverite’s eyes, there’s something odd about Buenos Aires:


Where’s the green space? – the parks and fields scattered across the city, like here:


Not surprising then, to find this item under “Urban Problems” in the Wikipedia profile of BA:

Buenos Aires has below 2 m2 (22 sq ft) of green space per person, which is ten times less than New York, seven times less than Madrid and five times less than Paris.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in its concern for public health, produced a document stating that every city should have a minimum of 9 m2 (97 sq ft) of green space per person. An optimal amount would sit between 10 and 15 m2 (161 sq ft) per person

Or another comparison:



Hell if I can figure out how to convert 2.75 acres per thousand residents to square meters per person.  Or even if that’s the right number, depending on what’s being counted.  Help me out here.

In any event, we’re talking a difference in culture too.  Latin American cities generally do not have the ‘garden city’ tradition of the British-settled Commonwealth.  But where, I wonder, do the kids play futbol, since I never once saw a soccer field even in the larger parks, nor pick-up games in the streets or plazas.

Buenos Aires 2 – Population and Density



Greater Buenos Aires is a big urban region.  Over 13 million people.


In the City of Buenos Aires, however, there are about three million porteños (people of the port) – a population which has stayed steady since the Second World War.

Why not much growth in the city’s population? Low birth rates and a migration to the suburbs. Indeed, the surrounding districts in the Province of Buenos Aires have expanded five times over.

So: three million in the City; 10 million in surrounding suburbs. That ratio is not far from Vancouver’s: 600,000 in the city; 2.5 million in the region.


The population density in Buenos Aires proper is over 14,000 per square kilometre (in an area just under one and a half times the area of the City of Vancouver, with its population density of about 5,000 per square kilometer).

Our West End, by comparison,  is about 44,000 people in its two square kilometers.

So think of the City of Buenos Aires as almost one big West End, plus Kits and downtown.

Lots of it looks that way too.


Turncoat: Design the Wall – Jan 26



Turncoats is a series of debates will rugby tackle fundamental issues facing contemporary architectural practice with a playful and combative format designed to foment open and critical discussion, turning conventional consensus on its head.


Say what you will about a Trump presidency, it will be good for business. When the leader of the free world is a real estate developer, architects will still just be service providers, and that’s okay. Architects shouldn’t be political. Some of history’s most celebrated buildings were built under regimes with stomach-churning track records. Getting upset about policy is a distraction from doing great work. Spare us your hysteria! Buildings outlast politicians.

  • Thursday, January 26
  • 5 pm
  • $10
  • Inform Interiors – 50 Water St

Get a ticket here.

The Panel

    • AnnaLisa Meyboom is an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture at UBC and Director of the Transportation Infrastructure and Public Space Lab at UBC, and owner of the design practice, InfrastructureStudio.
    • Jennifer Cutbill is a project Architect at Local Practice Architecture. She is also a Regional Director of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada, and acting Chair of its national Environmental Committee.
    • Alicia Breck is an adjunct professor at the School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture at UBC and a project manager at Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency.
    • May So is an Associate at Henriquez Partners Architects whose work is driven by social justice.

Back to Buenos Aires – 1


I was having a great time photographing Buenos Aires when there in early January, and posting images on Instagram as I took them (seach for pricetags – Gordon Price).  But then my phone camera filled up, and strange things happened.  Something to do with the cloud.

Good news: I’ve found the images I thought I lost, plus others I subsequently took – so it’s time to start posting again.  But not, this time, on Instagram; it’s too hard to type the commentary and post multiple images.  So I’ll be using this blog, posting an image or two at a time throughout the week, but with a more extended commentary on that great city.

Your comments and additional insights are, of course, welcome.


#2. Doug Massey responds to Todd Stone Letter-Massey Bridge/Tunnel “Conspiracy”


On his Metro Vancouver transportation blog, Stephen Rees has a letter from guest editor Doug Massey in response to Minister of Transportation Todd Stone’s letter printed in the Delta Optimist on January 20th.

Doug Massey’s letter is worth reading in its entirety as he not only rebuts much of Minister Stone’s premise, he is also describing some very simple steps that could increase capacity in the tunnel if Delta Port implemented them,  such as working 24 hours a day 7 days a week like other major ports.

Price Tags has abbreviated Doug Massey’s letter  to Minister Todd Stone below:

…”If the statistics from the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are correct that in 2015, the Annual Average Daily Traffic was 80,666. which would equal some 3, 361 vehicle per hour, well below the tunnel’s capacity of 7,000 cars per hour, why then is there a problem at rush hour? Could it be that Delta Port is the only major port in North America that does not operate 24/7?  The fact that one container  or large transport truck could displace up to 1.5 to 4 cars and subject to the fact that heavy trucks take up more space and are slow to accelerate could result in taking up the space of up to several more cars, perhaps up to 10 cars on the road,as  at least 13 % of the vehicles using the tunnel during rush hour are large heavy duty trucks.”

“One has to ask why then has the B.C. Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure not even considered a modern day policy of banning all heavy duty large trucks during rush hour, and requiring all receiving and delivery points of cargo to be open 24/7 as is required in most cities around the world?”

Doug Massey notes that “… they are removing the tunnel so that the Fraser River could be dredged deeper to accommodate deeper ships, and that the province was not part of that project, could not be further from the truth. One part is true that they would not be doing the dredging because that is the responsibility of the federal agency, Port Metro Vancouver…building a bridge and removing the tunnel would be their preference  and at the urging of industrial interests of the Pacific Gateway Strategy Plan on the Fraser River they chose the bridge.”

“A representative from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was present at meeting of the Pacific Gateway Strategy Plan on April 2006 and on Feb. 2. 2012, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure of the B.C. government met to discuss the constraints to increasing the Fraser River channel depth because of the existence of the George Massey Tunnel and recommended the removal of the George Massey Tunnel to achieve their goals.”

“So you see Mr. Minister and the public it was not a fallacy but a conspiracy.””


#1. Back to the Massey Bridge-Todd Stone on Why It’s Good For You


In that story that just won’t go away, the Delta Optimist has printed on January 20th a letter from the Minister of Transportation Todd Stone regarding the replacement of the Massey Tunnel by the ten lane, 3.5 billion dollar bridge. It is quite strange to see a Minister of the Provincial Legislature battle it out in a small community newspaper-but for what it’s worth, Minister Stone reassures readers that there’s 8,000 pages of documents on the project website, and that they have done  “due process”. All of this while we hear about driverless technology and the marked changes of cities in the next few decades that will no longer have to provide parking space and barns for vehicles, and  will be able to reduce street capacity. You’d think these technological advances would also inform bridge/tunnel planning at the billion dollar level-but no.

Doug Massey has written a compelling response to this letter from Minister Stone, which you can read in the next post. Mr. Massey also outlines how facts may be manipulated in favour of the Province, as any proposed “dredging” could  in fact be done not by the Province but by the Port, leaving the Province “blameless” in an election year. But first, some excerpts from  Minister Todd Stone’s letter:

” We asked the public about the need, and were told the need was great. We surveyed British Columbians about the options and were told a bridge was preferred. Three rounds of indepth public consultation; hundreds of meetings with stakeholders, including the City of Richmond, Corporation of Delta, Metro Vancouver and others.”  Minister Stone notes that there is no net loss of farmland as a result-MLA Vicki Huntingdon states that there may be no net loss of farmland, but that replacement agricultural land is certainly not located in Delta or Richmond. A question Price Tags would like to ask-where will this new farmland be located from the losses incurred from the Massey Bridge and overpass construction?

And here is where the letter from the Minister gets a little funny. The rationale for this bridge changes faster than the clouds on a West Coast rainy day. The Minister insists that the bridge is not being designed for navigable ships below it, nor will the river be dredged by the Province. He doesn’t say why other bridge or tunnel options are not being considered. He brings out the “bottleneck” of the tunnel as  “the worst in Canada” as a rationale for replacement, and once more brings up vehicular idling. No discussion about timing truck travel through the tunnel, or scheduling large vehicle access.  He assures us of the fact that Highway 99 is needed for  the movement of goods for Canada’s “Asia-Pacific Gateway”.  Improved transit and managing congestion, which might have solved this whole problem in the first place is not mentioned until the final paragraph.

“Transit reliability will be improved, with over $500 million in transit infrastructure included in the project. And the environment will benefit, with less idling, and improvements to Deas Slough and Deas Island. We are moving forward on the project to replace the George Massey Tunnel, and are doing so in confidence that all due diligence has been taken.”

Please see Doug Massey’s response in post #2.


Feel the Need to Read?

Here are 257 “web sites” (including Price Tags), that every top planner aspires to keep up with.  There are dangers down this path. Be forewarned.


Thanks to Kyle Zheng for the 257 web site.

KYLE ZHENG grew up in downtown Vancouver at a time when few kids grew up in downtown neighbourhoods. While growing up, he witnessed the growth of Yaletown from an empty, industrial land, to a trendy neighbourhood. At the age of 11, Kyle fell in love with the transit system after taking the 257 Vancouver bus from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay. Soon, he memorized all the bus routes in Metro Vancouver, and started writing letters to the local transit authority, suggesting improvements to the transit network.

Curbing Road Violence-“Business in Vancouver” Weighs In


For some reason, we’ve come to accept this road violence against pedestrians as part of the wallpaper of urban living – even as “walkable cities” are the holy grail of city planning everywhere.”

 Peter Ladner in his latest editorial in Business in Vancouver calls it for what it is: we have an epidemic of Road Violence in Vancouver. Peter states in his editorial:  “Never mind calling back Mayor Gregor Robertson from Mexico to clear our icy sidewalks. We should be asking him to stay home in January and protect seniors from being killed by cars. Vancouver is the pedestrian death capital of Canada, and January is peak month for pedestrian deaths in B.C. – expect more than seven.

Based on five-year averages, 61% of those killed will be 50 or older. Our pedestrian death rate is twice that of Toronto, where one pedestrian is injured every four hours, and 44 pedestrians were killed in 2016. In last October alone, 10 pedestrians died in five Lower Mainland municipalities. There were as many pedestrians slaughtered by cars in the city of Vancouver (11) last year as there were murder victims.

My son was walking to work across a marked intersection at Pender and Jervis, on a green light, at 7:30 on an October morning two years ago when a car knocked him to the ground. He is still suffering from the concussion he incurred. The driver stopped and leaned out the window to ask if he was all right, then drove off. It turns out his situation is typical: according to a BC Coroners Service report, 40% of pedestrians killed in Greater Vancouver were struck at intersections and in crosswalks and two-thirds were crossing while the light was green. It might also be the case that many of the pedestrians who got hit were, like him, wearing dark clothing. In some Nordic countries the widespread use of reflective clothing has greatly reduced road violence.

But it’s too simple to blame pedestrians. I remember the first time I saw the 30 km/h zone painted boldly on Hastings Street around Main – the most dangerous pedestrian intersection in the Lower Mainland. My first reaction was: “Why should I slow down because impaired people choose to lurch into oncoming cars?” Then I sobered up and reframed the question: “Why should saving a few seconds of driving be more important than killing someone?”


Peter notes that when some European countries adopted laws where vulnerable road users, not road drivers were assumed to be innocent, injury and fatality rates dropped by 70 per cent. HUB cycling recommends a 30 km/h speed limit on non arterial streets-the survival of a pedestrian crashed into at 30 km/h  is 90 per cent at that speed, and only 15 to 20 per cent at 50 km/h. 

Peter points out that it is the Province-Minister of Transportation Todd Stone-who could implement this and who “is not interested. Nor is he interested in photo radar and red-light cameras. Research in Europe found there were 42% fewer serious injuries and fatalities where photo radar and cameras were installed.”  Minister Stone dismissed this as a “tax grab”. Peter suggests this is the same as saying Seniors are expendable if it gets me votes from car drivers who want the freedom to kill them by breaking the law and letting ICBC pick up the bills.”

Getting to zero pedestrian fatalities needs ” lower speed limits, safer intersection design, better pedestrian signals, tougher enforcement to stop speeding and distracted driving (none of us should be taking calls from people while we’re driving), more reflective clothing, cyclists using lights and more. But mostly it means getting serious about this ongoing car violence against mostly seniors, in every neighbourhood, especially in January. “


Friday File: Making Polynesian Floating Islands designed in San Francisco


The BBC reports on a project we’d all like to work on-Polynesia has signed an agreement with the Seasteading Institute of San Francisco to build-a floating island. “I don’t think it will be terribly radical at first,” the institute’s executive director Randolph Hencken, told the BBC.

Seastead communities are to be in international waters for “libertarian” life free of restrictive land  by-laws. “Mr Hencken is confident that having invited them to make their proposal, the authorities will grant them “leeway” to govern themselves and their “special economic sea zone”.”

Once the project can show a net benefit to the local economy and can ensure that the existing environment is not compromised, it can go ahead. “Whatever the motivation, it is a dream that is not short of ambition – floating social Petri dishes where each can experiment with new ways of living – but it is ironic that the first practical steps towards achieving it are in territory owned by one of Europe’s most interventionist states, France. Mr Hencken praises the stable institutions, friendliness and security of the “paradise” of Tahiti, in contrast to some more freewheeling and corrupt places they have considered in the past.” 

And here is the best part-“The institute itself was co-founded by Silicon Valley’s best-known Donald Trump supporter, Peter Thiel, and several of his associates are among its staff.”


Going, going, gone….Mega Mall Sold for $100.00


Many thanks to Scot Bathgate who sent this story of the 1.1 million square foot “Galleria” mega mall at Pittsburgh Mills in Pennsylvania that foreclosed after the owners didn’t pay a $143 million dollar (USD) debt. The mall was auctioned off for $100.

Wells Fargo foreclosed last year on the mall, which opened in 2005. The mall once was worth $190 million but recently was appraised at just $11 million and is slightly more than half occupied. Pittsburgh Mills Limited Partnership defaulted on the loan.

When this mall opened in 2005 it was owned by Mills Corporation, a “publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT) with 18 so-called “landmark” shopping-and-entertainment centers nationwide, as well as three more in the pipeline.

In advertising this mega mall in 2005 the Mills Corporation stated “Today, with the anchor announcements we make, we offer our consumers what they’ve been telling us they want — the broadest possible variety of value retail and entertainment and full price retail on a single Mills campus.”

This mall was divided into two sections: the 110 acre  1.15 million square foot “Galleria” at Pittsburgh Mills and another collection “big-box” tenants called the Village at Pittsburgh Mills. It included two department stores, restaurants and food courts, and had themed “neighbourhoods” with a “Sportstreet”.

“With this broad array of retail and entertainment offerings in one location, the Pittsburgh Mills campus will be the dominant retail and entertainment offering in the Pittsburgh market.”

From boom to bust in 12 years.


The Ghost Train Brings Public Art and History Together



Tim Davis of Portland Oregon alerted Price Tags to this extraordinary public art work in Shorewood Wisconsin-“The Ghost Train” designed by Marty Peck of Creative Lighting Design & Engineering, an architectural lighting specialist. Using lighting and sound, Peck has created “the allusion of a Ghost Train crossing the bridge twice each evening to recall the schedule, speed and drama of the passing of  the historic 400 train.  At other times the bridge will have a subtler artistic illumination.  Both the Ghost Train and bridge lighting will be a permanent installation.”


From the official website for the Village of Shorewood, this public art installation enables “visitors to travel back in history, imagining the round-trip journey of the ‘Twin Cities 400’ which was operated by the Chicago & North Western Railway and crossed that same location from 1935-1963.  Touted as the fastest passenger train in the world, the Chicago & North Western Railway’s ‘400’ routinely covered the 400 miles between Chicago and St. Paul, MN in just under 400 minutes – including its travel through Shorewood along the route of today’s Oak Leaf Trail.  “

This installation was a partnership between Shorewood’s Public Art Committee and the Shorewood Historical Society. Since the project commenced in November 2016, 100 to 150 people a night come to watch the train’s “performance”. A detailed story about the installation written by  Marty Peck is available here in The Ghost Train – Revealed.

There is a Ghost Train Committee and a schedule of “Ghost Train Departing Times”, with the train going north and south on the tracks mimicking the actual speed  and sound. There is an excellent short video on the official website, and here is a short clip from YouTube showing the opening night party and the train action starting at the 56 second mark.

Broadway Subway – Open Houses

Yet another opportunity to find out what’s what, and to put your views on the table.

Amid the vast array of projects underway in Vancouver, here’s one that will move lots of people, take motor vehicles off the road and so mitigate growth-related problems, and provide an opportunity to increase business density along a major corridor and residential density around it.

Planning for the Millennium Line Broadway Extension is underway.

Saturday, January 28.  1-5 pm
Douglas Park Community Centre (801 W 22nd Ave – near Heather St.)

Tuesday, January 31  4-8 pm
Croatian Cultural Centre (3250 Commercial Dr.)

Wednesday, February 1, 4-8 pm
Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral (154 E 10th)

A summary of key info is HERE, in a long, long PDF.

A summary is HERE of the alternative technologies and plan variations that were considered.


Land For Density

If we want more density and less sprawl, where will the land come from?

Re-zoning exclusively single-family home space is a rising idea, and feasible, given the example posted earlier on PT from Houston.

parkingBut there’s an invisible 30% of city land that needs re-thinking. Given the growth in alternatives, do we still need so much land devoted to the most space-inefficient form of transportation?

Christopher Pollen writes in The Tyee “Imagining City Life After the Car“.

Across North America today, precious urban housing space is languishing right under our noses — or more precisely, under our wheels.

In the City of Vancouver alone, it’s estimated that over 30 per cent of all land — worth an estimated $48 billion — is tied up by our roads, parking lots and alleys. This vast urban “greyfield” constitutes the largest tract of un-built space in many cities, raising exciting questions about how it could be used to make urban density liveable, family friendly, and maybe even more affordable. . . .

. . . . We seldom think about it, but our roads and alleyways occupy enormous tracts of valuable land. Consider: the City of Vancouver has more than 1,400 linear kilometres of roadway, including over 1,000 kilometres of local roads and 650 kilometres of driveable lanes and alleys; a typical street in Vancouver is 66 feet wide, while larger arterials are 80 feet.

And really, it’s not such a new idea, as this PT post from 2013 shows.

Another Meaning of “Greenway”

When more people have more ways to get around, it brings more smiles to more business owners. Especially those that are on or near the new Arbutus Greenway. It does show the importance of the connections from the Greenway to the transit, ped and bicycle infrastructure that the Greenway meets.


Claudia Laroye and Terri Clark of the Marpole and Kerrisdale Business Improvement Assocs.


Thanks to Jen St. Denis in MetroNews for this article discussing two BIAs (Marpole and Kerrisdale) that think the finished Arbutus Greenway will help bring customers to their shops.