Near Union and Quebec
It took decades to move the conversation on smoking, but now it is pretty much a social faux pas to light up. Once, it was the epitome of in-crowd behaviour and carried a certain sophistication.
Will we ever get there with cars? We are, it seems to me, right in the middle of the process now. And despite progress, the outcome remains uncertain.
An article in the Oxford Academic Journal of Public Health, published in 2011, introduces the topic this way.
Caution: no words are minced in these paragraphs.
Results: Private cars cause significant health harm. The impacts include physical inactivity, obesity, death and injury from crashes, cardio-respiratory disease from air pollution, noise, community severance and climate change. The car lobby resists measures that would restrict car use, using tactics similar to the tobacco industry. Decisions about location and design of neighbourhoods have created environments that reinforce and reflect car dependence. Car ownership and use has greatly increased in recent decades and there is little public support for measures that would reduce this.
Conclusions: Car dependence is a potent example of an issue that ecological public health should address. The public health community should advocate strongly for effective policies that reduce car use and increase active travel.
The Walk21 Conference Series held its 17th conference last week. Canada is the only country that has hosted the conference three times~it was in Toronto ten years ago, Vancouver in 2011, and this year in Calgary. It is a unique conference series bringing together health advocates, planners, architects and interested community groups vested in creating communities where walking comfortably and conveniently is seen as a way forward to creating livable cities. The 2018 conference will be in Bogota hosted by Mayor Enrique Penalosa, brother of “8 to 80” bicycle advocate Gil Penalosa.
I first heard Dr. William Bird OBE (order of the British Empire) speak at a Walk21 Conference about the synapse between public and personal health, city design, and the need to create active walkable cities through better urban design. Hearing him speak about the need to create “blue gyms” where people can walk for exercise, sociability and neighbourliness drastically changed the way I perceive city planning. That sentiment was also expressed by Andre Picard in the Globe and Mail who observes “the benefits of living life at five kilometres an hour extend well beyond the individual. Walking is good for the environment, crime prevention, community-building and the economy. Conversely, the most unhealthy, unsafe, anti-social and costly thing people do routinely is drive.”
Andre Picard notes that there is a need to redesign cities to make them people first, instead of around motordom’s wish to design streets for vehicular life at higher speeds. The most powerful example is New York City’s Times Square which used to have 89 per cent of space devoted to cars, with only 11 per cent to pedestrians. This ratio was almost the reverse of what was happening~90 per cent of people were walking in Times Square, with only 10 per cent in vehicles. By returning road space to pedestrians, New York City experienced falling crime rates, less pedestrian injuries, and a 172 per cent increase in retail sales. By creating a sense of space as if pedestrians belong “you need to build inclusive diverse spaces.” Walking infrastructure such as wider sidewalks, street furniture, public toilets, and mixed use development make walking interesting and achievable. “No amount of health promotion will make up for a hostile environment. “
The City of Vancouver is using many of these principles in the planning for the Northeast False Creek area as reported by Frances Bula in the Globe and Mail. Instead of emphasizing walkways and bicycle paths, vibrant areas that have visual interest and are walkable are being planned along the waterfront , with restaurants, shops and entertainment at ground level. Another band of retail will be on the ground level of each residential building, some with storefronts only 25 feet wide to attract independent businesses and entrepreneurs. The third retail area will be in the area currently occupied by the Georgia Viaducts and will also reference Hogan’s Alley, the vibrant community of African-Canadians who worked on the railway and used to live at this location. By creating laneways that are designed for pedestrians and not vehicles, the City is referencing the laneways of Melbourne Australia in attracting walkable, accessible and diverse retail spaces for a new community where access by foot will be paramount.
Andre Picard observes that “walkability needs to be imbued into the DNA of urban planning.” The work that the City is undertaking in creating diverse vibrant retailing environments in Northeast False Creek best explored by foot is a very good start. You can find out more about the City of Vancouver’s planning process for this area here.
Planner and thinker Eric Doherty has written an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun
and provides a historical context on why “urban highway expansion must be the last resort, not the default option” and why projects like the Massey Tunnel Replacement need to be rethought. Despite pressure to further expand the road network, in the 1970’s Premier Dave Barrett and his cabinet ingeniously supported the “SeaBus, still one of the best-loved parts of Greater Vancouver’s transit system. Freeways never flattened Chinatown or cut off the West End from the waterfront…”
Today the thought of a third road crossing to the North Shore is not seen as a priority, and as Eric notes the SeaBus was an inexpensive option instead of a freeway bridge or tunnel. Barrett also was instrumental in the building of the region’s rapid transit and light rail, using the right of ways established by the old interurban railway. And surprisingly, he had envisioned a light rail tunnel to be built beside the Massey Tunnel to serve South Delta and Tsawwassen”.
We forget how transformative transit over freeways was in the 1970’s. The new Premier Horgan “sides with the other 20 Metro Vancouver mayors who oppose the Massey Bridge, and favour funding the rapid-transit lines in the regional transportation plan instead”. It’s telling that “Only one mayor supports defeated premier Christy Clark’s multibillion-dollar plan to build a 10-lane freeway bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel”.
Eric also reminds us that the “B.C. Liberals once proposed to replace their Massey Tunnel freeway expansion plan with bus lanes and rapid bus. In 2009, then-Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon told the Richmond Review that the bus lanes and tunnel upgrades would be sufficient “for easily another 50 years.” The B.C. Liberals built some of the bus lanes, but cut back on bus service through the tunnel instead of providing the frequent, rapid-bus service they promised”.
Going forward Eric sees the importance of enhanced and increased bus service through the Massey Tunnel and bus lanes connecting Richmond’s Canada Line as necessary. “Rail transit to Ladner and Tsawwassen, and to the North Shore, may be worthwhile next steps — but buses and SeaBuses work. The much bigger step Horgan needs to take is to reorient transportation priorities across B.C. to reduce the climate pollution that is fuelling ever more destructive wildfires and floods. The B.C. NDP promises to slash greenhouse gas pollution from transportation by 30 per cent in only 13 years, and the federal-provincial Climate Framework commits B.C. to shift infrastructure spending from road expansion to transit to fulfil Canada’s Paris climate commitments”.
Price Tag readers made some very good comments about how New York City’s High Line is markedly different from Vancouver’s Georgia Viaducts which are scheduled for demolition if the funding can be found. The High Line was an unused railway between a few kilometers of warehouse buildings. But a better parallel is the newly opened Seoul Skygarden which is built on a former motordom “flyover” that connected several locations with the railway station.
Built at a cost of roughly 65 million Canadian dollars, the bridge took two years to be redesigned by the Dutch architects Mts MVRDV. As written by pfsk.com it was designed to give “qualities of walkability, neighbourliness, human scale and shared enjoyment of its places…The Skygarden isn’t the first project designed to revive Seoul; the Cheonggyecheon stream was opened in 2005.”
Called the “Seoul-lo 7017 after the age of the original construction, the Skygarden “ is both a symbol and an instrument of the shift from car to foot. The original concrete structure has been strengthened, and lifts, stairs and escalators have been added where necessary to connect it to the ground. Bridges also connect to adjoining commercial buildings, who have to pay for the uplift in value. Other uses – cafes, performance spaces, a market – are scattered across the site.”
The overpass was planted with a “library of 24,000 plants, all native to Korea and arranged in the order of the Korean alphabet. Once plants mature, they will be sold and replaced, making the library also a nursery according to Winy Maas of the Dutch group MVRDV.
“Young Joon Kim, the current city architect who also worked as the coordinator of the Skygarden project, says that he is “very happy”. He acknowledges that not everyone is pleased about handing over road infrastructure to pedestrians – drivers of cars and commercial vehicles, for example – but says that “when you look at things over a longer period it’s clear that citizens have to have car-free zones. It’s not a kind of taste, it’s the way to go, like many other cities.”
In a not surprising but still stunning reversal the proposed 12 storey tower by Beedie Development on Keefer Street was rejected by a Council vote of 8 to 3. In exchange for extra storeys the development was to contain 106 market housing units and 25 low to moderate income seniors’ units with public spaces on two lower floors.
There was passionate response for and against the project which in the words of one commenter, “could make Chinatown more like Gastown”. As Mayor Robertson noted “In my almost nine years as mayor, no issue or project has yielded such a passionate, emotional response as this rezoning application. The Beedie group put significant effort into this project over the years … and went to extraordinary lengths to adjust and revise the project based on public and community feedback. Yet, council heard overwhelming opposition from several generations of Vancouver residents on the rezoning for 105 Keefer, and concern about how to manage Chinatown’s pace of change. For that reason, I voted “no” to this rezoning proposal.”
While there is clearly the need for more housing for Chinese seniors in the neighbourhood, there were concerns about overshadowing the Chinese Classical Garden and detrimental impacts from allowing a large for profit strata in the area. Many of the people who came out to speak to Council against the development had also been involved in stopping the freeway in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A new generation of concerned citizens also got involved in understanding and championing the issues.
Matt O’Grady in Vancouver Magazine notes that the Chinatown conversation is also being played out in other Vancouver neighbourhoods. How do you allow density but still keep a neighbourhood relevant to locals with neighbourhood character? In his article Matt speaks about Director of Planning Gil Kelley’s observation that it is not density that will move us forward in this conversation, but a look at how to make 20 minute walkable neighbourhoods, where locals can access all shops, services and walk their kids to school. He notes that while this can be accomplished by a certain percentage of increased density in most neighbourhoods, Chinatown already is tangibly walkable for local residents. The question is how to ensure that housing affordability and the conservation of cultural attributes are preserved for the future.
As Gil Kelley says”“I think we can rescue and preserve Chinatown and revitalize it so that it’s not simply a museum but actually a thriving place again. It may not be exclusively Chinese. And that’s okay.”
“The gentrification of Chelsea was under way long before the High Line, although the park certainly helped to establish as a credible residential neighbourhood an area that previously had little open space and no park.” – Sarah Williams Goldhagen, the architecture critic for The New Republic. This article ran in the September 2, 2010 issue of the magazine.
Having attended Wednesday night’s presentation on Northeast False Creek featuring James Corner, I left with mixed feelings. The draft design of the park provides a significant number of desirable public amenities, however the looming question of affordability hangs like a shadow over all new developments in Vancouver – even parks.
A park loaded with attractive features, designed by a world-renowned and award-winning firm, will inexorably cause a rise in adjacent land values. Without an adequate housing strategy in place this project may end up inadvertently exacerbating an existing problem. The NEFC draft area plan touches on this issue, suggesting 200-300 units of new social housing units be built in place of the viaducts along Main Street and 20% of new residential floor area be delivered as social housing. By comparison, the Woodward’s development (another significant intervention in the city’s fabric, built nearby in 2010) created 200 units of below-market affordable units (roughly 25% social housing by residential floor area), which did not compensate for the gentrification that continued in its wake.
James Corner described Northeast False Creek as what could be Vancouver’s “most central” park – as it is easier to access for citizens who don’t live on the peninsula. Surrounded by so many growing communities, transit nodes, and the sea wall, this area is choice for a park, regardless of the circumstances. Cities should be affordable and have excellent public spaces. In this light, I offer some remarks about elements of the park:
- The park promotes an “informality between people and places”, allowing people to clamber into and plop themselves down within “found nature”.
- There is an intent to connect people with the natural environment, which James Corner notes Vancouverites are already better at than most – due to the consistent presence of our natural landmarks (and rain). Small tactile sensations, such as the presence of moss, are being considered in the park. Tall trees may one day return to the area with the inclusion of Douglas Firs. The presence of rich, educational gardens will bring forgotten species under new scrutiny.
- Elements of the park have been informed by adjacent neighbourhoods ranging from the West End to the False Creek Flats, and from the Downtown Eastside to Southeast False Creek. The three primary contributing factors, reflective of these communities’ needs, are “destination”, “nature in the city”, and “community”.
- Tiered steps will be installed below the high tide line, allowing for each level to serve as an inter-tidal diagram, and doubling as bench seating.
- There will be a “found” beach only available at low tide.
- The park is aligned with the Ontario Greenway, so bring out your tin foil hats if you are into ley lines.
- The height of the hill in Andy Livingstone Park will be advantageously re-purposed as stadium seating to view the neighbouring sports fields.
- A sensuous, meandering boardwalk over tidal zones will challenge pedestrians to take their time enjoying and respecting the water’s edge.
- There will be places of respite, yet James Corner noted that some park management boards close their parks at night (I experienced this in Chicago’s Millenium Park, when my friends and I were hastily removed for exploring after dark). Further, some boards will design a park’s view corridors to place “eyes on the street” such that people who are homeless or whose circumstances do not fit within acceptable norms of park usage do not feel “safe” staying in the park.
- The new park attempts to include and run contiguously with a refreshed Andy Livingstone Park, but the connection is interrupted at grade by the relocated (and wide) Pacific Boulevard. A passerelle (note: not a bridge) provides a gently sloped, slender footbridge over the boulevard, while cyclists will likely cross at grade. As a person who should really exercise more often, I hope I am inclined to expend the necessary energy to walk up and over the passerelle. I wonder if the new Pacific Boulevard will one day be closed to traffic in the same fashion as the recent closure of Robson Square.
- Collaboration with First Nations stakeholders was only briefly mentioned, which I am hoping to hear about in greater detail. The draft area plan notes “The City of Reconciliation framework goals include strengthening local First Nations and Urban Aboriginal relations; promoting Aboriginal peoples arts, culture, awareness, and understanding; and incorporating First Nations and urban aboriginal perspectives for effective City services.”
- There is a raised platform for bicycles to enter the park from Dunsmuir Street, which along with the passerelle are the closest thing the scheme has to previous calls for re-purposing the existing viaducts. In the spirit of creating a place with a sense of shared memory and city history, will a fragment of the viaduct remain?
- Due to the seriousness of the housing crisis, I am curious if the ongoing exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver, titled The Vienna Model: Housing for the 21st-Century City will have an influence on the park’s neighbouring developments.
For those interested in future events involving Northeast False Creek, there is one at the Vancouver Public Library on June 13, and another at the Sun Wah Centre on June 15. For those with comments on the park, a survey is available here until June 30. For more information, the City’s Northeast False Creek website is here.
Ralph Segal was the senior architect and development planner for the Planning Department of the City of Vancouver. He is a well-respected professional that cares deeply about the city, and who was involved in most of the major planning and design decisions in the City in the three decades prior to his retirement.
Ralph has suggested in the Vancouver Sun letters that a special public place be named after the late Vancouver architect Bing Thom, who was cited by Stephen Hume in his series on 150 Noteworthy Canadians in the Vancouver Sun as a “Visionary artist, calm philosopher who meditated every day — even while juggling complex obligations that involved hundreds of millions of dollars — business wizard, respected by all as a kind, decent man, his stunning architecture marked the world.”
Quoting Ralph Segal “Thank you to Stephen Hume and The Vancouver Sun for the profile of Bing Thom, in which are cited his many prestigious national and international awards and medals for architectural excellence. As impressive as this list is, it does not even begin to touch on the equally important contributions he has made to mentoring and encouraging innumerable individuals and groups that he has inspired with his visionary advocacy and pragmatic approach to problem-solving.”
“A fitting commemoration to all these accomplishments would be the naming of a special public place, preferably in northeast False Creek, a downtown precinct now being designed, envisioned as connecting adjacent future and existing neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside with False Creek. A prominent public meeting space named in his honour would celebrate the depth of his insights into how the art of city-building can be the vehicle that brings together people of all backgrounds and interests, furthering his philosophy of inclusiveness.”
You can read a bit of the extraordinary contributions Bing Thom has made to Vancouver and public life on this link from Price Tags. Here’s hoping that Bing’s legacy can be honoured in a place name.
Besides the High Line in New York City, this report from Wired describes the “Low Line” , the initiative from former Google and NASA employees to build a 450 square meter underground park in an abandoned underground trolley terminal. Expanding on their indoor Lowline Lab which has had nearly 75000 visitors, the new initiative proposes the world’s first underground park, complete with a forest, water features, and plants.
“The Lowline’s skylight system uses external Sun-tracking parabolic dishes to gather and concentrate sunlight to 30 times its regular intensity. Internal optics filter out the hot rays, and the incoming sunlight is then distributed in a modulated way, to suit the vegetation – including exotic plants, mosses and hops. “Tropical species do best, but flowering varieties have also done very well,” says Barasch, one of the founders.
If approved, ten million dollars is needed for the investment and city approval. The goal for opening the world’s first underground park is 2021.
A very well-argued piece by Kenneth Chan on Daily Hive.
The article is divided into several sections, with subtitles:
1. A new barrier: a ground-level eight-lane road replacement
2. A plan that is detrimental to the city’s cycling and pedestrian goals
3. A new steep wedge between B.C. Place and Rogers Arena
4. “The viaducts are an eyesore”
5. What’s wrong with the idea of excess road capacity?
6. The removal plan’s cost: a $200 million beautification project
Among the points that caught my eye was #4, and the statement that the city had done little thinking about how to make use of the space beneath the viaducts:
The land under the viaducts is not wasted land; the area is under-utilized due to a severe lack of imagination from the municipal government. The viaducts provide sheltered areas for our wet climate and the skatepark currently located underneath the viaducts at Quebec Street are examples of what can be built underneath.
It could accommodate civic plazas, park space, night markets, and even restaurants and shopping malls. The spaces between the viaduct structures could also be an opportunity for infill tower development, with commercial and offices on the lower levels and residential on the upper levels.
He notes Granville Island, in the shadow of the enormous Granville Bridge, as a prime example, and includes a number of photos from other cities of repurposed space framed by outdated infrastructure.
Check it out! It’s a classic ‘cat among the pigeons’ piece.
Before Vancouver’s Georgia Viaduct was implemented, there was an active community that existed between Union and Prior Streets in Vancouver. This excellent 16 minute film Secret Vancouver: Return to Hogan’s Alley features stories of Hogan’s Alley, the residents, the stories and the music of a very connected, talented neighbourhood. Narrated by native son and historian John Atkin, the erasing of this community was a direct result of the superiority of motordom.
Just like other North American cities, the downtown areas home to Asian and African Canadian populations were targeted as clearing blight for the technological advantage of the car in the 1950’s. Finding out the community that was is the focus of Chris and Melissa Bruntlett’s article Women in Urbanism: Stephanie Allen on correcting past errors. Stephanie Allen has researched what happened to the small community of Hogan’s Alley as part of her Master’s thesis. In her current work she identifies the importance of public engagement in the redevelopment of this area when the viaducts are removed, and believes that developers and government should give priority to people who “cannot or will not have the same access to housing as other more affluent citizens”. Ms. Allen references the City of Portland’s Right to Return Program which provides incentives for displaced people to return to the areas where they originally formed communities.
Ms. Allen is now looking at creating models of successful mixed-income developments, allowing people with diverse backgrounds to form new communities. She identifies the importance of day-to-day management and equal involvement of market and non-market residents from the time of move-in to ensure a shared sense of responsibility and ownership. It is interesting work, and the rediscovery of the history of Hogan’s Alley illustrates the richness of what was lost-and what could be recreated.
ReConnecting Vancouver: After the Viaducts
Led By Michael Alexander
May 7, 2016, 1:00 PM, 1 Hour
May 8, 2016, 11:00 AM, 1 Hour
Vancouver is a young city. While this means we don’t have our own Arc de Triomphe (though some seem to imagine we do), we are lucky that if we let ourselves, we get to stand on the shoulders of giants.
I wrote about Design Thinking the other day, the great thing about this is that, somewhat like the scientific method, it establishes a systematic way of thinking which sometimes demands creativity, and at other times introspection, it involves the sharing of ideas, and the ability to learn from others.
What it does not involve is reinventing the wheel because you didn’t notice that someone else already did.
We get to see the runaway effects of a city growing increasingly unaffordable when we look at London. [see: There are now only 29 (yes, twenty-nine) homes in London deemed ‘affordable’ for first-time buyers]
We get to see how to design bike paths by studying the Dutch or the Danish.
We get to see how the city can build affordable housing by looking at Vienna (or Singapore).
We get to see how to deal with foreign money by looking at Singapore (or Sydney).
We get to see the effects of the conversion of streets to highways by looking at Miami or Pheonix and realize that Vancouver is fundamentally not really all that unique:
From the beginning of urbanized America, streets functioned to provide mobility in many ways:
People walked to work, trolley, horse-drawn then powered moved workers from factories and offices to home. Trains played a role in commutes. Bicycles incited a pedal power mobility craze for a while.
Then the automobile came along. By the 1950s, roads became the sole domain of automobiles. The automotive industry even created the term “jay walking” and launched a campaign to demonize people on foot. Sidewalks shrunk and beautifully landscaped medians were torn out to create more lanes for automobiles.
Trolley lines were ripped out and replaced with buses. But buses were devalued and branded as last ditch transportation for the unfortunate. Only the sedan was fit for the upwardly mobile middle class American. Crosswalks were diminished. Those brazen enough to move around on two feet were seen as merely an impediment to moving more cars faster.
Government loans encouraged suburban single family homebuilding, giving rise to the super highway, and when highways weren’t enough, surface streets – even the most picturesque and historic – were overhauled to turn them into another layer of de facto highways.
(Anything seem familiar in these? … if not, as Gordon has written, Motordom 2.0 is around the corner)
We get to learn how to install a bike share by looking at New York City (or Paris, or Montreal) … and get to see what happens when you have a combination of bike-share and helmet laws by looking at Melbourne.
We get to see why limits of pollution are a good idea by looking at Beijing’s air quality (or this last week, Salt Lake City), even if we don’t read the Governator Arnold’s words last month, and why putting all our stock in LNG isn’t the best idea:
I, personally, want a plan. I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.
And we get to look at things like fare gates in transit, and see if you install them, you have to make provision for the fact that when you put up a barrier, you put up a barrier, and some people won’t be able to deal with this fact. Again, in this we’re not unique, John Graham’s comments yesterday show one solution, but I can’t imagine its a cheap one.
The point of this is that in some ways, Vancouver is exceptional, we have an environment that many people would kill for, mountains that many dream about, and are generally pretty nice people. We are not, however, really that different from anywhere else except for the number of Learners permits on Lamborghinis … so let’s be creative and do RAD SHIT as often as possible, but let’s also learn from others just as often, from both their success, and their failure.
Finally, if something is a success, can we please accept it as such … just please, take it at face value as a ‘good’, and please stop treating it as a failure, or a reason to fight.
We can look a lot further if we stick with the giants.
Some Rad Shit from LA … with all of last fall’s various discussions about the demolition of the viaducts, and the corresponding whispers and conspiracy theories about who is benefitting, who is driving the decision, what kind of spaces will be created, who will make money on the deal, will affordable housing be created, will more ‘safe deposit boxes in the sky be created … here is another option from LA:
Around the country, cities are demolishing stretches of highway, turning them into parks or boulevards.
Los Angeles has an opportunity to do something even more dramatic: to close a piece of elevated freeway to traffic but keep it intact as a huge platform for new open space and housing.
In a single gesture, the city could produce significant parkland and a monument to the ambition that produced the Southern California highway network in the first place.
The stretch I have in mind is the stub end of the 2 Freeway as it bends south and west from Interstate 5 and dips into Silver Lake and Echo Park, two miles or so from downtown Los Angeles.
Interesting commentary from Vancity Buzz columnist Kenneth Chan on maintaining the status quo for the Vancouver viaducts. I have to admit given Kenneth’s usual pro-transit stance and excellent feel for what makes cities work, I was a bit perplexed as to his seemingly pro-Motordom stance … that is until I read his thoughts on the hottest urban design topic in the city at the moment.
There are some great points here. I for one advocate for keeping areas of the city funky, gritty, cheap, by celebrating the Rough versus the Refined as my old professor Moura Quayle once taught us. Kenneth’s vision asks the question what if we tried to work with the space instead of hitting Vancouver’s seemingly default button of bulldoze and replace?
In addition there is the concerning shell game regarding traffic design that needs to be addressed; why remove a pseudo freeway in the sky and replace it with a 6 lane Pacific Blvd decapitating the much celebrated shiny new park space? If this is deemed necessary, can we ramp up the park on either side to bridge an at-grade arterial creating a continuous park experience/connection? After all the site is reputed to be contaminated so capping the park with clean fill is more than likely required and would alleviate the high cost of tunneling Pacific Blvd.
If we do go ahead with removing the Viaducts lets strive to create a world class space that will leave a legacy of such a bold decision. Vancouver’s version of Millennium park perhaps, or taking a cue from Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture park or learning from Toronto’s evolving great new urban lakeshore spaces.
Shortly after City Council voted to proceed with demolishing the Viaducts came this:
B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the City of Vancouver needs to “cool down” on its plan to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. …
“I checked with my officials and it has been a number of years since the city took any meaningful steps to reach out to PAVCO which owns and operates B.C. place,” said Stone.
Stephen Quinn in The Globe quickly demolished that line:
(Minister Todd Stone) went on to say that he was not aware of any meaningful discussions between the city of Vancouver and PavCo and, to him, this was a concern.
He was wrong.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told me in an interview later that day that over the past two years there have been at least eight meetings between senior city staff and top officials at PavCo to work on a plan for the eventual removal of the viaducts.
“There’s a good paper trail on this,” he said. “…
A source at City Hall supplied me with the dates of those meetings. The mayor was right – there were eight of them between April, 2014, and September of this year.
So what’s going on? It’s hard to believe that the Minister was so poorly briefed. Or is this simply a case of looking for any justification to overrule the City and maintain the Viaducts?
If so, why?
It certainly leads to speculation that the long-term intent of the Province is to effectively replicate the purpose of the proposed Chinatown freeway in order to link Highway 1 with downtown. I’m thinking, in particular, of my speculation here – in which the Viaducts would be a piece of a larger corridor.
Click to enlarge
The Province could assemble any number of arguments: PavCo’s and stadium requirements, the new St. Paul’s Hospital needs for access, a desired tunnel under Grandview by the residents themselves, a ‘parkway’ with sound protection for residents along East 1st – all without ever using the term freeway.
And don’t forget: no transit upgrades to serve growth from the east, thanks to the defeat of the referendum. Therefore the need to maintain and enhance road access.
Then there are these comments on the Viaduct decision, picked up by Bob Mackin:
So who’s Geoff Freer? This guy:
Not only executive director of the Gateway Project and South Fraser Perimeter Road but also, now, executive project director for the Massey Bridge, and likely the widening of Highway 99.
In other words, the go-to guy to build the massive highway and bridge infrastructure that will bring new lanes of traffic right up to the borders of Vancouver.
And then what?
Perhaps that’s really what the Minister means: The Viaducts are not a ‘done deal’ because, possibly, another deal is in the works.
I took this shot a few hours ago from the upper deck of Science World:
It lines up exactly with Georgia Street – as architect Bruno Freschi intended when he designed the Expo Preview Centre, with the Lost Lagoon Fountain as the western end of this visual axis.
Once the viaduct is demolished and a ramp dropping down to the creek provides straight-ahead continuity, this exercise in City Beautiful urban design should make a lot more sense. Not a big deal – but a nice touch.
In October, Vancouver City Council will be considering whether to move ahead with replacing the viaducts.
Come learn more about the past, present and future of the viaducts at a special event, featuring guest speakers:
- Shirley Chan, loocal community advocate
- Clark Manus, previous chair of San Francisco’s Mayoral Citizen Advisory Committee that helped reclaim and transform the Central Embarcadero area
- Brian Jackson, General Manager of Planning, City of Vancouver
This is a ticket only event.
To learn more on the viaducts work visit www.vancouver.ca/viaducts
- October 14
- 6 – 9 pm
- Science World – 1455 Quebec Street
Here was Georgia Street at 4:15 pm, on the first day when the Georgia Viaduct was limited to only one lane during rush hour:
And a little later:
The traffic flowed. How disappointing: no Carmaggedon. Once again.
Given that that Georgia has already been restricted by construction of the Telus Building, that the viaducts had been completely closed off for the Olympics without catastrophe, and that there had been plenty of publicity about the film restrictions in this case, the media wasn’t overhyping the possibility of car chaos. Instead, the angle was whether this made a good test for permanent closure.
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – For years, Vancouver City Council has flirted with the idea. But is closing the Georgia Viaduct for filming of the movie “Deadpool” an accidental test for the possible dismantling of it and the Dunsmuir span?
The City claims it isn’t, but we’re hearing a different perspective:
Transportation expert Gordon Price with SFU says he’d be amazed if this wasn’t seen as a test, adding it’s a great opportunity to see what the reaction would be, what kind of mitigation would need to be done, and what kind of information we’d need to be given.
He thinks it will play a role in deciding whether to take the viaducts down permanently.
“People will remember it because it’s a real-time, real-life experiment. If, say, things go well or badly, or both — I mean, it depends on how each of us is affected by it — then sure, it’ll be part of the decision.”
Price adds the outcome of the transportation plebiscite will also likely play a role.
“Because after all, the expectation was growth could be handled in the region, assuming that we have better transit so that we don’t have to be as reliant on roads and bridges. If that’s not the case, then by default, do we have to maintain and actually expand road capacity? It’s one of these unknowns at this point, but I think it’s part of the consideration that goes into this.”
City Councillor Geoff Meggs argues this isn’t a direct comparison at all to life without the viaducts because there would be an improved road network and a bigger park replacing them.
He expects council will receive a pair of reports before the summer that could determine whether the spans stay or go.
Still, it’s extraordinary that in face of all the evidence and repeated demonstration (as you can read in the comments), we still think that reducing road space is either an impossibility given our reputation for congestion or just bad for business. But then, how can a city said to have the worst congestion in North America take out capacity of its major arterial without significant impact – unless of course that rating was never true in the first place.
Given the symbolism, this is a powerful indicator of changing times:
NIAGARA FALLS – A half-century after Robert Moses built the Niagara Falls expressway that bears his name, New York State has finally agreed to tear it down.
Giving in to decades of local pleas to remove the Robert Moses Parkway, State Parks officials on Wednesday pledged to remove the highway from downtown Niagara Falls to its northern neighborhoods, and possibly farther. …
The highway, which stretches along the city’s waterfront, was built by Moses, the state’s “master builder,” in the 1960s as a supplement to the Niagara Power Project. The road provided unparalleled views of the Niagara Gorge to motorists but cut off generations of city residents from the waterfront and diverted traffic outside of the central business districts of Niagara Falls.
Moses – the Power Broker – is one of the great polarizing figures of 20th-century urban planning and development. ” His decisions favoring highways over public transit helped create the modern suburbs of Long Island and influenced a generation of engineers, architects, and urban planners who spread his philosophies across the nation…..”
UPDATE: Kent Lundberg sends along the coverage from DC Streetsblog – here.
Meanwhile, the debate continues about the fate of another stretch of freeway from the city’s northern neighborhoods to the suburb of Lewiston. The Buffalo News reports that environmentalists are fighting to convert that portion back into forestland while the local state senator wants to turn it into a two-lane park road, matching the one in Niagara Falls, Ontario.