Catherine’s Vancouver is growing

Posted by & filed under Canada, Catherine, Cycling, Drupal, Events, News, Suggestion Box, Vancouver.

While hanging out at a Main Street coffee shop this afternoon, I overheard a conversation between a mom and her four-year-old.

“We can go out to the airport,” the mom said as they were leaving.

“Oh, that’s a long drive!”

Yes. Yes it is. With the opening of the Canada Line now moved up to August 17th, less than two weeks away, it will actually be quite a bit faster–for me, at least. The closest station is a 2km walk, bus, or bike ride away, but I expect door-to-door travel time to be much, much shorter than calling a cab.

It remains to be seen how well the existing bus service will integrate with the new stations, and if more frequent east-west buses will be needed to funnel Vancouver residents into the Cambie Street corridor. In any event, by opening early, Translink and InTransit BC will hopefully have some extra time to work out many of the bugs before the old bus routes out of Richmond get discontinued.

I probably won’t use the Canada Line much myself, still being closer to the Main Street bus myself. Since I tend not to go to Richmond or Oakridge Centre much, I don’t see a lot of opportunity to use it, but it would definitely make getting to Yaletown or Davie Street from my neighbourhood much more convenient.

Plus, as has been pointed out to me by friends and drinking buddies alike, now that I’ll be attending Langara College, the 49th Avenue station makes it extremely convenient to blast down to Gastown for a drink immediately after class. (Guys, you get that school isn’t 9–5, right?)

Still, this really does hammer home the point that for a pedestrian and transit user, the shape of our city really is defined by which buses go where. (Hint: they go downtown.) Personally, when I’m a passenger in a friend’s car, I never think about taking 12th Avenue to cut across town because there aren’t buses that go there.

These fascinating travel-time maps of Great Britain effectively illustrate what even a densely-populated country like the United Kingdom must contend with when moving people and goods around.

Also interesting is the implication of what “central” means to different people. This week, there’s been some discussion over at the Vancouver League of Drupalers, of having some coworking meetups to chat about Drupal projects we’ve been working on, get some coding down, and so forth. But where to actually meet? The Grind at Main and King Edward? Sweet, I’m there. Waves in New West? Yeah, not as convenient. However, if I lived right beside any Expo Line SkyTrain station in Vancouver proper save for Stadium or Main Street, it would be faster to go all the way out to New Westminster, hands down.

Fortunately, having my spiffy new bike has opened up a lot of options too, particularly with the ability to switch to transit when I need it, now that all the buses have bike racks.

So far today, I’ve ridden just under 8 kilometres to three out of four scheduled errands. The last one will double that. I’ll spend most of it on the cross-town 10th Avenue bike route. In the end, I will have spent about the same amount of time on the road as I would have, had I driven, if you factor in parking. It’s pretty liberating, I have to say.

But hey, even if it isn’t something that’s totally useful for me, a link to Richmond and the airport was necessary. I wish different choices had been made in construction and planning, but it’s definitely something we’ll be getting some use out of as a city. Plus, hey, Vancouver’s the first Canadian city with a subway link to the airport. Go us.

5 Responses to “Catherine’s Vancouver is growing”

  1. Briana

    Great points here. I’m a lifelong transit user, and I definitely see how my travel patterns are shaped by the buses (and lack thereof). Anywhere not directly by a SkyTrain is not an appealing destination. I live in New West, so in the example you raise, the Waves would obviously be my choice! But even if I still lived downtown, taking one SkyTrain ride to Waves would be preferable to SkyTrain + bus (even a bus that comes as frequently as the Main St. bus). When I’ve explored taking some college classes, I’ve ruled out Langara in the past, but now that SkyTrain is there, I’d definitely consider it!

    Now if they’d only knuckle down and build the long-promised Evergreen Line!

    • Catherine Winters

      Totally, Briana. I’m actually quite lucky in that I can take any one of three buses from the Main Street Station bus stop — they all end up approximately equidistant to my house.

      It’s interesting how much it’s apparent as a regular transit user that shorter distances are definitely not always faster. I note that if the Millennium Line is ever expanded along Broadway or 10th to UBC, it would still be faster for you to get to Langara by transferring all the way at Waterfront instead of Commercial Drive and Cambie to the Canada Line. Likely not by much, to be sure, but that’s going a few kilometres out of your way!

      At this point in my scholastic career (One month, two days until I start!) deciding what I might do after I graduate Langara’s Fine Arts program is pretty easy: There’s Emily Carr and UBC. And not going to school. However, with SFU Contemporary Arts moving into Woodwards at Abbott and Hastings in the next year, that’s now an option. It’d be even faster for me to get to than Langara.

  2. Tessa

    Thanks for the links to those transit maps of London. I guess you don’t know if anyone’s done anything similar for Vancouver or other Canadian cities? That would be awesome.

    And Vancouver partly won that race to the airport because of how close it is to downtown and other major destinations. Montreal, for example, would have to tunnel for many kilometres under a sparsly populated industrial area.

    It’s also interesting, though, how much land use affects travel times and vice versa, and how it all affects how we live. Where I live downtown is a place to be avoided except during business hours, rather there is a large shopping plaza maybe six blocks away where people go (think wal-mart supercentre times three). It’s a pain in the arse to get to by any mode other than car, but by car it’s so easy and quick, but that’s the dominant method here, all relating back to land use. Blargh.

    • Catherine Winters

      No, I wish — I know how they must be built, but gathering the data would be a huge amount of work. (i thought about doing it myself, haha.)