Vancouver Central Waterfront Redevelopment

Waterfront between Canada Place and Centerm

These are some of my ideas for the the Vancouver Central Waterfront, the area between Centerm and Canada Place. The railyards on the waterfront are an anachronism that beg for redevelopment proposals, and there have been a few over the years like a casino, stadium, bland office towers and transit hub. I started these ideas when the casino was proposed in the 90s, and I have revisited them over time. This time spurred on by the return of the Icepick, a office tower many people seem to loathe, but I don’t think is too bad. I promised to post my scratchings, so here they are.

The principal principle of my proposal is bridging the railyards to connect downtown to the water. To do that I propose to build out a triangular area and bring the street grade to water level.

Rough Area to be Redeveloped

On this triangle I propose a tight grid of narrow streets around small blocks that get even smaller toward Crab Park. The park is expanded but directed inward. Looking at the image above, the grade descends from downtown to the water at the right. On the bottom chord of the triangle, the grade must be high enough to clear the railyards, and along the left chord of the triangle, the downtown grade is preserved to the northern point as the vantage point should be a bit higher than the wharves on either side. The Centerm expansion is assumed and shown in blue, and completion of the Harbour Line and removing the Seabus terminal is also assumed.

The Core of the Plan
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Colour in Architecture

On Pricetags I commented that we need to add a little colour to our cities, especially to Vancouver with its grey winters. Other parts of the world offer some ideas and here are two of them. In Bavaria there is a tradition of bright pastels, if that can be said to be a thing, and in the Netherlands the colour is more in the form of neutrals, but done with texture and variety. Here are some photo essays.


Classic confection of the Bavarian arts.

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We need a better bus

We need a better bus. A bus that fits better on the road, and a bus that fits passengers better.

Vehicles with a long wheel-base will sweep sideways in a turn because the rear wheels do not follow the front wheels:

Off-tracking is another name for that side sweep.

Every urban dweller knows that unpleasant feeling when long vehicles sweep inwards toward your toes while you are theoretically safe on the sidewalk. That unpleasantness is enhanced because you know that the driver cannot directly see that inward sweep, it is after all well behind the driver’s front view, so it is up to you to protect your toes and get out of the way.

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Atrocious Highway Signage in Delta

I don’t have a car and don’t drive that often, but recently I’ve had to drive from downtown to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal through Delta twice. I noticed the first time how terrible the highway signage was. I was thinking that maybe it doesn’t matter anymore because everyone has a gps with a demanding woman telling them where to drive. (The demanding woman in my gps pronounces No. 5 Road in Richmond as “No Five Road”.) The second time I was returning from the ferry terminal, at night, evem knowing the signage was terrible, with no gps, I got psyched out and took the wrong turn through that ridiculous interchange above.

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Toronto Light Rail Makes No Sense

This is a piece I wrote in 2010 and updated in 2012 in response to the revival of Toronto’s daft LRT plans. Some of it is out of date, but plenty of it is still quite valid.

I was surprised by the positive response to the reincarnation of Transit City LRT plan and now Onecity. These plans really don’t make any sense. There are some serious oddities as to cost, and there does not seem to be a cost-benefit or multiple account analysis which is standard the world over for these types of projects.

Practically all of the debate seems to be about the personalities and the council politics but not the actual pros and cons of the various proposals. For the Eglinton Line, I have not once seen a table the equivalent of the one below (from the Vancouver Richmond rapid transit study):

This is strange. A strange way to plan and debate rapid transit and a strange way to built it.

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Put HS2 in a Tunnel

As crazy as it sounds, one way to make HS2 even remotely affordable might be to put the whole thing in a tunnel. The current Y-shaped HS2 plan to both Manchester and Leeds has 531km of track and a probable cost of £85 billion or £160 million per km. The Groene Hart Tunnel in the Netherlands, built for the Thalys high speed line, cost £77.5 million per km. Less than half. The £160 million per km does include stations, but as we shall see, the buried line could still be built for far less.

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