Archives for posts with tag: community

I attended one of the SFU  City Program’s free lectures last night. The topic was ‘What’s Up With the Viaducts?’ in reference to the fact that the City is now considering what the future of these structures, and more importantly what the future of this area of the City, should be.

There seem to be two main aspects. Firstly, what happens to all the traffic that currently uses the viaducts? Does everything come to a grinding halt if they are removed? The consensus was – no. And to be fair, all the evidence now supports this, including the little experiment the City did in February last year when a small sporting event shut down the viaducts and a few other streets! There is now a fair body of evidence from all over the world which supports the notion of  ‘disappearing traffic’. One of the most notable examples is from Seoul and Gordon Price’s blog has a lot of info on it here. Basically, in this case, they removed 6km of a huge freeway through the city and replace d it with a park. And traffic in surrounding areas did not go up. It has even got the folks in New Westminster grappling with a planned expanded Front Street wandering whether its the right thing to do. Traffic is like a gas, it expands and contracts to fill the space available. Hence also, ‘induced traffic’ where new road capacity is used up quicker than expected. As an aside, the exception to this is if its tolled. I have heard of two examples recently of Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where new bridges or tunnels have been constructed and tolls and financial models calculated based on a certain number of vehicles using the route (and paying the toll). And the traffic hasn’t come. One of the examples is the Golden Ears Bridge here in Metro Vancouver. I’m sure this wouldn’t have happend a few years ago. Times, they are a changing…

The other part of the debate was what should replace the space that the viaducts currently take. The skytrain weaves up and down around the viaducts at the moment so that’s one challenge, although I personally like the roller coaster feel to this part of the route and think its a feature in its own right. There was an interesting history lesson given as to what was there before the viaducts which acted as a reminder about how much we can loose in the name of ‘progress’. Hogan’s Alley was a thriving black community (Vancouver’s only one) which was wiped out. Someone suggested naming this project Hogan’s Alley Planning Initiative (HAPI) which got a cheer of approval.

This is only the beginning of the debate. So, what do YOU think? As Bing Thom said last night, the City Councillors want to hear from the people, otherwise they don’t really know what to do. So make your voice heard on this blog or elsewhere.

Robson Street and has never been so busy. The City has been closing the street to traffic and there are just so many people there. It has become the most popular place to go and hang out in the City. From talking to people and from my own experience though, most people are not going there to line up for hours for a particular exhibit or event (five hours in line for the Canadian Mint anyone?!). Most are going to ‘take in the atmosphere’. What does that mean for urban planners and designers who try to understand why people are drawn to certain places?

My suggestion is that people are drawn to people. This of course is not a new idea, but the Olympics have brought it into perspective in Vancouver. People are seeking a communal experience, a sense of community. The high density centre of Vancouver usually means residents walk the streets as relative strangers to each other, not meeting (or even wanting to meet) anyone they know. This time though, people want to experience something as a community. I think it’s more than a communal experience though, people are also drawn to being part of a common identity, in this case Canadian. If in doubt about this, just ask The Bay. I have never seen so many people wearing the same ‘uniform’ outside of a sporting venue. In fact, it is a great visual example of community through common identity.

As urban planners and designers, the best we can do is accommodate these events when they happen, through temporary street closures or similar. Robson Street and Robson Square would not usually be described as great squares or meeting places. However, right now, they’re doing an amazing job. The French have an expression – joie de vivre (joy of living). Robson Street is currently the definition of it. And it is wonderful.