April 14, 2011

Annals of Transit – 1

We’ve got Annals for Motordom and Annals for Cycling.  Isn’t it time Transit had its own Annals?

Yes, it is:

An occasional update on items from the Transit City.




So we begin with the end – the end of the interurban and the streetcar system in Vancouver.  This now-classic colour footage from 1948-50 captures the look of the city and its people, and at the five-minute mark, the burning of the streetcars under the Burrard Bridge.




Jason Vanderhill sent me something remarkable: 

What you’re looking at is a very early rendering of a SkyTrain Station, commissioned by the Austrian architecture firm Architektengruppe U-Bahn in 1982.

I simply love how various Germanic subtleties work their way into this drawing – the two lovely Edelweiss girls, the German Shepherd pursuing the Pomeranian, the brand new Mercedes SEC Coupe, and to draw your attention back to the focal point of the illustration, a little red van in the centre of the page that looks very much like a German fire truck to me! I instantly swooned when I saw the drawing!

These two drawings predate the name “SkyTrain” and would have been referred to as ALRT Stations. Their design was a joint venture between Architektengruppe U-Bahn of Vienna and Allen Parker & Associates of Vancouver. In the bottom right of the second drawing, I can just make out the name M. Stein, ’82.




The original Globe and Mail story is no longer available to non-subscribers, but this excerpt is worth repeating since it makes a nice addition to the post we did a few weeks ago on The End of No. 3 Road:

In many cities, the availability of rapid transit amid increasing gridlock becomes a draw for development.  Toronto’s subway system, for example, saw dramatic gentrification and growth in wealth along its routes over a 35-year period.  Not so in Metro Vancouver, where the Expo Line runs through some of the suburbs’ poorer and more development-neglected neighbourhoods.

…Vancouver urban planner Setty Pendakur notes there was never a push, from a government or zoning perspective, to increase density along the 24-year-old light-rail route.

Richmond is trying to make up for that. When the $2-billion Canada Line was under construction, the municipal government made a point of encouraging developers to build along the route.

“There’s going to be significant growth and redevelopment for the city centre,” says John Foster, manager of the city’s community and social development.  Now new residential and retail projects flank the light-rail line in areas that, according to the 2006 census, previously ranked as “low-income” or “very low-income.”

Gary Andrishak, for one, is optimistic. … “There’s been a willingness by the development community in Richmond to embrace this,” Mr. Andrishak said. “… A lot of the local developers were saying, ‘How close can I get to the station?’ “


Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. Love how little car traffic there was, and how polite the car drivers were to right-turning streetcars and to pedestrians wandering across the street to board the streetcars.

  2. Wait, seriously? No development along the Expo Line? What about Joyce? Pattison? Metrotown? New Westminster? Edmonds? What about this report, linked to easily on wikipedia, of all the hard-to-find places?

    “The most effective system in terms of shaping urban growth is SkyTrain. The corridor that SkyTrain runs through became the main development axis of Vancouver with a notably denser urban form after the opening of SkyTrain. Development densities along SkyTrain route have changed especially as a result of the rezoning plans of the municipalities. These plans increased the densities at station areas, and encouraged office and retail centres at stations. Some of the SkyTrain stations became the ‘new town centres’ as proposed in the metropolitan development plan.”

    And on the Millenium line, what about Holdom? Gilmore? Brentwood? Even the commercial developments popping up near Renfrew Station.

    The fact that there was no serious wealth gentrification along the skytrain route is actually a plus in my book, as often times the wealthy are least likely to ride transit, even when they do have it next door. Too often in major new developments you see cars piling out of new condos even while the skytrain is right there.

    Good on Richmond. They were certainly more prepared, but I would say that report is inaccurate.

  3. The station could seriously pass for Nanaimo station with all its single-family houses surrounding it. Interesting transparency for sight lines in the station, much like the later Millennium Line stations.

Subscribe to Viewpoint Vancouver

Get breaking news and fresh views, direct to your inbox.

Join 7,303 other subscribers

Show your Support

Check our Patreon page for stylish coffee mugs, private city tours, and more – or, make a one-time or recurring donation. Thank you for helping shape this place we love.

Popular Articles

See All

All Articles