Vancouver, B.C., Canada – day 3

At 7:30 AM this morning, I was loath to roll out of bed it was so nice and warm.   But, up we got and prepared for another day on the road here in Vancouver.

We walked three blocks to a market where we could buy all-day bus tickets and then, with these in hand, we went to the bus stop to take the bus into the central city.  But, we got on the #25 rather than the #19 and the #25 goes out to the University of British Colombia.   A few moments of discussion and we decided to just ‘go with it’ and see what unfolded.   We both like to tour universities and we like adventures.

The bus ride was through areas of the city that were new to us so it was interesting.   We arrived at the central bus terminus on the campus and got out and had a look around.  The first order of business was coffee and a light breakfast and we located a small shop where we each got a cream cheesed bagel and a cup of Java as we each like it; a latte for me and an expresso for Colette.

A long walk around parts of the campus failed to ignite us.  We were looking for a central quad area or a campus clock tower of some sort of focus.  But walk and look as we might, we saw nothing like that.   We did find the student union and explored it a bit but as soon as that novelty was over, we elected to get back on the bus and head for our next adventure.   

After asking a bus driver, we determined that if we took the #22 from the campus, it would drop us right into the heart of downtown.

Back downtown, we took a walk and quickly found ourselves by the Vancouver Courthouse.   It’s a huge building with a sloped roof made entirely of glass.   Colette, of course, works for the Ministry of Justice on New Zealand so she like to see courthouses in other parts of the world to see what’s different and what’s the same.

This one was certainly different.   The entire place, in the middle of a normal workday Tuesday, was virtually deserted.   We saw only two or three people in the entire edifice.  It seemed strange but it was,what it was.   So, we had a good look around, scratched our heads and moved on.

Then we decided it would be fun to get on a SkyTrain and ride it to the end-of-the line to see what we would see.   

We got on one bound for the King George station (the terminus)  in the town of Surrey on the SkyTrain Expo line.  We had one mishap and had to double back a bit but it was all good fun and, eventually we arrived at the end.   But things there looked a bit sparse so we went back one station to Surrey Central and got off and found a huge great complex which was both a major shopping center and a business tower 20 to 30 stories tall.   We had a nice wander in the center even though we weren’t looking for anything in particular.  It was mostly to see how folks lived and what their recreational activities looked like in the suburbs.

After that, we boarded the SkyTrain system again and switched to its Millennium Line and returned to central Vancouver via a different more northerly routing.

Today’s SkyTrain rides were interesting to me in several ways.  

It gave us a chance to see what the commuter’s lives looked like in the greater Vancouver metro area.  And, it’s not too bad.   The trains are clean, fast and the seem to run frequently and there are enough seats.   They’re automated so there’s no engineer on them.   It’s all apparently centrally controlled via computers.

You just can’t help but see the pervasive logic that supports the use of light rail in complex urban areas like Vancouver.   The city is virtually free of freeways, cloverleafs and all that stuff that acts as a separation between a city’s neighborhoods.  Instead, the buses, light rail and SeaBuses provide much of the necessary connectivity to replace the freeways and are so much more efficient in terms of fuel and CO2 emissions.

Another thing I saw that seemed remarkable to me were the clusters of tall apartment towers that rise periodically outside the city’s central area.   They seemed to appear periodically along the light rail avenues in groups of four to ten towers; each 20 to 30 stories tall and all standing in relative proximity to each other.   Colette told me how in Britain, many towers like these are council flats and are actually social hell-holes.  They are nasty, dangerous and rundown.  But none of the ones we had a look at seemed at all like that.   These all looked nice, clean and upscale.

So, people can live miles and miles outside the central city here and take a relatively cheap train ride into and back from work and live many stories up with  huge view in a beautiful apartment building.   That doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me.  In fact, it sounds like a damned nice thing and I find myself wondering why we don’t see more of it in the US.   It’s obviously seems like a good idea to folks here.   As we rode the trains, I saw several big holes in the ground where the land was being prepared for yet another apartment tower in one outlying area or another.

Another thing I noted as I idly watched folks today:   many, many people are listening to and/or typing away on their smart phones; androids, iPhones or whatever.   There’s a lot of energy and attention being spent on these devices.   They are entertaining folks and helping them pass their commuting time.   

It refreshed for me the idea that anyone who knows how to program and has even a glimmer of an idea for an application that could catch some of these folk’s interest should be giving serious consideration to doing some development of their own rather than thrashing away in the jungle of corporate software for other folks.   There’s a huge planet shaking opportunity happening right before our eyes today.

After our train rides (we only covered just a part of the Vancouver light rail network), we returned to downtown and worked our way to the same Japanese restaurant we ate at last night, ‘Asahi-Ya’ on Robson.   It was good and we both had exactly the same thing to night as we had last night.

Then, another SkyTrain ride from Burrard Station to Science Station on the Expo Line, off there and onto the 19N bus that runs up Kingsway and bim, boom, bam … we’re in our comfy room again planning tomorrow’s adventures.


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