Taras Grescoe calls Tokyo’s public-transit system his favourite and Copenhagen’s the most inspiring. Car-centric Phoenix is his “nightmare city”.
According to the author of Straphanger, a 2012 book about transit in cities around the world, TransLink is getting it “surprisingly right”. Grescoe told the Georgia Straight that Vancouver offers a model for transit development in North America, especially in terms of “wrapping retail and commercial density around stations”.
“They’re not doing that anywhere else in North America to the same extent,” Grescoe, who grew up in Vancouver, said by phone from Montreal. “There are little attempts to do it in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, but Vancouver is really pulling off something unique.”
On Friday (May 23), Grescoe will speak at the Spur Festival in Vancouver. His talk will focus on his vision for the city in 2021.
Although TransLink is “mostly a success story”, Grescoe suggested Vancouver would benefit from a “more reliable” frequent bus network throughout the city.
“Montreal is kind of beating Vancouver right now when it comes to that,” Grescoe said. “There’s sort of guaranteed 10-minute frequencies for so much of the city in Montreal.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson has made his support for a $3-billion Broadway subway line a cornerstone of his reelection campaign. This surprises Grescoe, who thought surface light rail or bus rapid transit would be seen as the “natural alternative”.
“I’m amazed they think that there’s money around and the ability to build a subway the entire length of the way,” Grescoe said.
Grescoe maintained that over the next seven years, Vancouver must “cope with the challenges of density”. He believes the answer lies in building townhouses, low-rises, and mid-rises—not single-family houses and “mega-towers”.
“It’s a strange city, because you’ve got this postwar and prewar housing stock that is single-family homes that are now—all of them—over a million dollars, and the alternative being these sterile condo towers around False Creek,” Grescoe said.
“You need to imagine a different kind of Vancouver with a different kind of density,” he added.