For the Georgia Straight’s 17th annual Best of Vancouver issue, our editorial team has spent months on the lookout for good deeds, weird urban details, and various howlers to highlight. Here’s our contributors’ picks for Best of Vancouver 2012.
Best reason to go postal on a parking meter
Earlier this year, the Royal Canadian Mint released its latest loonies and toonies with lots of fanfare. We were told that these babies were made of plated steel, making them harder to counterfeit. But nobody at the mint anticipated a rip-off of a different kind. Because they were lighter than the older nickel versions, these coins didn’t work in parking meters. And the City of Vancouver pocketed thousands of dollars from unsuspecting consumers. So do you think there will ever be a refund program? Dream on.
Best group for bus nerds
If you’re the type to get a little nostalgic when you think of those old buses from your childhood, have we got the group for you. The Transit Museum Society can introduce you to the 1947 Fageol Twin Coach, the 1937 Hayes “teardrop”, and much more. Coast Mountain Bus Company provides storage facilities for these relics, which are trotted out for various events, including the annual Heritage Vancouver tour of endangered local landmarks. Only current and former transit employees are allowed to become full members of the Transit Museum Society. But if you’re an incurable bus nerd, you can join as an associate member. And anyone can view the old buses at www.trams.bc.ca/
Best institution we take for granted
Anyone who’s ever had to deal with B.C. Ferries knows the drill: long waits, exorbitant fares, and forget about the overpriced cafeteria food unless you line up before sailing (while we’re at it, why did they stop serving fish and chips?). Still, there’s something to be said about the experience. First, there’s the chance to drive your car onto a boat, which is pretty cool. Also, the new ships are very impressive (the Coastal-class ships are the world’s largest double-ended ferries) and the staff are helpful and friendly. Most importantly, however, there’s the fantastic scenery: breathtaking mountain views, spectacular shorelines, and, if you’re lucky, amazing sea life such as seals, sea lions, dolphins, orcas, and minke and humpback whales. Tourists pay top dollar to see this stuff—all we have to do is close our books, turn off our portable DVD players, and look out the window.
Best scenic bus route
Blue Bus #250 from Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay
West Vancouver’s Blue Bus Transit system—the oldest continuously operated municipal transit system in North America—got started in 1912 and continues to serve downtown Vancouver, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, and UBC, operating under contract with TransLink. For a jaw-droppingly spectacular trip, hop on Route 250 from West Georgia Street (near Granville Street) and go all the way to Horseshoe Bay along Marine Drive. It takes about 45 minutes one way, and you’ll get incredible views of the water, beaches (many of which you can access via public, if well-concealed, trails), freighters so close you can almost touch them, and expansive (and expensive) waterfront homes. Not bad for $3.75 from downtown Vancouver (or $2.50 on weekends, holidays, and off-peak hours).
Best two-wheeled accident waiting to happen
Anywhere north of West 4th Avenue on Fir Street
This area sucks for cyclists and pedestrians too. Car traffic going northbound is invariably moving way too fast down the hill and never stops for bikes crossing from adjoining alleyways or coming east on West 3rd Avenue. The fact that so much focus is on the north-south makes the east-west travel frenetic. And cyclists: watch for those railway tracks as you get past that initial accident waiting to happen and head toward Granville Island, hardly a cyclist’s heaven either.
Best proof that TransLink can’t do math
TransLink is spending $171 million to install fare gates at all SkyTrain stations, as well as creating a new fare-card system. The company claims that these “improvements” will reduce fare evasion to the tune of $7 million per year—or $10 million, depending on who you talk to. So, let’s do some math. If we take the absolute best-case savings scenario of $10 million per year, that $171-million system will pay for itself in just over 17 years. However, once you factor in $15 million in annual maintenance costs, by our math, the system will pay for itself approximately… never.
Second-best proof that TransLink can’t do math
The scuttled Albion ferries, the MV Kulleet and MV Klatawa, were sold in December. Asking price? $1.1 million. TransLink ended up selling them to Tidal Towing for just $400,000. If only real-estate prices would follow suit.