Vancouver Viaducts vs. The Front Street Parkade

A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang, president of the Korea Transport Institute. He was in the Vancouver area to talk about the success of the Cheonggyecheon stream restoration project. For those who are not familiar with the Cheonggyecheon project, in 2003 the City of Seoul removed an elevated highway located in the center of its city and restored a 5.8 km section of the Cheonggycheon River that had been buried for decades. What struck me the most out of this meeting was that it took less than three years to complete this project from start to finish (including planning).

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Here in Metro Vancouver things move a little slower (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Two projects in Metro Vancouver that have been inching towards reality are the demolition of the Front Street Parkade in New Westminster and the removal of Downtown Vancouver’s Viaducts.  Both of these structures are remnants of an auto dominated vision that never really became a reality in these two cities. In Vancouver, the Viaducts were the first phase of a massive highway project that never came to be.

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In New Westminster, the Front Street Parkade was built in a failed attempt to lure mall shoppers and their vehicles back to its struggling downtown. Today these two structures are largely underutilized and are taking up valuable geography in urban environments that don’t seem to want them.

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So the race is on, which of these two structures will be the first to go. Vegas oddsmakers have yet to handicap this race, but it should be interesting to see what happens with both of these projects over the next year or two. The removal of both of these structures provides an interesting and unique opportunity in city building.

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They also symbolically represent a larger race that is happening between Vancouver and New Westminster. Both cities are #1 and #2 respectively in sustainable mode share (transit, walking, & cycling) in Metro Vancouver and both are eager to be the first to hit the 50% sustainable mode share target. Vancouver likely has the advantage in the mode share race, but if New Westminster can manage to tear down its motordum relic first, who knows who might get there first.

2011 Translink Trip Mode Share

City Transit Walk Bike Sustainable Mode Share
Vancouver 22 18 4.4 44.4
New Westminster 21 12 0.4 33.4
Burnaby 21 8 0.8 29.8
City of North Vancouver 14 13 1 28
Richmond 13 8 1.2 22.2
North Vancouver District 10 9 0.9 19.9
White Rock 6 12 1.7 19.7
Port Moody 11 8 0.5 19.5
Port Coquitlam 10 8 1.2 19.2
Delta 9 9 1 19
Coquitlam 11 6 0.7 17.7
Surrey 10 7 0.6 17.6
West Vancouver 10 6 1.2 17.2
Pitt Meadows 8 8 0.3 16.3
Maple Ridge 6 6 0.5 12.5
Langley City 4 6 0.9 10.9
Langley Township 3 7 0.5 10.5
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