Metro mania

Tens of thousands of people stood in line for hours yesterday to experience the new rapid transit line in Vancouver. Such excitement has not greeted new transit options before, which got me thinking about the relationship between metro lines, a city, and its residents.

Unlike two previous routes, which primarily link suburban residential areas to downtown, this “Canada Line” links a variety of great places — real destinations — together:

  • The financial core / downtown area and nearby Granville St. Entertainment District
  • The trendy,  restaurant-rich condo-ville of Yaletown
  • City Hall and the new retail developments adjacent as well as the Vancouver General Hospital complex
  • Langara University College
  • River Rock Casino (which has a theatre that brings in great retro musical acts)
  • The Vancouver International Airport

Many more citizens can see themselves benefiting from this line, compared with the previous two which have really only served commuters from bedroom communities.  I think that accounts for the extra excitement.  That it opened three months early, and in August, also helped (not sure how many would have stood in the rainy November weather had it opened on schedule).

It will be interesting to see how ridership does.  I could see this line having much more balanced use beyond during rush hour as people go about their daily activities.

For those of you familiar with transit and metro systems,  what’s your experience?  Do metro lines connecting special places — destinations — have better ridership?  Do they mean more to you and other residents in the city?

This is not to say a debate doesn’t continue about whether this infrastructure was worth the cost (although I personally think it’s a worthwhile investment in a future, green, livable region).   I’m wanting a different discussion on what makes rapid transit work, and what makes rapid transit draw people from a variety of backgrounds. 


  1. Hank says:

    In my experience, good transit requires both a connection to interesting locations and a connection to residential neighborhoods. As I read the post, I was trying to connect it to what I observe living in Boston. I think what happens, is that interesting things flock to good transit. Over time, the first two lines may also become interesting coridors. As an example, see Davis Square on the most recently extended section of our Red Line. It became an interesting location because the subway goes there.

  2. Wendy Waters says:

    Hmmm… interesting observation. And you’re right, very slowly over time development has happened along the first two lines to create a couple destinations : A massive office-university complex near the end of one (Central City, Surrey), the Brentwood area on the other where a dozen new high rise residential towers now surround a refurbished shopping mall are examples.

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