Painful Truth: SkyTrain creates its own city

If a city is a collection of people in a single urban area, then we draw and re-draw lines around the cities of Metro Vancouver endlessly.

Is Metro Vancouver a single city, stretching from Lions Bay all the way down to Delta in the south, and Abbotsford and Mission in the east?

Or should we use natural divisions such as rivers and inlets? Then Vancouver through to the Tri-Cities is one community, the North Shore another, the South of the Fraser still another, with Ridge Meadows and Richmond isolated by water.

Another way is to note that different kinds of built environment attract different people. The dense urban core of high-rise condos in Vancouver will have inhabitants with different lifestyles than a spread-out suburb like parts of Surrey, Langley, or Maple Ridge.

A surprising amount is affected by the environment in which we choose to live. It affects our energy footprint, our likelihood of owning a car, our eating and shopping habits, the number of steps we walk in a day, the amount of time we spend outdoors, the leisure activities we pursue.

So I propose we look at the city that has been slowly emerging since the mid-1980s in Metro Vancouver: a city united by the raised concrete guideways of the SkyTrain.

Burnaby is at present in the middle of a high-rise building boom. Richmond’s core around Number 3 Road and Westminster, has a density as high as Vancouver’s downtown. Coquitlam is seeing entire new neighbourhoods spring up in certain pockets.

What all those areas have in common is that they are linked by SkyTrain. With the Evergreen Line finally expected to start running this year, tens of thousands of residents will find themselves within the boundaries of SkyTrain City.

What’s different about living within a short walk of the SkyTrain? Due to the way the existing lines are laid out, whether Expo, Millennium, or Canada, it means that nowhere within a short distance of SkyTrain is that far. It means you can be in any one of a variety of neighbourhoods within half an hour to 45 minutes.

It means that other neighbourhoods, even those in your own city, become remote, if you don’t have a car. For a resident of downtown Richmond, getting to Surrey’s city hall and malls will be easier than getting to nearby Tsawwassen.

Given the incredible expense of housing, and the expansion of the SkyTrain network, more and more people will join the carless minority in Metro Vancouver. They’ll be retirees and young people, families and individuals, new Canadians and longtime residents.

And they will constitute their own subculture, one that will cross cities and which will have its own views on certain issues, particularly transit and urban planning.

It’s unlikely that the inhabitants of SkyTrain City will ever be a majority in Metro Vancouver, the way similar mass-transit-using groups are in New York City or London. But if we do get another light rail or SkyTrain line through Surrey to Langley, and another subway or SkyTrain line out to UBC in Vancouver, their numbers will swell.

Though divided among many municipalities, they will begin to make their needs felt increasingly, and not only across the region but at the provincial and even the national level. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of city they create, stretching from SeaBus terminal to downtown Langley City.

Just Posted

54-40 thrills Aldergrove Fair crowd: VIDEO

54-40 were joined on stage by the band members’ dancing children, the “Aldergrove Rockettes”

ZONE 3: Luck played no part in getting Riley Ward to the BC Games

Langley baller flouts misfortune on the floor; he’d rather get by on hard work

Third straight loss ends Langley’s Junior B Thunder season

The local squad could not snare a win against the Port Coquitlam Saints.

Giants bringing Point Roberts talent to Langley

The Vancouver Giants have announced a new signing.

VIDEO: New doctors, but fewer spaces for patients in Langley

Retirements have left some Langley residents without a family physician.

Here’s what you need to know about Day 2 at the BC Games

From equestrian to volleyball to swimming, all 18 events in full swing here in the Cowichan Valley

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Fraser Surrey Docks mechanic dies on the job

‘This is a very sad day - a worker went to his job this morning and didn’t go home’

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan


A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

Most Read