And no, Adam, it’s not because my boyfriend recently moved to Toronto. GUH! I’m referring to all of the new ways I can navigate my way around the city and beyond without my own personal vehicle. As a result, getting around town for this car-less eco-gay recently got a lot easier.
The biggest change to Vancouver’s infrastructure recently has been the construction of the 19 km long Canada Line opening this past month. The trains are spacious, fast, sleek, and most importantly, air conditioned! I was so impressed. Vancouver can finally take her training bra off and trade up to a C cup: we finally have what feels like a ‘big city’ rail system. The other day I zipped out to Richmond for some cheap dim sum, picked up some $2 stationery at Daiso, then headed over to the Vancouver Airport to their “Viewing Lounge” to watch airplanes land and take off (Full disclosure: I’m a nerd). I can’t wait for my trip to Vegas in early October with Kevin and a couple of our friends! Not only will do we have tickets to KYLIE (can’t even handle it) but we are planning on taking the new skytrain link out to the airport! My excitement could only be further amplified had we got to stay at the Airport HoJo. But seriously, it’s pretty cool to walk a block to the train station, pay $3 and end up at the airport in 20 minutes.
Our train system isn’t the form of transport that got upgraded, our bike network was upgraded and expanded over the past few months. The Central Valley greenway, a new comprehensive bike path that links Vancouver to the outer suburbs was opened this past summer as well as a new separated path across the Burrard bridge that links the downtown peninsula. It’s been locally controversial to give up a whole lane of traffic to bikers, but honestly, separating cars and bikes is the only way biking will become a more acceptable form of transport. I tried it out the other day and loved it! I’m also happy about this because Kevin recently gave me his bike, which happens to be infinitely better than the same rusted, locked-gear bike I’ve had since I was twelve so I’m looking forward to getting out and cycling a bit more.
I’m also really excited about the new Amtrak service announced that will travel from Vancouver to Seattle and Portland (twice daily now!) One morning train will leave Vancouver in the wee hours, arrive in Seattle by noon and to Portland in the late afternoon. The current evening train leaves Vancouver at 6 and arrives in Seattle just after 10. Kevin and I took it out to Seattle back in February on our trip to Salt Lake City. We saved hundreds by flying out of Seattle instead of Vancouver, and didn’t have to worry about fuel or parking fees. It’s also a really nice train ride (and it’s licensed so you can drink!)
Vancouver is not the only city that is expanding its alternative transportation options for it’s citizens. Toronto is building a new subway extension to its airport, Winnipeg is building a rapid-bus system, Seattle just opened it’s new LRT and current plans have it expanding over the next 10-15 years. In fact, this continent could be changing a lot in the years to come if President Obama gets his way. He wants to make high speed rail in the US a big priority during his tenure. I couldn’t agree more! Imagine hopping on a train from downtown Vancouver to downtown Portland and having it only take 2 hours instead of the usual 6 (or more if you hit Seattle traffic or the border is backed up)? You could go for a day trip! Or travelling from San Francisco to LA in 2.5 hours, New York City to Montreal in 3 hours! It is a real possibility that will take a lot of courage at the political level, and a heck of a lot of money. But these are investments that should’ve been made decades ago, and as a result we North Americans are playing catch up to the great cities of Europe and Asia that have already discovered the advantages of a high-speed rail network!
While dreams of zooming around the continent on a train will have to wait a while (but hopefully not too long), for now I’m going to see how long it takes before I need to actually break down and buy a car… I never thought I’d make it to five years, but here I am, still livin’ the dream!