Category: vancouver

Vancouver’s birthday party in the park

Vancouver celebrating its 125th birthday
The main stage at Vancouver's birthday celebration

Last weekend Vancouver had a birthday celebration in Stanley Park. Well a major milestone like your city reaching the ripe old age of 125 needs to be marked.

Vancouver put on three days of family oriented events, featuring a lot of local musicians. This is one of those events that Vancouver does so well.

Stanley Park is a perfect location too. You can look across the water at the glass towers of Vancouver’s skyline and the sails of Canada Place, while sitting on the grass and listening to the music.

Some elements were typical of Vancouver. We were encouraged to use public transit, or bikes. There was a free shuttle bus from Canada Place to and from Stanley Park. The wait for this was quite long, so many people ended up walking or getting a cab. Those who did drive were rewarded by spending a lot of time in the resulting traffic jams.

Another Vancouver element was the recycling bins set up all around the stages. These were there to encourage, and educate you, into sorting your recycling appropriately. There were volunteers on hand to help you dispose of your trash in the right bin. They were needed as it was pretty confusing!

The food concessions and giveaways were there to make sure that there was a lot of material available for later disposal in the recycling centres. We ate at the mexican concession, drawn to it by its popularity as much as anything.

There were beer gardens set up. These are fenced off and patrolled by security guards. You needed two pieces of ID to get in and were only permitted two drinks each. Vancouver obviously wanted to ensure drinking was done responsibly.

The overall feel of the event, from our visit on the Friday evening, was of a summer festival. People were chatting, listening to the music, checking out the concession stands and scoring as much free stuff as they could.

Walking back to the Seabus along the seawall, we were reminded of how easy life is in this beautiful city.

Getting around to it

Fare zone map
The Vancouver Fare Zone Map

I was prompted to write this because one long awaited initiative in Vancouver’s transit system – the Evergreen Line – seems to have a glimmer of hope.

The Evergreen line will eventually extend the existing Skytrain system out to Port Moody and Coquitlam. It’s future has been, and still is, in doubt due to a funding shortfall. The Federal Government, B.C. Government and private investors are providing much of the money, but local municipalities have been stuck with finding the remainder. They are now proposing this is to be raised by a levy on our gas (petrol).

I am not going to debate that issue. Public consultations will air all our many grievances on gas prices, property tax and government inefficiencies!

Since many of our relocation clients come from outside of North America, I often need to educate them on just what commuting might involve here in British Columbia, and Vancouver in particular.

First and foremost the car is still king. And even carpooling is rarer than it could be. The HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes are not very busy, even though a driver with one passenger can count as a high occupancy vehicle in many areas.

If you do want to commute then there is the skytrain. This goes out to the airport and Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby. It is a surprise to many of our clients that there are no ticket barriers at the stations. These are going to be introduced. We are a trusting lot here!

Train services are common in Europe. I spent many years commuting by train in and out of London. So it can come as a surprise that Vancouver only has the Westcoast Express which connects downtown Vancouver to Mission via Coquitlam, Port Moody and Maple Ridge. It may be more of a surprise to find that this service is pretty much only 5 trains in the morning (5:25am to 7:25am) and 5 returning in the evening (3:50pm to 6:20pm). Outside these times there are buses, but stay too late in town and you’re going to be getting home some other way.

Buses are actually the most common form of commuting. What you think of the service depends on your expectation. Many people from rural areas think the service is great. If you are used to a big city, then you might not agree.

Translink has a great trip planning tool on their web site. Have fun finding your way around.

June’s real estate round up

Housing statistics

In June British Columbia’s real estate market has been approaching balance – mostly. Like any generalization, including this one, there are exceptions and some of them are significant.

BC’s real estate market is managed by a number of real estate boards, and each has a somewhat different approach to how statistics are presented, so this round up is patchy.

In Vancouver, the market has been moving towards a balanced one. Balance means that the market favours neither buyer nor seller. In recent months we have seen that the sellers have had the edge in some areas, and buyers in others. This is still true, but it is Vancouver West, South Surrey/White Rock and West Vancouver that have been sellers’ markets. Much of the rest of the region has been balanced or has favoured the buyer. Detailed information is available on our real estate blog.

The Fraser Valley market is also balanced, though moving towards a buyers’ market. Sales were seasonally lower but prices were marginally higher than May 2011. The market in the valley is also variable according to the type of property and the specific areas, so once again it is important to get expert advice.

Victoria has been a buyers’ market and June continues this story. Prices may be edging up, but the increase in the number of listings is a strong sign that buyers have the advantage at the moment.

I am still waiting for statistics from the Okanagan where the real estate board is slower to produce updates – I guess they are too busy enjoying the relaxed lifestyle!

If you want tailored information on real estate for any area then let me know.

Lessons from the Stanley Cup riots

Cleaning up
The clean up

It was a sad day for Vancouver and for hockey fans when the Canucks lost the final game in the Stanley Cup. The sadness was not from losing but from the violence and looting that followed.

We were in England at the time. The reaction in the media there was bemusement. How could a hockey game provoke such strong emotions? And were these really mild mannered, polite Canadians rioting. I think it was this disconnect between the image of Canada and the violence that made this story of such interest world wide.

The next day we were on a flight to Dublin and the man sitting next to me was reading about the riots in the Irish Times. When we got talking he said that the reason he’d been reading the article was because it just wasn’t what he expected of Canadians.

So the perception of Canadians as polite, well-mannered people isn’t entirely true. Such broad generalizations never are true. Hey, even pigeons don’t live in pigeon holes!

Canadians are more complex. Our views of them are to some extent a reflection of what we want to see. If you think they are polite, you’ll notice that. If you think they lack a sense of humour then you’ll find that too.

I noticed that the reaction to the riots was another demonstration of this. People found the cause of the riots where they wanted to. Whether it was alcohol, poor policing, out of town yobs, gang members, or “young people today”. None of these is true – nor completely false.

The reaction I noticed in people in Ireland and England was a shrug. The riots were a blip in an otherwise peaceful and gentle nation. I doubt that many people’s perceptions of Canada have changed.

What about your perceptions?

Canadian cities do well on quality of life rankings

Yacht sailing in the Burrard Inlet
The Good Life
The Financial Times has a specialist division – fDi Intelligence magazine – which has recently published a report which ranked North American cities on a whole bunch of factors. The one that caught my eye was the category for Quality of Life in Micro Cities. (I said there were a bunch of factors!).

BC’s own North Vancouver came out top and Delta (4), Nanaimo (5), Langley (6).

  1. North Vancouver British Columbia Canada
  2. Meridian Idaho US
  3. Waterloo Ontario Canada
  4. Delta British Columbia Canada
  5. Nanaimo British Columbia Canada
  6. Fredericton New Brunswick Canada
  7. Langley British Columbia Canada
  8. Red Deer Alberta Canada
  9. Repentigny Quebec Canada
  10. Pickering Ontario Canada
I also looked at the Quality of Life category for Major Cities and BC scored there too as Vancouver came in 4th, with four other Canadian cities ranking in the top ten.

  1. Washington District of Columbia US
  2. San Francisco California US
  3. Calgary Alberta Canada
  4. Vancouver British Columbia Canada
  5. Ottawa Ontario Canada
  6. Austin Texas US
  7. Boston Massachusetts US
  8. Toronto Ontario Canada
  9. Edmonton Alberta Canada
  10. San Jose California US
It is good to know that Canada still ranks highly on quality of life!

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