Tag: commuting

How do you expect to get around?

Transport options
Car, taxi or foot - how do you expect to get around?

Doing a research trip is a great way to find out about the place that you hope to make your new home. Part of the benefit of doing this is testing your assumptions about the place against reality. That can be a shock.

This is a good thing. Actually in many ways it is what we are all about. We want to make sure that your expectations about life in Canada are accurate and not hallucinations or wishful thinking.

This week we had a couple of research tours and there was quite a difference in their expectations about Vancouver – specifically about public transit.

The first couple were Jane and Jack. They expected to live in walking distance from the shops. They also expected to be able to get on public transit and commute to work. They didn’t want to drive except for weekend trips or for their weekly supermarket shop,

The second couple were Tony and Cristal. They were not in the least interested in public transit. They didn’t want to know about buses, trains, skytrains or the seabus. They expected to drive. They preferred driving. They wanted to drive. What they didn’t want to drive too far. Half an hour commute was the most they’d tolerate. They were tired of long commutes of an hour or more.

Which couple do you think had it right?

In some ways it is Tony and Cristal. After all Canada is highly dependent on the motor car, so they could well fit in very well with their expectations of driving everywhere. But they want to live in downtown Vancouver. If they do that then they’ll actually be able to achieve what Jane and Jack want – to be able to walk to shops and restaurants. The adjustment that they might want to make is to accept that they can also get around on public transit. After all Vancouver is a city which does have public transit. It even encourages cycling. If they are to adjust completely then perhaps they too will be cycling around Stanley Park and the seawall.

What about Jane and Jack? Their expectations were quite different, but were they so wrong? At first yes. They’d never been to Canada and understandably they’d imagined it was like their home in England. They expected to have corner shops a few minutes walk away from their home. Also a train service to whisk them in overcrowded bliss to their workplace.

We spent half the day showing them around, seeing areas that were in the price range and might suit. After that they realized they weren’t in Kansas anymore – nor were they in Kingston!

What happened was that they’d adjusted their expectations. Now they knew that Canada wasn’t exactly what they’d expected. It was different and they could adjust accordingly.

Perhaps their adjustment would be a large one. Maybe they’d learned that Canada would not work for them. Maybe it was a small one. They might need to look at getting into a car more often, or try harder to find a home in a more central location.

Research trips pay off whether you find out that you were right about Canada or wrong. Finding the truth out first hand lets you make a decision about your move that is based on reality. And you can’t argue with reality – well if you do, you never win!

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.

New seabus for Vancouver

There is to be a third seabus taking people across from Lonsdale Quay to Canada Place. This brings our ferries up to three in number. We will also only have 10 minutes to wait for the next peak hour ferry, a 5 minute improvement over the 15 minutes now.

Of course we will have to wait until 2010 – the magic year when it all happens. Still it is a great way to travel, whether you are a tourist or commuter. You can even bring your bike aboard 😉



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