Hakodate Weekend 函館の週末 – Day 1

Hakodate is a city on the southernmost tip of the island of Hokkaido. It’s a port city that figures large in modern Japanese history. It’s the first city in Japan that the American Navy under Commodore Perry opened up to the world at the end of a period of isolation. An important battle at the end of Tokugawa Period and the beginning of the Meiji Era took place here as well. Hakodate is also known for its physical beauty because the city is situated on a tiny isthmus surround by the ocean on both sides and a mountain conveniently located at the southern end of the city to take in this scrumptious city and ocean view.

sapporo to hakodate map

For our travels to Hakodate from Sapporo, we considered two different modes of travel. The train would have been faster and more comfortable ride, but the price was roughly ¥8,300 one-way/¥16,600 round trip. Looking at a train ride that costs about CAD$170 per person was not what we wanted to spend. Especially when I think of the time to get there as almost the same as a Vancouver to Seattle road trip.

Thankfully, one of our shared-house mates had done the trip to Hakodate previously and took a Chuo Bus. The round-trip ticket worked out to just about ¥8,000 round-trip per person. That was half the price of what it would have cost us by train. Being a transit traveller and passenger train geek, I would have loved to take the Super Hokuto train to Hakodate. However, our budget for staying a month in Hokkaido did not allow for such a luxury. The bus was way more economical.

By toll highway without any stops, the drive from Sapporo to Hakodate is just under 4 hours. However, we had a pit stop at a toll highway rest stop for a half hour and we deviated from the expressway a few townships before Hakodate. So our bus ride was more like 6 hours from station to station.

JR Hakodate Station

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SFU Gondola – Gordon Price’s take

There’s been some debate regarding the SFU Gondola plan.  Some of the outrage is from residents concerned about effects on their properties.  Some are outraged by the fact that TransLink is even considering other transit projects other than the top-prioritiy Evergreen Line.

I think Gordon Price puts things in good perspective in his letter to the Burnaby Now.

When I first heard about the idea of a gondola to replace that little bit of hell, I was an immediate fan – but skeptical. Would it be cost-effective, practical for students, faculty, staff and the residents of UniverCity – and not an unwarranted intrusion for those who lived below?

If there is a good business case – and if TransLink can mitigate privacy concerns for people who live below the proposed path – then the gondola should be built, and quickly.

If, on the other hand, a business case fails to demonstrate savings in transit users’ time, in taxpayers’ money and in increasingly hazardous carbon dioxide emissions, the project will likely get bumped down the long list of transit priorities – delayed indefinitely or lost forever in the crowded file of fabulous ideas that didn’t quite work out.

Either way, that’s the basis on which the SFU transit gondola should be judged: on its merits.

However, the tram could have a really good potential to save TransLink money in the long run, if it is true that it will help re-allocate buses to other areas.  Even though the Evergreen Line does deserve a top-priority status for transit projects in Metro Vancouver, we shouldn’t tie TransLink’s hands from pursuing other potential transit projects.

Portland Aerial Tram - an example of urban gondolas at work