streetcar

Sapporo Streetcar

Apart from the buses and subway system in Sapporo. There is also the Sapporo Streetcar. The Sapporo Streetcar runs in what almost looks like an L-shaped loop, but the loop is incomplete at one end. So the two termini of the line are literally two blocks apart from each other.

Looking east from the Susukino Streetcar stop

These two end stops both start in the busy Susukino district of Sapporo. Susukino is Sapporo’s entertainment district. It’s home to a whole whack of restaurants, host/hostess clubs, and other businesses of the night. Susukino is where you will also find the largest collection of neon billboards and adverts in town. This area really shines through at night.

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Hakodate Weekend 函館の週末 – Day 2

 

Fish your own cuttlefish out and have it cooked for you

The next morning, we hit up the Morning Market near Hakodate Station. This is basically a seafood market that lies directly south of the Hakodate Station. During most of the day, this market is quiet. However, in the morning, the stalls are open for business for you to try out the freshest in seafood that Hakodate has to offer.

The freshest seafood also comes at a bit of price. The fresh cuttlefish that you can fish out on your own can cost about ¥1300 depending on what the market price is that day. It’s not the cheapest, but I guess it’s a fun experience. However, it is a fun experience we ended up passing on.

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Losing the Vancouver Historic Streetcar

It looks like another piece of Vancouver history is disappearing. It’s unfortunate that the city is no longer going to support this fine piece of Vancouver history. I was fortunate enough to have ridden the streetcar a couple of years ago. It was a nice, idyllic ride from Olympic Village station to Granville Island. It was really the best way to reach Granville Island without a car.

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Edmonton High Level Streetcar

Attention train/transportation/transit fans:  There’s a great streetcar ride available in Edmonton, Alberta.  Coming from Vancouver, I have enjoyed our own local historic streetcar.  Unfortunately for 2012, the Transit Museum Society didn’t run the streetcar. However, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society seems to be fairly robust with at least 3 streetcars in their rolling stock and trams that run daily during the summer.

First off, we had to find where to get the streetcar.  Many websites and reviews that I read gave general directions, but I wasn’t entirely clear on the exact location.  So to find the actual starting point, I had to weave my way around the Old Strathcona Farmers Market to find the almost unremarkable loading platform.  The Dropped Pin above marks the exact spot.  I came off of 104 St SW to find the stop, but it might be easier to walk up Gateway Boulevard to the stop.

I was expecting a classic old-timer streetcar, so I was surprised when I saw this modern Siemens tram roll its way towards the platform.  The Siemens car, known as Hannover #601, dates back to the 1970’s.  So that makes the car 40 years old.  I guess it qualifies for a heritage rating now.  The car was actually originally purchased by the BC government as demonstration streetcar to showcase light rail technology for Vancouver.  Eventually, the BC government settled on Bombardier’s automated SkyTrain system and the car was no longer needed.  In 1985, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society purchased the vehicle.  You can read more about Hannover #601 on the Society’s website.

We bought our roundtrip tickets and boarded the tram.  The steps folded down to the platform level to allow passengers to board.  There was a wheelchair door, but unfortunately for all the baby strollers, it was out of service.  This classic 70’s streetcar isn’t much older than the Siemens U2 light rail cars that serve the Edmonton LRT system, so the seats and interior are quite modern and minimal.  It wasn’t the heritage feel I was expecting, but I just arrived on the wrong day for that.

The car made its way northwest down the tracks past the north side of Strathcona and the busy Whyte Avenue.  The tracks ran through a large swath of green.  Sometimes we would pass by a community garden or two.  However, it was like an unofficial linear park flanking the rail lines.

One of the major draws of this particular streetcar line is that it traverses the very loft High Level Bridge.  The bridge towers high above the North Saskatchewan River.  In the summer, the bridge can be an artificial waterfall with gallons upon gallons of water spewed off the side.  It’s great for celebratory occasions like Canada Day.  It’s an outstanding view from the streetcar to see the river valley below.  Also, the streetcar tracks actually are above the southbound automobile traffic.  So car drivers can see and feel the shadow and rattle of the car as it passes overhead.

Edmonton Streetcar #33 crosses the High Level Bridge © Hans Ryffel, ERRS

The streetcar’s final stop at Jasper Plaza just half a block south of the busy Jasper Avenue.  A lot of the locals would get off because they had planned a one-way trip.  I got off the car to take a few photos of passengers waiting to go back over the bridge.

On the way back over the High Level Bridge, I spotted the Edmonton LRT on the LRT bridge crossing below.  The five-car Siemens LRT is the actual full-time working rail transit in Edmonton.  It was also one of the first LRT systems in North America.  The bridge also doubles as a bicycle and pedestrian bridge which can seen just under the LRT.

So our round trip took roughly an hour.  It was well worth the $5 to take the High Level Bridge ride with the vast and wide river valley view.  Check off another transit ride from my bucket list.

Edmonton’s Old Strathcona

We spent part of our time in Edmonton along Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona.

I think Whyte Ave is the most truly urban part of Edmonton. Small independent stores, bars and restaurants line the street. There is the odd interjection of car dealerships that disrupts the urban walk, though.

On one night we went to a New Orleans diner on the recommendation of our friend’s coworker. Dadeo was the name. It’s an adult -only restaurant, which I find amusing. There’s nothing adult-rated about the place as far as I can tell. Maybe it has something to do with serving alcohol.

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On the following day, the rail geek in me beckoned to ride the Strathcona streetcar. The tram runs from just behind the Old Strathcona Farmers Market across the High Level Bridge to Jasper Avenue (between 109th and 110th Streets). When the tram arrived, I was surprised to see a modern Siemens streetcar. Apparently, this modern tram runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The historic trams run on the other days.

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Portland Aerial Tram

The first time I visited Portland, I arrived at the aerial tram on a statutory holiday. That meant the tram was not running. I even purposely took the streetcar all the way from downtown to ride the aerial tram. So after being disappointed on my first visit to the tram, I was not about to be disappointed this time.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the tram. We were heading east along Hawthorne Boulevard and drove right across the Hawthorne Bridge. Sounds simple. However, the Hawthorne Bridge is a drawbridge. Lucky us. We had to wait 10 minutes as a tugboat approached from downstream and had to make its way up the Williamette River.

waiting on the Hawthorne Bridge

So after this little delay, we drove over to the Portland Aerial Tram. If you are driving from downtown, it’s best to follow the signs that say South Waterfront. One good sign that you are going in the right direction is that you will be following the streetcar tracks. Keep following the tracks and you will come across the lower station for the aerial tram.

We found a lot of on-street paid parking in the area. I paid too much thinking I needed a lot of time to explore, but an hour is more than enough. So don’t overpay. Also, when you collect your ticket/receipt, remember to stick it to the window closest to the sidewalk, not on your dashboard. I remember I had to do this with my parking tickets in downtown Seattle as well.

We followed the signs to the tram. The signs are not in great abundance, but you should easily see the tram line hanging high in the sky. Just go to where the line meets the ground. Or if you are taking the streetcar, just get off at the very last stop and you will be right there at the lower tram station.

If you are interested, you can also walk around the South Waterfront neighbourhood. It’s a large steel and glass tower neighbourhood. On the ground, it isn’t all that animated. Perhaps because it’s a new neighbourhood that is separated from most of Portland by Interstate 5. However, the Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) building that is directly beside the tram station is fairly busy on the inside.

A round trip on the aerial tram is $4 per person. Tickets are dispensed at a ticket vending machine. I thought we would be able to keep the ticket after boarding, but the attendant collected all the tickets. So take a photo of your ticket if you want a little memento of your ride. Or you could pay $4 to keep a ticket for yourself, if you really wanted to.

Currently, as you ascend the hill, you quickly see the construction of a pedestrian overpass. I overhear a local explaining to a friend that the overpass is meant to connect the new South Waterfront neighbourhood with the neighbourhood on the other side of I-5. It also gives residents on the other side of I-5 a chance to visit the waterfront without having to drive over.

There are only two cars that operate on this short tram ride. As we made our way up the hill, we passed the other one that was making its way down. With the two trams, service is roughly every 10 minutes. An advisory on the website says service slows to a tram every 15 minutes when winds are high.

high above I-5 in the Portland Aerial Tram

One thing I noticed as we rode the tram is the lack of towers. There’s the two termini on either end and one tower near the lower station. However, it’s completely free hanging from the one tower to the top. That’s a pretty far way to string these giant cables.

Also, these aerial trams are very different from other aerial gondola I’ve ridden. I’m used to seeing the small gondolas that carry a few people at a time. Those are the gondolas common at major ski resorts, like Whistler. This gondola can easily carry two dozen people and a few bikes.

At the very top of Marquam Hill, is the upper tram tower plus the campus of OHSU. We had disembarked at the top and wanted to walk around to see what was there. We quickly noticed that we were in a hospital. A nice hospital, too. Doctors, nurses, and other staff were busy zipping about. Patients were patiently waiting for their appointments. I assume this is a private university given how upscale everything felt. I could be wrong, though. I just felt that there was money here. Wifey quickly quipped, “Who ever willingly goes to a hospital as part of their vacation.”

After using the restrooms, we went back to the tram station. The tram station offers a great view of the city. If it were a clearer day, we could see the mountains further off. Today was very cloudy and rainy at times, so we were just happy to be able to see the city.

So we made our way back down on the tram. There are no attendants to collect tickets on the way down. Payment is only ever made on the way up. Apparently, staff and students of OHSU ride for free. Nice perk.

On the way down, I had a clear shot north of downtown Portland. So make sure to keep to the left of the tram if you want a clear view of downtown on the way down. I would stay on the right side if I were heading up. Again, it was a very cloudy day and the grey skies obscured any and all mountains.

Back at the bottom at South Waterfront. A streetcar had just arrived and the driver was taking a break. Good time for more transit photography. However, we wouldn’t be taking the streetcar this time around. It was back to our car and off to downtown.

Just back from PDX

view of downtown Portland from aerial tram

I just came back from a short getaway to Portland, Oregon.  It was my second time down there.  I found a deal on travelportland.com.  We got $72 off on our second night’s stay.  I think it’s worth checking out for a short road trip.  It’s roughly a 6-hour drive from Vancouver, BC if you get a short line-up at the border and if you don’t have to stop too much.

If you haven’t been to Portland, Oregon, I think it is definitely worth checking out.  As an urbanist and transit fan, Portland has some neat things going for it.  It’s America’s most bicycle friendly city and has an LRT system that reaches most parts of the city and the inner suburbs.  Portland is also the first American city to start the modern streetcar trend that seems to be catching on across the USA.

If you are a Canadian looking for some good deals, then Oregon is a good destination because what you see on the price tag is what you pay.  With no sales tax, it makes it easier to give up your hard-earned cash.  Currently the Canadian and US dollars are quite even, so it’s a good time for Canadians to go south of the border for shopping.

Apart from shopping, we explored a little bit of the city that missed the last time around.  We didn’t walk around any of the neighbourhoods outside of downtown last time, so that was on my list of things to do.  I also totally missed my chance to ride the Portland Aerial Tram last time because it was closed for a statutory holiday.  I’ll post some stuff about my recent road trip once the photos are ready.

Opening and Construction Starts Planned for 2012 « The Transport Politic

Opening and Construction Starts Planned for 2012 « The Transport Politic.

The Transport Politic is one of my favourite blogs to follow.  Most of what he covers is about the United States since he’s based there.  Also, he provides what seems to be an inside look at the financing side of transportation projects across North America.  He’s just released his newest graphic/map for 2012.  It’s a map showing where all the major transit projects in North America are and what stage they are at.

Vancouver is on the top of my personal interest list.  We can see that construction is starting on a metro rail system.  That would be the Evergreen Line from Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby to Coquitlam Town Centre.  It starts this year and opens in 2016.  Another city of interest is Seattle.  Seattle has a few projects on the go.  A new Bus Rapid Transit line is due to open this year.  Construction continues on the Link LRT and a new streetcar line.  Then further down the I-5 in Portland, the Portland Streetcar Loop will open this fall and bring streetcar service east of the Williamette River.

Up here in Canada, Edmonton and Calgary continue their LRT expansions.  Toronto is building the extension to the Spadina Line to Vaughn.  Then Montreal is opening more commuter rail.

Now I’d love to see a map of projects on other continents as well.

The Tyee – Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities

Streetcar in Portland

The Tyee – Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities.

The Tyee has started a series of excerpt’s from Patrick Condon’s Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies for the Post Carbon World.  One of his key arguments is that our North American cities were, at one time, models of sustainability when the streetcar dominated the cityscape.  A model that was quickly destroyed after World War II when private automobile ownership shot up and cities were now designed around the private motor vehicle.

Dr. Patrick Condon is a professor at the University of British Columbia and holds the James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Livable Environments.  He has also previously written many other articles in the newspaper regarding the idea of bringing back the streetcar to Vancouver and other North American cities.

It’s worth a read even if you don’t agree that streetcars and slow transit are the way-to-go.  I personally prefer faster transit, but a streetcar can have it’s place in a fully integrated transit system.

Olympic Transit success leads to new possibilities

With the Winter Olympics almost over, many news outlets are raving about how transit has handled record crowds and how quiet the streets have been.  CityCaucus.com‘s Daniel wrote about how thin traffic has been.  Anyone who has been doing their regular commute in from the burbs has noticed how quick their commutes have been.  It’s been a combination of people using transit and people skipping town during these two weeks.

It’s been so good in terms of traffic flow, that Councilor Geoff Meggs is encouraged in his view of tearing down the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts in favour of smaller local streets.  The Vancouver Sun covers Meggs’ proposal and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s call for Granville to be pedestrian only on weekends and for large festivals.  Certainly, even before the Olympics rolled into town, people and entertainers would congregate in the closed off areas around Robson and Granville.

In my personal experience, I have really enjoyed the Olympic Lanes along Broadway.  The Olympic Lane runs all the way from Arbutus in the west to Commercial Drive in the east.  It’s really helped in the middle of the day and in the evening to have these dedicated lanes by-pass any regular traffic.  I often get off work after 6pm and grabbing the 99 B-Line with the Olympic Lane in effect can easily shave off 5 minutes on my ride.

My personal hope would be that the Olympic Lanes can become full-time bus lanes along Broadway.  It’s really made the B-Line a much better ride with less lane changes needed.

The other huge transit plus during the Olympics has been the Olympic Line.  I still continue to hear people complain about how much money the city has spent on having the two streetcars up and running.  However, I’m looking at the city’s spending as an investment in a possible future infrastructure.  It’s unfortunate that we must return the streetcars to Brussels.  Now that Vancouver has had a taste of the streetcar, I hope Vancouverites will like the form factor and be more open to the ideas of streetcar lines running down the Arbutus Corridor and from Granville Island to Science World to Waterfront.

For more transit related news from the Winter Games, The Buzzer Blog has a whole post devoted to it.  Lots of articles from out-of-town journalists and bloggers can be found on the page.