The Transit Pyramid Network

One of the reasons to build a Regional Transit Nework is to solve transportation problems. Another is to open up new opportunities when supplies are running low triggering house price inflation.


The Regional Transit Network

Using the Transit Pyramid we can look at the Regional Transit Network through a new lens. What we see is a spiderweb of bus routes providing a baseline of service blanketing the region. Any one of these lines can climb up the Transit Pyramid in stages to provide up to 30-times more service as demand warrants. Because the Transit Pyramid is integrated to the urban scene this exponential increase in service can be accomplished safely in a manner that enhances the ‘sense of place’.

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The Transit Pyramid

The Transit Pyramid provides a stepped upgrade path for increasing transit levels of service as demand warrants. An upgrade from bus to Modern Tram can achieve 30x more service on the same section of road space. Riding between tree medians the streetcars are safely integrated as the arterial street converts into a neighborhood spine.



Translink’s route map shows the footprint of service comprising Skytrain, Canada Line and buses. Any one of the bus routes shown can upgrade climbing up the Transit Pyramid to match or exceed Skytrain levels of service. Only the bottom two stages of the Transit Pyramid are used by Transit today. We see that as the key problem with transit in our region. Below the most economical and productive way forward is revealed to be to stop building Skytrain and step up the Transit Pyramid instead. At the top of the pyramid the level of service achieved is 3x greater than Skytrain and 3.7-times over Canada Line. Yet the cost of construction knocks a zero off the price. Not only that, but street revitalization, safety and raising the level of social functioning in ‘new neighborhood spines’ comes bundled with Transit Pyramid implementation. Transit service, safety and ‘good’ urbanism are underpinning principles in the Transit Pyramid.

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The Transit Paradox: Density Kills

What if building Towers-and-Skytrain is the problem?


During my first three decades in professional practice—in building technology, planning, architecture and urbanism everywhere in the Greater Vancouver Region—the region where I practice—politicians, professionals and educators seem to have made up their minds. Building the city was wrapped up in an all-consuming discussion about choices in transportation technology. Urbanism has been reduced to building transit-oriented-development even when the TOD is fraught with a priori assumptions killing its ability to support high levels of social functioning. 

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A Short History of Modern Tram

Co-authored with D. Malcolm Johnston



The same movement that saw the end of tram service in Vancouver and the rest of North America was active in Europe in the middle of the last century. Parties were held in towns all over France to celebrate the ‘End of Tram’. In Bordeaux in 1958 the mayor of the day, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, rode the last trip next to the driver in a tram draped in the tricoleur. In Strasbourg a bonfire was lit to burn the last wooden cars before the rails were covered over with asphalt. Having ridden the Heritage Railway here in Vancouver I can attest that the ride on wooden trams rolling on railroad trucks is bumpy. In the middle of the twentieth century perhaps progress was asserting its toll.

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Four Proposals for Reversing the Housing Crisis

Somewhere in the middle of all the talk about skytrain-and-towers we stopped talking about building affordable housing, livable streets and walkable neighborhoods. Then came the bad news: housing in Greater Vancouver is 12x over the median household income. What are our governments going to do fix it?

‘SKYTRAIN-AND-TOWERS’. LNV—Webbimage, 2018.

When the Land Commission Act was introduced on February 22, 1973 it included provisions that would help us deal with the circumstances we find ourselves in today. However, these measures were removed when governments changed in December 1975. Among the lost provisions we find elements in good urbanism:

The preservation of greenbelt land, landbank land and parkland. Continue reading “Four Proposals for Reversing the Housing Crisis”

The ‘Sprawl’ Fallacy

Beginning in the 1980s Greater Vancouver regional plans posited ‘sprawl’ as an evil consuming farms and open space, increasing our dependence on automobiles and threatening life as we know it by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere where they caused ‘Global Warming’. In order to end ‘sprawl’ regional plans discouraged automobile use, guided building towers-and-skytrain, took 25% of urban footprint ‘off the table’ as either farm land or ‘open space’ and—in our view—triggered the Great Vancouver Housing Crisis.

WHAT IS URBAN S-P-R-A-W-L-?-?-?-?-?-?-?

Three planners walked into a bar in Vancouver and bumped into an old class mate from the School of Architecture. She greeted them by holding up a page from a transportation report (pictured above) and proposing a contest: A free round of cocktails if anyone in the group can satisfy all the others with a concrete and measurable definition of ‘sprawl’.

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The Great Vancouver Housing Crisis

This just in: The Greater Vancovuer Livable Region Strategic Plan (RGS) Triggers the Great Housing Crisis! Prices now 12-times greater than median incomes. Affordability tops out at 3-times.


Runaway inflation in land values have thrown Vancouver into a Housing Crisis. Housing in the city and in the surrounding Regional District (GVRD—also known as Metro) has been pushed into the stratosphere. Median family incomes are up about 1% over the last 11 years. But housing prices have risen a whopping 400% over the same period. The Canadian dream of owning a home has been put beyond the reach of the middle and working classes. So much so that their survival is now at stake. The crisis exposes major flaws in government planning at the most senior levels. The Livable Region Strategic Plan prescription of ‘building skytrain-and-towers while restricting land supply’ to jump start the economy after the 1980s recession got us here. Now, nobody is sure what can get us out.

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