A complete last minute decision was made the night before Thanksgiving last week to make the the train trip via Amtrak Cascades up to Vancouver after spending my Thanksgiving in Portland (I currently live in Eugene). I contacted my friend (whose blog you can read here) up there in Canada to make arrangements, and before I knew it, I was about to explore one of the most amazing, or MOST amazing city I have ever set foot in.
Here's a small list of things that I found unique about the city:
Architecture: I think the most noticeable thing about downtown Vancouver is its architecture. When looking at the skyline from across Burrard Inlet or False Creek, the city center is filled with what looks like a bunch of barely different cookie cutter skyscraper condo buildings. As my friend says, "Vancouver is so dull, but it's so magical." There's no better way to say it. Vancouver is bit dull, and the winter climate doesn't make it any less so, but it is so strangely fascinating, in such a beautiful way.
Here's what I mean:
Density: Vancouver is surprisingly dense.
At 5,335 people per km2 (13,817.6 people per mi2) in 2006, Vancouver is the fifth most densely populated incorporated city with population above 500,000 in North America, after New York City, San Francisco, Mexico City, and the adjoining cities of Boston/Cambridge/Somerville. Urban planning in Vancouver is characterized by high-rise residential and mixed-use development in urban centres, as an alternative to sprawl. This has been credited in contributing to the city's high rankings in livability. (wikipedia)
I don't think much more explanation is needed. I just am always pleased with a city when people actually live and enjoy living downtown. And seeing the density of downtown Vancouver, this is clear.
SkyTrain!: Vancouver's elevated rail/subway operated by TransLink is an incredible system that links downtown with the surrounding communities. With a current daily ridership of 344,800, it is the primary mode of transit for much of the region's population. It was built for the World's Fair in 1986, Expo 86.
Now, I have never visited Vancouver before this past weekend, but the impact that the transit system has had on urban development is evident. The system has clearly become a catalyst for town centers and higher density development along the three existing lines.
Here's a map of the planned system for 2020:
Progressiveness: From an outsider's perspective, Vancouver is one of the most progressive cities I have ever seen. Just from an exploration of the city, doing my best to live for a day in the shoes of a local, it was very easy to live. I mean this in the sense that everything one might need is close. Things are accessible via foot, bike, bus, train, seabus, etc. The city seems to be thriving and continuing to mold itself in a way that every city in the world should. Hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics certainly has helped Vancouver in that direction, but it is clear that residents, visitors, and city officials are taking note that the the future must be sustainable and livable despite the cost or challenges faced.
One thing is for sure: Vancouver certainly lives up to it's title of the Most Livable City in the World.