Tag Archives: SkyTrain

Training Day

The Skytrain is a big plus in our neighbourhood. The nearest station used to be fifteen minutes’ walk away, but then they expanded the line through to Coquitlam Centre, and now we have one just around the corner. On a good day, I stride to the station, hop on the train to Lougheed station, then change and ride eight stops to Metrotown. Then I only have to walk across the road, and I am at work. If I time it right, it’s about forty minutes, door to door, and I can listen to audio books all the way there and back.

Today was NOT such a day. Although the sky was blue and the weather pleasant as I walked to the first station, I arrived at Lougheed to a baffling message on the arrivals board. No mention of the Waterfront train I usually took, and the one that would take me back up the hill to my home station wasn’t due for 25 minutes. These trains are normally running four or five minutes apart at most. A twenty five minute gap meant a serious issue, not to mention that I’d be travelling in the wrong direction.

But I had another option. There’s a longer route to work, requiring an extra change, but it only adds ten minutes or so. I reluctantly went down the stair and up the other stairs to reach the far platform. I boarded that train a minute later, then noticed a train arrive at the platform I’d just left. As it pulled out, I could clearly see the destination on the end carriage – Waterfront. MY TRAIN.

But now I was on the VCC Clark train, also pulling out. I scowled to myself and stared at my feet. Which were in the centre of a spreading pool of coffee. My travel mug had fallen out of my bag, and I hadn’t closed it properly. Everyone in the carriage watched the stream of liquid as it gurgled back and forth with the motion of the train, getting in under all the seats. I had to stay on that train for eight stops.

At Broadway I leapt off, and raced up the stairs to the next platform. My brain was still hung up on the train I had missed, so when the “Waterfront” train chugged in, I didn’t hesitate to leap on it. A crowd heaved on with me, and I was shoved far down the carriage. That meant that, when I noticed we were going THE WRONG WAY, I could not get out at the first station to change trains. I had to work my way through the crowd and eventually escaped at Stadium/Chinatown.

I rolled into the office at 9.05am. It barely counts as late, given that most days I’m around twenty minutes early, but I was DONE. Lucky for me, my co-worker was happy to do the deliveries, so I could stay in the office and pack for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, as it happens, is my day off. I won’t be taking the train anywhere.

If you want to follow this trip on the map illustrated, start at Burquitlam and move your counter down to Lougheed. Pause there, then go on along the yellow line to Commercial/Broadway. From there, move your token onto the Blue line, going the wrong way past Main Street/Scienceworld and stopping at Stadium/Chinatown. Then go back along the blue line all the way to Metrotown. Phew! For true realism, pour coffee on your feet as you begin.

10 Things You Won’t Be Expecting From Vancouver (when you come for the Olympics)

The buzz is building in Vancouver and Whistler with less than a fortnight to go before the Olympic Winter Games 2010.  Ever since we arrived, I have been wondering how the visitors from the UK will see my new home city.  Will they be disappointed?  Will they think the friendliness too phoney?  Here’s the 10 things I think you ought to know before you board the plane…

1              It’s ugly. OK, not Downtown, which is full of achingly beautiful soaring skyscrapers and historical buildings, or the sweeping majesty of Canada Place, built to reflect the sails of the thousands of ships that sailed into port here. But outside the beating heart of Downtown, you’ll find roads lined with urban sprawl, strip malls, big boxy shops and warehouses. The key is to lift your eyes, now and then, and glimpse the mountains that line the horizon wherever you go.

2              People really are that nice. You may think this is some sort of effort laid on for the Olympics, but you have to remember these people are Canadians. If they see you looking lost or worried, they’ll ask you if you need help. Total strangers are happy to help you with the complexities of travel on the SkyTrain. Let them – this isn’t the Tube.

3              It’s really this clean all the time. I’m sure there are people who’ve been asked to tidy up especially for the Olympics, but it won’t need a concerted effort to make the place look smart, because generally speaking the city is a clean place. People put their trash in the garbage, to use the local terminology.  And if you put your hand on a piece on gum on the SkyTrain, I’ll bet one of the visitors put it there.

4              No matter what you might have heard, pot is still illegal in British Columbia. You won’t find it being handed out for free on the streets. Smoke it in public, or try to buy or sell it and you WILL be arrested.  OK, you MIGHT be arrested… if the officer doesn’t have anything better to do.

5              You can only buy alcohol in a Liquor Store. It can be annoying, if you’re doing your weekly food shopping and then have to go to an entirely different shop to buy a bottle of wine and some beer, but make the effort. BC wines are worth trying, and the Granville Island beers are terrific. Just don’t try drinking any of them in a public place.  The cop that can’t be bothered to arrest you for smoking pot might suddenly get all conscientious and arrest you for public drinking instead.  Then bust you for the pot you have in your pocket.

6              The Outdoors is more important than the Indoors. Sure, people like their houses to be nice, and they spend plenty of time and money in The Home Depot (the world’s largest Home Improvement Retailer) but they call it “Super, Natural British Columbia” for a reason. That might explain the ugliness in point 1, because everyone’s too busy skiing, cycling, walking the miles of trails and watching the wildlife to worry about town planning and the state of their front yard.  

7              People like being Canadian – if you’re here for the Olympics, you may be impressed by the support for Team Canada, but the odds are those flags are up all year round.  All those special clothes in red and white, with Canada on the front?  We all had them already.  Even our deckchairs have maple leaves on them.  If it stands still long enough, someone will put a maple leaf on it. It’s not a “We’re better than you” kind of thing, everyone’s just so happy to be Canadian, they want the world to know.

8              When we say “multicultural society” we really mean it. Canadians come in all skin tones, sizes and accents, so don’t make assumptions based on the way someone talks. You’ll know they’re Canadian – there’ll be a maple leaf on something they’re wearing if you look hard enough. It’s best not to bring your assumptions at all – that beardie weirdie guy strolling along the pavement towards you wearing scruffy jeans, sneakers and a hoodie may not be homeless; he could be a businessman, a father, or a college graduate. Casual is the ONLY way to dress over here.  So, dress how you like and no one will complain (this guarantee does not cover your spouse or children).

9              Food. This may be North America, but don’t believe that you are condemned to a choice between a famous burger chain or a famous fried chicken franchise. If you understood point 8 about the multicultural society, then you’ll understand there’s a whole world of food to choose from, usually on the same street.  It’s all great, all fresh, usually reasonably priced, and the restaurant staff are just thrilled to meet you.

10           There’s no snow. OK, this may not be a huge surprise, since I hear the news has mentioned it a couple of times. But really, Vancouver is not an icy wasteland populated by lumberjacks and Mounties. We’ve got a temperate climate not unlike that of the UK, with a stunning range of cultural pioneers, pushing the boundaries of art, theatre, film and music for more than one hundred years.  So you are more likely to get rained on than snowed in.  Do what the Vancouverites do; wear a light fleece and a tee shirt, put up with the damp and never carry an umbrella.

And the one thing you should be expecting – it’s a spectacular, beautiful city.  Try this link for a great piece of music and a taste of what’s to come.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xMz2SnSWS4