Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The Fight for the Arbutus Corridor

with 5 comments

This post started out as a brief “in other news item” under the last post. It seems to me, as this story develops, that it needs its own space and promotion. More will be added, no doubt

Looking for pictures to illustrate this post – there is a good summary and illustrations on the CBC BC news site and also a useful summary of the background from The Province

CP has started ripping out community gardens in Marpole along the Arbutus corridor.

Fairchild TV crew

I helped Fairchild TV make a documentary about this episode this afternoon.

Quite why CP thinks the City of Vancouver is more likely hand over even more taxpayers’ money to them by holding hostages I am not certain. Kirk LaPointe of course would not be happy no matter no matter what decision the Mayor makes. He was on the CBC TV evening news blaming the Mayor for making a ridiculously low offer, forcing CP’s response. No doubt had the Mayor made a much bigger offer that would have been derided as overly generous. The sad truth of the situation is that the incumbent cannot please the opposition. Maybe voters in general will appreciate a Mayor who stands his ground against a bully even if gardens are destroyed.

CP could easily store trains or train its crews without going to all this trouble: there is plenty of track in better condition but just as unused elsewhere in the City.  If I was a CP shareholder, I think I would criticize management for wasting money on track of little use. Maybe reverting a pleasant greenway to a workable railway with no customers actually lowers its value. And here is a quote from one of the comments (“Naturalmystic”) under that Straight story linked to above which raises a possibility I had not considered

CP has the hammer and they don’t have to run a single train to get their price for the land. To run trains they need to upgrade the tracks. They need to upgrade the level crossings. Imagine you are trying to drive down Broadway and Arbutus at 8:30 am and the traffic is gridlocked. The cause? CP is doing work at the crossing. That entails working in the signals, the track…The city can’t do a damn thing. CP has the right to maintain their tracks, equipment, level crossings at any time without restraint. CP has the right to run their trains 24/7. CP has the upper hand.

You can also read Mayor Robertson’s response at the foot of which is the statement from CP which appears to confirm Maturalmystic’s prediction

“We are testing crossing signals, and assessing pedestrian and vehicle crossings to understand where, if any, maintenance is required.”

And then there is this I have lifted from the CP web site

At CP we know that a railroad may serve as the arteries of a nation, but at its heart is community. That’s why through CP Has Heart, we’re committed to improving the heart health of men, women and children across North America. And along the way, we’re showing heart whenever we can. Find out more@CPhasHeart

Working in a garden and eating fresh fruit and vegetables are a very good ways to improve your heart health. Try to do that, whenever possible, well away from the miasma of diesel exhaust.


There is an article on VanCityBuzz on the lack of ability to expand the Canada Line which mentions a possible Arbutus Line at the very end. When I read it, much of the subject matter and approach seemed very familiar. I am not sure if that is reassuring or not.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm

5 Responses

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  1. The construction around rehabilitating the track, and thus the gridlock & public inconvenience, would end though. The City – whoever is in power – can just wait them out. Wait forever, if they want.


    August 15, 2014 at 4:42 pm

  2. Judging by the comments in newspapers quite a few people are happy to see the Arbutus corridor gardeners’ nose rubbed in the dirt.
    However they weren’t Ninja that descended on the Arbutus corridor in the dead of night and stole the land.

    Along with other cities in Metro Vancouver, years ago the City of Vancouver planned the lots and interested gardeners applied.
    Each year they buy manure from Vancouver city (no joke, please, about the kind of manure)

    I am not one of them, as I live in Coquitlam (we do have a plot in a Coquitlam community garden, nearly the size of a double bed), but when friends go away we water their Arbutus plot, weed it etc.
    As far as they know from the beginning their garden is on city land (a strip 8-10 ft wide along the East Blvd).
    This was confirmed by a city staff I talked to, this week, right in Kerrisdale..However I can’t find an official proof.

    It is true that some gardeners have expanded their plots beyond the limit…but surely even the rich have the right to get their hands in the soil?
    Queen Marie-Antoinette had cows, sheep, chicken, a vegetable garden etc. She and her ladies-in-waiting even made butter and cheese..this “hobby” saved one of her youngest lady-in -waiting during the 1789-99 Revolution..,_Marquise_de_La_Tour_du_Pin_Gouvernet

    Gardens along the Arbutus corridor aren’t new…There were some during the war, and CP Rail didn’t object to them…Even when the trains were running to and from the brewery by the Burrard bridge, it still didn’t bother CP rail.

    Quite a few comments in newspapers, on the web etc. call the gardeners but also the people walking along trespassers…

    But isn’t fair to say that it is a centuries old custom transplanted from Europe? It is perfectly legal in many countries to walk on private properties, either fenced or not. For example in the woods and fields around a village or small town.

    There are restrictions, like vineyards–especially when the grapes are growing (I was raised in the Bordeaux region) and also in fields with growing wheat or barley etc. and also those with free range cows, sheep, and geese, though the later are quick to show their displeasure.
    Sheep are OK, Cows too, as long as one doesn’t have a dog..they are very nosy and not everybody likes having 6 or 7 cows, or more–with sharp horns–surrounding you and walking along as you cross a big big field…
    I am pretty sure that walking in fields and woods is also OK in Canada and the USA..and not just in National or provincial or states parks.

    I don’t think it happen here, but it is relatively common in Europe that a rural property, with a house and outbuildings, will have–usually along one fence from the road to the back of the property–a driveway that give access to another house and its lot that are “landlocked”…
    One is also allowed to enter a neighbour garden, for example, to get water from his well..Again it has to be a privilege that goes back to generations….

    Walking along rail tracks, even when fenced, is not necessarily against the law, IF there are narrow gates allowing pedestrian and bike riders to cross the tracks AND there are secondary fences preventing people from walking safely along the tracks…Though I would hug the fence along the track very very tightly, when seeing a TGV barrel down towards me at 250 km/hr plus…the draft must be fierce..

    Red frog

    August 17, 2014 at 1:52 am

  3. “AND there are secondary fences preventing people from walking safely along the tracks”

    Of course I meant to say …there are NO secondary fences preventing…. blame it on cut and paste and the late hour..

    Red frog

    August 17, 2014 at 1:55 am

  4. Trespass on the railway – in Britain or in Canada – is a criminal offence. Trespass on private land is a civil tort and is not a criminal act: it may expose the trespasser to a civil suit, but the land owner will have to show how the trespasser caused him/her harm.

    There are clear notices now placed at all crossings of the CP track – vehicle and pedestrian – showing the limit of where crossings can be made without incurring risk of penalty.

    Railway tracks in Canada are not fenced. I was absolutely amazed when I first came here how readily Canadians blithely walk along active railway track. Whether or not this is criminal, it is reckless behaviour. Disused railway track is another matter entirely. There is no danger at all to people who chose to walk along the Arbutus Corridor. Very few people actually walk along the track itself, as it is so badly overgrown, and is so dilapidated. If CP had not recently started work on the track, there would still be no danger.

    People who had built their gardens on CP property were given notice. My flickr album included a picture of such a notice attached to the timbers of a raised bed.

    Donald Malcolm Johnson who blogs as Zweisystem on the Rail for the Valley blog makes one telling point “A $100 million for the 10 km Arbutus corridor or $10 million/km is a bargain!” compared to the Evergreen Line cost $1.4 billion for just over 11 km of line. Trouble is that the City of Vancouver is not the transit authority for the region. The city also created a precedent when it bought a section of disused freight line from CP between Granville island and Main Street.

    Stephen Rees

    August 17, 2014 at 4:43 pm

  5. Good point made by Malcolm Johnson..

    I should have done more research about paths on private properties that can be used by anyone..and not make a blanket statement about all of Europe. A crow taste good if one roast it with ginger..

    It is in the French, Belgian and Quebec Code Civil..and goes back to the Roman law. The right to walk on a path in a private property is called a “servitude de passage” but there are other types of servitudes..

    There is something similar in the UK: see
    “In England and Wales many trails and footpaths are of ancient origin and are protected under law as rights of way…In Scotland, a right of way is a route over which the public has been able to pass unhindered for at least 20 years. The route must link two “public places”, such as villages, churches or roads.
    My last word about that.

    Red frog

    August 17, 2014 at 8:27 pm

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