Posted by: Lorena Dexter | February 19, 2010

The New Canada Line Culture: more urban, more engaged.

With the Winter Olympics finally upon us, I’ve realized the Canada Line has the potential to foster a new sense of civility here in Vancouver. In recent weeks, I’ve noticed locals are starting to get the hang of urban etiquette. It’s a refreshing trend.

I sense the influx of tourists from all over the world has nicely burst the self-contained bubbles many of us in Vancouver normally appear to exist in. (You know what I am talking about: The apathy. The shyness. The timid presence we carry in public.)

But thanks in part to the efforts of what I call the new “Canada Line Culture”, we are now more consciously participating on the urban stage. Our game face is on, and it’s amazing what is happening!

We’re talking to strangers while waiting in queues. We’re giving directions with a smile. We’re waiting our turn. We might live surrounded by glass towers that all look alike, but at the moment, we aren’t emulating that sterility.

The question is: will we remain more courteous citizens after the Olympics or will we retreat further into our reserved individualism?  Only time will tell, but allow me to make a case on why I believe the Canada Line can catalyze a new type of Vancouverite – one who is more engaged, more present and better versed in urban etiquette.

How is this possible? Consider the following features of the Canada Line:

New wayfinding outside transit stations

Have you noticed the great new signs outside the stations? These helpful semiotics are “talking” to residents and tourists alike in unprecedented ways. I’ve found myself taking more careful note of my surroundings lately and the signs have served to ground me in the urban landscape in a way I never previously thought about.  Before wayfinding, it was easier for me to get lost in my own thoughts and disengage from what was happening, but these signs are literally waking me up to city life. Has anyone else noticed this effect?

Canada Line staff: they’re friendly!

Translink made a smart move when they trained their new Canada Line Staff to be courteous and approachable. Since the Games began, the Friendly Green-clad team have managed to control crowds, optimize movement and maintain a downright pleasant demeanour.  I’ve noticed my mood has improved because of their generally cheerful attitude. I never realized it before, but being nice in public is infectious! The Canada Line staff are contributing to a more civil form of interaction and my hope is that this trend will last long after the Olympics leave town.

Instructional public announcements

Sadly, from what I have seen, we still have a long way to go when it comes to grasping the concept of effectively embarking and disembarking from the Canada Line.  Here’s where the rugged individualism that Vancouver is famous for is still apparent. Why do some people insist on trying to board the train while others are exiting? This simply does not work, makes you look like an idiot and generally reflects poorly on the rest of us.

Do people in London or Paris suffer from this bizarre logistical ailment? If we can grasp the simple universal concept of letting passengers off the train first, we will be well on our way to a more refined urban experience. The public announcements are starting to sink in though and in the past several days I’ve witnessed fewer people trying to push their way on before it’s their turn. Baby steps perhaps, but this is progress.

The buzz

Whether you are in favour of the Olympics or not, the buzz on the Canada Line is undeniable. The plethora of languages heard on the train, the suitcases being wheeled through the stations, and the intense energy on the platforms is palpable and exciting. You simply can’t be complacent about your city with so much activity going on. I’ve detected a new sense of verve and vitality amongst regular commuters and it’s a welcome change of flavour. Perhaps all we needed was an influx of house-guests to wake us up from our civic inertia? It seems to be the case so far.

The addition of the Canada Line has spawned a new urban culture in Vancouver. With the Olympics in the mix, Vancouverites are interacting and using the public space as never before.  My hope is that the Olympic Effect will serve to spawn a more outgoing and engaged Vancouverite. If that happens, who knows what other sort of transformations might take place? May this be only the beginning of the journey.

– By Lorena Dexter, Urban Romantic



  1. “the suitcases being wheeled through the stations, and the intense energy on the platforms is palpable and exciting. You simply can’t be complacent about your city with so much activity going on.”

    Huh? All I see is complacency. We’re entertaining ourselves numb with commercial sports. How about some non-complacency with real social problems for a change? Right, that’s are downer. Sorry for mentioning it.

  2. […] The Edmonton Journal lauds our transit systemin the middle of this article. Reuters news service says our transit system wins gold during the Games. The Seattle Times raves about the Canada Line. Torontoist likes the Canada Line too. And the Vancouver Public Space Network ruminates on how the Canada Line can encourage urban etiquette. […]

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