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Holiday gift ideas for transit fans

Holiday gift ideas for transit fans

In my line of work, I tend to come across things that fans of transit might enjoy. So I thought I’d put together a list of transit gift ideas for the 2009 holiday season, for those with transit fans in their lives!

Some notes: I’ve tried to ensure these suggestions are reasonably affordable. Also, no one on this list has asked me to promote their items. Please feel free to add further gift ideas in the comments – I’m sure there’s lots of stuff I’ve missed (especially for kids).

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden

Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden.
Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden.

Design nerds and transit nerds alike will enjoy Mark Ovenden’s 2007 book, which collects all the transit maps from every city with rapid transit.

It might sound dry, but trust me, it’s fascinating. The book vividly shows how each transit system evolved, and spotlights each system’s different map designs over the years. My particular favourite is Berlin – the book shows how the Berlin Wall chopped up the transit lines and cut some stations right out of the network.

Available at Chapters ($18.15) or ($17.24). Or check your local bookstore!

Vancouver historical transit resources: books, DVDs, and more

The cover of Vancouver's Glory Years; the City Reflections DVD; a B.C.E.R. badge from TRAMS, and the B.C.E.R. Then and Now TRAMS DVD.
The cover of historical book Vancouver's Glory Years; the City Reflections DVD; a B.C.E.R. badge from TRAMS, and the B.C.E.R. Then and Now TRAMS DVD.

There are a great many items out there about the history of Vancouver’s transit system—terrific gifts for Vancouver transit fans who enjoy local history.

There’s Vancouver’s Glory Years: Public Transit 1890-1915, a lovely book about the dawn of the streetcar in the Lower Mainland, by local authors Heather Conn and Henry Ewert. Available through Chapters ($29.70) or Whitecap Books ($45).

City Reflections is a DVD from the Vancouver Historical Society, which shows the earliest known film footage of Vancouver, shot by William Harbeck from the front of a streetcar in 1907. The Society filmed the same route in 2007 for comparison, and there’s interviews with film and streetcar historians! Available at the City Reflections website ($19.99).

TRAMS, our local Transit Museum Society, also offers great souvenirs.

For example, there’s B.C.E.R. Then and Now ($25), a TRAMS DVD showing historical streetcars and the development of the Downtown Historic Railway.

The cover of the TransLink history book.
The TransLink history book.

They also have B.C.E.R. personnel badges ($15), Downtown Historic Railway pins ($5), and even Canadian Car-Brill trolley coaches (make an offer)! You do have to prove you can care for the trolleys, though. See the TRAMS site for more info and more souvenirs.

Oh—I should also mention that TransLink has a book about our organization’s history, called The Road Less Travelled. You can read it online in PDF format, or get a hard copy for $15 (the cost of printing). E-mail me if you want more info on that.

Transit souvenirs from other systems: Chicago, New York, Toronto, and more

A Chicago Transit Authority messenger bag; a New York subway umbrella; buttons from the Toronto system; and a model bus from L.A.
A Chicago Transit Authority messenger bag; a New York subway umbrella; buttons from the Toronto system; and a model bus from L.A.

TransLink is working on developing its own online store, but in the meantime, a few other transit systems have merchandise you can buy.

New York and Chicago both have online stores that ship to Canada. I think they might use the same supplier, as they offer many similar pieces! You can get model buses and trains, jewelry made out of old subway tokens, clothing, puzzles, and more. Watch your costs though – Chicago adds $10 and New York $17 for Canadian shipping, plus there’s probably tax involved.

Closer to home, Toronto-based magazine Spacing sells pin-back buttons with designs from all the Toronto subway stations (available in sets only: prices range from $7.50 to $49).

If you’re abroad, you might check out the transit stores in L.A., London (UK), or Hong Kong for more transit gifts. They don’t ship to Canada, but if you happen to be there, you can shop to your heart’s content. (Note, Dec 15, 2010: I’m told the London store does ship to Canada now!)

L.A. has great posters, London’s store has some gorgeous kitchenware and furniture. And Hong Kong has some super unique items like cell phone charms and crystal replicas of their trains.

And as you know, we of course do have a set of TransLink transit buttons too! If you e-mail me your address, I can mail you a set. (Not promising any dates on the deliveries though — I’m the only one picking and packing these things!)

253 by Geoff Ryman

Geoff Ryman's 253.
Geoff Ryman's 253.

And last, if you know someone who likes experimental fiction and public transit, Geoff Ryman’s book 253 might make a great gift.

253 tells the stories of every passenger aboard a London tube train plus the driver – 253 people in total. Ryman also limits himself to 253-word snippets to tell each story. And the stories do interconnect!

The book was originally written as an Internet fiction experiment, so you can actually read the whole thing online.

It’s available in hard copy too, but mostly in used copies. and Chapters both have secondhand copies listed, and they’re not extravagantly priced ($6.70 and up).

Add your suggestions!

Again, as I’ve mentioned, please feel free to add your own suggestions for good transit gifts too. I’m sure you transit fans have many things on your wishlist that I can’t begin to know about :)


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