Transit In Reverse

Vancouver was founded because of its harbour and its timber — some of the finest tall and straight trees anywhere in the world — that fit the needs of maritime expansionism in the 19th century.  But once that initial spurt had faded, by the 1890s, say, it was transit that drove the geographic growth of the City.  Streetcar and interurban lines were laid down, and housing soon followed.

That sequence was as true in Grandview as anywhere else in Vancouver. The opening of the interurban line to New Westminster in 1891, with its line along what would become Commercial Drive, created some interest in the neighbourhood.  But it is no coincidence that the building boom in the east end followed the opening of city streetcar service in the middle of the 1900 decade.  By 1915, much of Grandview was covered with a variety of streets and houses and a thriving population.

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That is the historical pattern across most of North America: Transit precedes population. It has proven to be a spectacularly successful business model for the building of cities. Oddly enough, now Translink wants to reverse that successful course, at least at the Commercial & Broadway hub; and they are being aided and abetted by the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.

Page 33 of the Emerging Directions document published by the GW Community Plan planners states:

Create opportunities for transit-oriented development in the vicintiy of the station — with transit-supportive density that is consistent with existing and proposed transit infrastructure.

Given that we are told time after time that the Broadway transit service is already the busiest in North America, and given that we are all aware that thousands of people are passed by already-full buses at every rush hour, it is clear that we already have “transit-supportiive density”.  What we need are more transit options NOT more population in the area.

As Translink already fails to meet the current demands, it is senseless to add additional pressures by building what were originally conceived of as 26-36 storey towers, without a significant increase in services first.

This post was inspired in part by Elizabeth Murphy’s well-argued piece in the Sun on Tuesday.

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