A group of consultants, working mainly for the real estate and investment industry I believe, are holding “conversations” with “stakeholders” about the proposed Broadway Corridor development. I thought that was excuse enough for me to dig my stake in the ground in opposition to the fantastical proposal being pushed by Vision Vancouver to dig a $3 billion hole in the ground.
Even a cursory look at the plan indicates some serious issues. First, there is the basic question of whether this is a good use of $3 billion of tax-payers’ money. I’ll cover that in more detail below.
Second, this appears to be little other than an opportunity for Vision’s developer friends to build huge highrises in islands along Broadway. I have no doubt that developers are already in the process of, or have already completed, assembling the required lots which will be built, out of scale, on lots serviced, as usual, by tax-payer-paid infrastructure.
These islands of immense high rises will be based on the transit stations which, in turn, will be some distance from each other. This could easily lead to the abandonment of the retail/services in the in-between zones. At the very least, a significant network of surface buses will be still be required to cover these gaps.
Finally, it is a fraud. The current plan is to build the subway only to Arbutus. That means students and workers will need to transfer to get to and from UBC. How is that better than an express bus all the way?
There are a range of alternatives that could be considered. For example, UBC could build substantial amounts of genuinely affordable student accommodation on campus, thus relieving the pressure on transit. In addition, the high-tech companies that Mayor Robertson and Clr. Meggs keep insisting require this subway are perfect candidates for flexible employment scheduling, significantly reducing the need for peak hour transit and making the entire system more efficient by spreading the traffic load throughout the day.
My own more radical proposal is to make Broadway, from Clark to Arbutus, a car-free, transit and bike only, street.
Getting back to the $3 billion cost: is this the best use of that money?
- Can you imagine how much truly affordable housing that much money would build for us using, perhaps, low-rise wooden apartments on city-owned land?
- If the $3 billion had to be spent on transit, then it should be used to vastly improve and enhance the transit system right across the city, creating much more productivity for all of us. This might include more high-speed buses or LRT along 4th Avenue and/or 16th.
- If the money could be split, then a billion on transit improvements, a billion and a half on housing, and half a billion to help UBC with student quarters, would be a real winner.
What is certain is that putting $3 billion into a hole in the ground to feed islands of skyscrapers is just dead wrong.