Still Blind About The Subway

March 23, 2017

Now that the Federal Liberals have been generous with our tax dollars and appear to be throwing offers of money at the Lower Mainland’s transit and transportation systems, with both the BC Liberals and NDP seemingly jumping on board, and with Gregor Robertson openly salivating at the prospect of overturning the Transit Referendum and the profits his cronies can make, it is imperative that we revitalize the campaign against the Broadway subway to nowhere.

To begin, here is a piece I wrote before the 2014 municipal election. Some references may be dated, but the facts remain,


A Lack of Vision On The Broadway Corridor

Vision Vancouver, the developer-funded incumbent regime at City Hall, have decided to make a subway under Broadway, from Commercial to UBC, a major plank of their re-election campaign. Apparently it is beside the point that they don’t have the money to do it, nor any control over the funding, and that it is a bad and unimaginative idea, suited only for the profits of the regime’s crony partners. A subway we shall have, they say.

Let’s begin by looking at some of the yawning gaps in Vision’s proposal.

First, to claim this is a subway to UBC is simply false.  The subway, as currently proposed, will be dug from Commercial & Broadway only to Arbutus where westbound commuters will have to leave the subway, climb up to the street level and then wait for a bus to UBC to complete their journey, one way.  So, any commuter time savings discussed must take into account the time and inconvenience needed for this transfer. And, of course, the same inconvenient transfer will be necessary when leaving UBC to travel eastwards.

Second, all expert opinion suggests that putting the financing together and then building the tunnel will take eight years at least before delivering one second of improvement.  I suppose we must hang around in long lines waiting for an already-crowded 99B Line for another eight years, as there are no plans to improve the service before then.


In fact, under Vision’s plans for Commercial & Broadway, the commuting situation will get much worse.  They plan to add about 10,000 more people to that neighbourhood, mostly housed in huge 30+ storey highrise towers at the intersection, without any increase in transit. Those 10,000 people will simply add to the congestion and line-ups that already annoy so many travelers; and which can only be aggravated by years and years of subway construction work.

Third, what would this new commuter paradise look like?  Under Vision, there is little doubt Broadway will consist of islands of massive towers separated by barren wastelands between the stops.


Even the pro-subway Urban Land Institute, in their Final Report in July, warned that Vision had gone hog-wild over towers. It is worth noting that there will still need to be street-level buses to move people between the stations and their high-rises; so the subway becomes not a replacement, but simply a very expensive addition.

Finally in this review, let’s take a moment for an overview of this $3 billion, 8-year project: Question: did you ever see a government-run mega project go over-budget and/or over-schedule?  I can’t think of one that didn’t.

So, after all that complaining, are there alternatives?  Yes, of course. And there are alternatives whether the $3 billion falls like manna from heaven or whether we have to do this without such largesse.  The prime failure of Vision’s plan is its lack of imagination.

For example, should that kind of money be available, Patrick Condon (who elsewhere has pointed out the contradictions in Vision’s plan) has already described the magnificent transit system we could have all across Vancouver for the same cost of $3 billion that Vision wants to waste on a single line between Commercial and Arbutus. Why would we not want to improve service everywhere rather than service a small slice of our needs?

What else?  We could move large sections of UBC to, say, the Post Office building downtown, and the Emily Carr site on Granville Island.  This would spread the transit load geographically and, at least in the case of the Post Office, would build upon existing transit infrastructure.

And/or we could insist that UBC and the high-tech companies the Mayor and Geoff Meggs have said will dominate the Broadway corridor move to flex-time scheduling, thus spreading the traffic load across the system throughout the day and thus reducing “rush hour” congestion.

And/or we could divert automobile traffic off Broadway to 4th, 12th, 25th and 41st, for example.  Personally, I would be happy to see the entire Broadway corridor become a pedestrian/transit/cycle-only street.  A mix of short-haul and express buses would speed along their own dedicated lanes, as would bicycles, feeding retail along the entire street rather than just in towering shopping centres.

Finally, we can consider alternative technologies for moving people along Broadway.  An at-grade Light Rapid Transit system, costing about a third of the tunnel project but going all the way to UBC, is an obvious candidate.


There are plenty of other ideas floating around.  What we know is that the three billion dollar hole in the ground is the least viable, the least effective, and the least neighbourhood-friendly option and, besides, it cannot be ready for almost a decade at best.  It is time to be creative and make better decisions for our commuters and our City today.

Why Supply Is Clearly NOT The Problem

March 10, 2017

Early last year I wrote a piece about how the City of Vancouver is approving about twice the number of housing units that we need to manage our population growth.  Now we have the latest population statistics from Stats Can and we can check my arguments against reality.

Between 2011 and 2015, the City of Vancouver population grew by 27,984 people.

Even today, with all the sociological changes in the way we live, most of us still do not live alone (who can afford it?) — we live in households, traditional or otherwise. Households here average a little over 2 people. That means that we grew by approximately 13,000 households. This figure represents the genuine need for new housing.

According to the CoV’s own figures, we approved 25,341 housing units in that same period — or about twice the number we actually needed to meet the growth in households. The development industry has tried to tell us that household size has fallen and so the need is greater. However, the Census figures do not agree with them.

These latest figures confirm that we are building for greed not need, and may go some way to explaining why we have 25,000 vacant properties in the city.


Vancouver Up To Its OLD Tricks

March 8, 2017

As a community activist one of the first things you learn is that the Vision dominated council is not interested in hearing from you. They don’t want to know what you have to say and it is assumed by many that their decisions on development projects and urban planning have been decided by them and their cronies well before any meaningful public input or response can be gathered.

In the not too distant past, at least, this elitist we-know-best attitude also permeated a number of important civic departments, especially planning. Their methodology shifted, over the course of a decade or more, from a bottom-up City Plan approach to a top-down EcoDensity insistence that those at the top can do the thinking for those at the bottom, i.e., the residents of the neighbourhood about to be pillaged and altered beyond recognition.

That’s the case today, and oddly enough, it was also the case in 1910. In that year, the engineering department wanted to radically alter the shape and appearance of Salsbury Drive (the details are not germane, but can be found here). However, as the “Vancouver World” reported, the residents were outraged:

“They protested. They signed petitions. They went down to city hall. They got a committee of the board of works to look over the situation again. It was all useless. Wilful board must have its way.”

And by that September, the “World” was able to say that the work had been a disaster and city taxpayers and property owners both will be on the hook for “more thousands than have already been spent” to fix.

Sound familiar?

Does it make me feel angry that residents have been messed around here for more than a hundred years, and therefore it is somehow “normal” in Vancouver? Or do I feel the cold dread that this will keep going on until the people of our city wake up and realise that Vision Vancouver is the developer’s plaything and not your friend?

Either way, things have to change.

The Rot Is Deep in Vancouver

February 24, 2017

Allan Garr of the Courier has a very worthwhile piece this week concerning the ongoing clean up at City Hall of the mess Penny Ballem’s reign left behind.  In Garr’s opinion, Ballem deserves the blame — both directly and indirectly through her senior hires — for untold administrative errors, delays, and costs aplenty.

I cannot disagree with Garr on any point. However he doesn’t complete the story; nor does he even hint that a bigger story lies behind the one he told so well.

The fact that so many of the development, planning, and other decisions in the Ballem years happened to fall in favour of Vision Vancouver’s financiers and masters cannot be just a coincidence. We are the least affordable city in North America by design. Ballem faithfully executed the game plan she was brought in to manage — and we live with the consequences today.

But Penny Ballem didn’t appear out of thin air. If she has to accept responsibility for the failures of the Jacksons and Latifs, then the Billionaire Boy’s Club affiliate known as Vision Vancouver has to take the rap for Ballem’s disasters; they hired her. She was either following the script given her by Magee and Robertson and their cronies, or they were incompetent in continuing to allow her to move forward so disastrously for so long.

Ballem was very well paid for the job she was doing, and she was even better paid to go away. Now we need to excavate the deeper dirt beneath her policies and actions.

Robertson the Job Killer

January 28, 2017

robertsonFor reasons that remain obscure, this morning I found myself reading Mayor Gregor Robertson’s “2016 Year In Review” statement.  After holding my breath as I read his praise of his own government’s performance last year, and then reading it again, I noticed that jobs and employment are completely absent from  the statement other than a throwaway line in the last but one paragraph.

This put me in mind of news I learned the other day from a very senior figure in the BC retail marijuana industry. He told me that more than 200 employees had been laid off recently by dispensaries in Vancouver as they try to cope with the City’s vicious and hypocritical $1,000 a day cash grab from each business.

That’s 200 families without employment, some without hope perhaps, simply so Gregor and his buddies can line the pockets of their cronies with ever more no-competition bids. And we still have two more years of this BS to live through.

Over-Engineering A Non-Problem

January 21, 2017

This afternoon I walked over to the WISE Hall to see what the City Engineers want to do to the Victoria and Adanac intersection to make it “safer” and “more comfortable” for all users — Adanac being an official bike route.

There were half a dozen keen and eager City workers, five or six display boards, and four civilians, including me.

I thought the display boards were very informative, describing in some detail the work they wanted to do at various intersections on the route from downtown to east of Nanaimo Street.However, I don’t know the circumstances at most of those, and so it is difficult for me to comment.

With regard to the Adanac and Victoria intersection, just half a block from where I live, I have a much clearer picture and it seems to me that the heavy work proposed — traffic median, changes to right of way turns, parking changes — are a major intervention to solve a minor problem.  Yes, a marked crosswalk would be a useful addition, but I rarely see any major issues at that corner. At Salsbury and Adanac we don’t even need that.

I spoke with an acquaintance at the meeting and she said much the same about plans at Lakewood near where she lives.

The questionnaire handed out at the meeting was informative and allowed the chance to discuss each individual part of the suggested changes. They were much better than questionnaires previously encountered.  Still, this was simply a better managed example of a top-down, what do you think of our ideas session rather than a true dialogue about concepts.

The 3-Billion Dollar Hole In the Ground

January 20, 2017

After a quiet period of some months, the ugly business of Gregor Robertsons’ cronies’ wet dream of developing profit-driven condo tower blocks all along Broadway financed on the backs of a $3billion dollar subway to nowhere, is gurgling to the surface once again.


Translink are holding “Public Consultations for the Millenium Line Extension to Arbutus” at three locations on three dates:

  • January 28, 1:00pm to 5:00pm, at Douglas Park Community Centre;
  • January 31, 4:00pm to 8:00pm at the Croatian Cultural Centre;
  • February 1, 4:00pm to 8:00pm at Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral

From their format and timings, I am guessing these are display panels, plus yellow stickies plus a questionaire affair — not a dialog or genuine collaborative discussion.  But we should always attend these things and make our marks whenever and wherever we can.

I wrote my views opposing a subway some time ago, and I still stand by those statements today.