I hope Novae Res Urbis and their writer Karenn Krangle don’t mind, but I’m going to reprint a full article from the current issue.  (Plug: NRU is the best source of info on local and regional urban issues and development in Vancouver.)




The forthcoming transportation plebiscite is about the future of the Greater Vancouver region, although most of the focus has been on TransLink, a planning symposium was told Friday.

Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, offered a gloomy picture if the No side wins, and said the future fight could be in the hands of those who are students now. “It is about the direction of the region,” he said during a panel discussion on Metro Vancouver’s transportation future, presented by the School of Community and Regional planning at the University of B.C.

“This is about the confidence in the leadership of this region. We have never before seen on one stage the [Vancouver] Board of Trade, the David Suzuki Foundation, the unions, the public-health people, environmentalists, the seniors, the disabled, almost all the mayors,” Price said of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, comprising 100 organizations aimed at mobilizing the Yes vote. ”And if this vote goes down, that is a vote of confidence, and in the way that life works, if you have given a vote of non-confidence to this group, you by default give it to somebody else. Who is that going to be?”

By comparison, he said, the single face of the No side is Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Association. Price said later that the Yes side should have put a public “face” on its campaign early on, as the provincial government did with Jimmy Pattison for Expo 86 or Jack Poole for the 2010 Olympics.

He told the symposium the vote “is very clearly now about TransLink. For many people, the meme that this is your chance to send a message is all that counts. They will tell you they are not voting whether there should be more transit. They want to send a message to TransLink.

“Regardless of the merits of that argument, this referendum is now about TransLink, so we can anticipate there will be change. There may well be blood. However, that is now going to be part of what happens as a consequence of this referendum.”

While the Yes proponents have said there is no Plan B if the plebiscite fails, there is one by default, Price said. “We know what some of the components are — Massey Bridge”, he said. “We will build another $2 billion, 10-lane bridge that will be connected to a larger freeway network that will shape the future certainly south of the Fraser and the rest of the region and you will not vote on it. That’s what happens by default.”

Price said the default plan, which he described as “paving over parts of the Pacific Flyway” is not speculation or a worst-case scenario. “This will be a moment of generational definition for you,” he said to his mostly-student audience. You are going to have the opportunity in the case of a No vote to fight old battles. Get ready for freeway fight 2.0*.” He was referring to the protests of the late 1960s that stopped plans to run a freeway through central Vancouver.

And if the transit vote fails, he said, highways will rule. “You don’t put billions of dollars into building bridges and widening highways right up to the borders of Vancouver — Sea to Sky, Highway 1, 99, the widest bridges in the world — and then think the traffic is going to come to a stop at 70th and Oak,” he said. “That machine must be fed and it will come up with multi-billion-dollar ideas and it isn’t going to be in transit. It will be in moving vehicles.”

Price, who has recently done an informal poll on his blog, Price Tags — with a 51 per cent of respondents predicting a Yes result, 49 per cent No — took a hands-up vote with his audience and received a split prediction. “This sucker could go either way,” he said, but noted a Yes result is still conceivable.

“It is possible that we’ve vented enough on TransLink and if enough people — the [media] and the thinktanks — think the future of this place is at stake, there may be a voice to emerge and it might even be the premier’s, who can say, yeah, we hear you on TransLink,” he said. “We may make that vote.”

The SCARP symposium also heard from Tamim Raad, TransLink’s director of strategic planning and policy, who has been seconded by the mayors’ council on regional transportation for the plebisicite campaign, who said transit service levels will decline without new funding.

“If we’re going to keep up with growth, our costs grow,” he said, noting that the regional population is growing by about 2 per cent a year and costs rise about 7 per cent annually. “We hit peak bus [capacity] in 2009 and that is declining every year without improvements.”

Also on the panel was Paul Krueger, lead planner for Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 team, who called the mistrust of TransLink misguided. “A Yes vote doesn’t mean we’re going to hand a blank cheque over to anybody,” he said.


* To be more specific on Freeway Fight 2.0, I doubt anyone is going to resurrect the plans for a Chinatown freeway (See “Chinatowns and Freeways”.)  

More likely, it will be proposals like the one seriously put forth by NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe for counterflow lanes on arterials (See “NPA: The Curious Case of the Counterflow Lanes” .)  

It will be a proposal for a new bridge from Richmond’s No. 8 Road to Boundary Road.  (See “How Motordom Works: Promoting the Next Big Project”.)  There are already some advocating for it – and more: 

Delta realtor Dean Bauck (is) a little disappointed about the decision to build only one bridge. … He said he would have preferred dispersing the stream. This would involve twinning the Alex Fraser Bridge and building two new bridges connecting Richmond to Vancouver. One of these would go to Boundary Road, a thoroughfare shared by Vancouver and Burnaby; the other would connect to Main Street in Vancouver.

Others will up the ante and propose a tunnel under sections of Vancouver, similar to the Clem7 in Brisbane.  You can absolutely count on some leaders on the North Shore to push yet again for another crossing into Vancouver.  

More modestly, the first principle of the City of Vancouver’s transportation plan – “No increase in road capacity” – will be questioned and placed in doubt.  Arguments will then be made to strip parking on arterials all day long, to restrict left turns, to eliminate consideration of bike lanes on major roads, to widen arterials in sections, and even as suggested by a commenter on this blog, to build underpasses at key intersections.

After we’ve voted down transit to handle growth, they will ask, what options do we have left?


    1. I keep thinking PST was 8% – but that was when I was back in Ontario – and they charged it on meals, too.

  1. I could see a six lane Oak Street bridge, as Oak itself is six lanes (as is Knight). The current SW Marine Street off-ramp is a horrible piece of traffic engineering. Similarly the Arthur Laing design is dangerous with airport traffic having to cut across lanes to reach the off-ramps, and it has no proper sidewalk.

  2. 2015-02-26 “Vancouver City Council voted to approve a rezoning application submitted by developer Concord Pacific to build 514 market residential units over two high-rise towers (27 storeys/235 feet and 21-storeys/185-feet) and 70 market rental units and a 37 space daycare within a “6.5” storey mid-rise building.

    The new multi-building complex at 445 Southwest Marine Drive will have a gross area of more than 455,000 square feet plus 411 underground parking spaces.”

    More reasons that the intersection at SW Maine and Cambie will need to be seriously upgraded, for vehicles. Even if only to service the structures. Plumbers, cleaners and bread trucks don’t travel by bike.

    1. THAT is indeed lacking in Vancouver. Highrises get built, levies collected to fund overpaid civil servants in the planning department or elsewhere in the city bureaucracy but NO infrastructure is developed. The city then has the hand out to the province lamenting: we need more roads and especially transit – look at all these people coming.

      A major issue, and at the core of the city-province dispute over funding, not just for transit but also education (loads of ESL requirements – see teachers strike), healthcare (not enough funding for nurses & doctors to be hired), homelessness (rents are too high as immigrants with money crowd out folks that live here on low wages) or community centers.

      As such I can only conclude that property taxes are far too low in Vancouver to pay for all this, as are land transfer taxes and development levies.

      What is the rational behavior of a rich immigrant ? Buy a huge mansion, as capital gains are not taxed and property taxes are so low, and shift income to abroad ie from his foreign owned corporation, or just have the wife and the kids here and husband works abroad, i.e. very little PST and almost no income taxes are paid in BC ! Plus buy a fat car as gasoline taxes are low and raods are not tolled. That is rational behavior, we see by the ten’s of thousands per year in BC, primarily Vancouver & Richmond but also elsewhere to a somewhat lesser degree.

      The tax system needs some major re-jigging in BC: far higher land transfer taxes, say 1% per $1M to 15%, far higher property taxes (up 100%, say over 10 years), coupled with a credit for income tax payers, plus road tolls, plus luxury tax for vehicles over $50,000, plus gasoline taxes that are 100% higher.

      A mere 0.5% PST increase is a drop in the bucket and will not systemically change things in MetoVan .. with more (slow) buses as it will not shift the rational behavior.

      ==> Which politician has the guts to tackle that on the city or provincial level ?

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