Well, that didn’t take long.

Just over a month ago – in a post titled How Motordom Works: Promoting the Next Big Project – I predicted that the next stage of Motordom (the commitment to car-dependent urban planning and transportation) would be the construction of another multi-billion-dollar bridge over the Fraser at No. 8 Road, connecting to Boundary Road.

However, when the Premier announced the go-ahead of the Massey Bridge, she ruled out such an alternative structure.  My comment: Motordom doesn’t give up easily.

Less than a fortnight later, from the Georgia Straight:

With a new bridge, Delta could be the next prime real-estate location, says an industry analyst. …

Picture1Delta realtor Dean Bauck’s credentials include a diploma in urban land economics. Because of his interest in urban planning, he’s a little disappointed about the decision to build only one bridge.

Bauck explained that this measure will just pour more traffic toward Vancouver’s Oak Street 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.

According to Bauck, shorter commute times translate to savings in gas, time, and opportunity costs. As a result, potential buyers will be prepared to pay more for houses in Delta.

At least they’re upfront about it.  Clearly, it’s fair to say that the regional vision is under threat.

Since the 1950s there have been four elements to every plan collectively agreed on by the local leaders of Metro Vancouver and its predecessors:

  • A compact region
  • ‘Complete’ communities (or town centres)
  • More transportation choices (particularly rapid transit)
  • The green zone (largely the ALR, or Agricultural Land Reserve)

Sustainability, both environmental and economic, has subsequently been added.

Each of these foundations could well crumble in the next few years.

  • The ALR is under review.
  • The transit referendum is likely to put transit expansion at risk.
  • With the announcement of the Massey Bridge, there is a further commitment to massive road infrastructure, resulting in more vehicle-dependence of the fast-growing parts of the region – with more to come (see above) – and the extension of post-war-style sprawl (see Tsawwassen Mills).
  • Sustainability is being replaced with a ‘carbon-transmission’ economic strategy – oil, coal, bitumen and LNG – accompanied by a de-facto  abandonment of goals for greenhouse-gas reductions.

If it all happens, the regional plan is irrelevant and the vision is as good as dead.

This is potentially as dramatic a turning point for Metro Vancouver as any in its history – greater, indeed, than the freeway fight.  And if the worst unfolds, this generation would be responsible for losing the greatest legacy of the previous generation of local leaders: one hopeful place on the planet where foresight and planning had seemed to make a difference.

The fight to save that vision, however, is just beginning.