By Gord Price:
The desired image of the Metro Vancouver economy may be ‘resorts and real-estate’ or ‘green jobs and high-tech,’ depending on your PoV – but, given the actual decisions of our leaders, shouldn’t it really be ‘fossil fuels and Fifties sprawl’?
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  1. 50’s sprawl is a bit of an exaggeration. Even out in the green fields of Langley District or Maple Ridge they are mostly building townhouses, not detached homes.
    In the 50s to 70s we were building things like Lougheed Mall, not City of Lougheed – which plans to add half the population of Ladner on the site of a single mall.
    Tsawwassen Mills is a bit of an outlier, a reflection of First Nations sovereignty rather than a general change in direction.
    But yes, there has always been a tension between the pretensions of the city of Vancouver and the reality of a province that functions mainly as a port.
    For myself, I don’t begrudge new road infrastructure (especially if it includes a toll) or pipelines (the alternative is rail, and just as with the ‘War on Drugs’, the solution is to reduce demand, not restrict supply), but I do think the region desperately needs to spend more on transit, both on the capital spending and operating side.

    1. More than a few problems here…
      Those Townhomes being built come with no plan for being able to walk to required and desired services and amenities, thus the perceived added density and better land use is in essence quadrupling the amount of cars and traffic added to the roads because each dwelling come with multiple car parks and poor access to infrequent transit options. This phenomenon is playing out to great effect along the 24th and 32nd Avenue Corridors in South Surrey with traffic congestion enjoying massive increases in the last five years.
      Second, building more Motordom infrastructure whether tolled or not is flawed as it takes money away from Transit and provides incentives for driving as summed up in this CTV Vancouver piece on widening Highway 1:
      Nowhere is there a discussion on adding an HOV lane or rapid bus option to Chilliwack. Instead the Mayor of Abbotsford inadvertently highlights the Irony in road expansion while campaigning for reduced congestion:
      “……At the rate we’re going we should really be doing four (lanes) because by the time the third lane is added, I think the freeway is going to be full…”

  2. I agree that the townhouses could be better planned in many cases, but it is still not 50s sprawl. Even with all of the flaws in many developments, it is still a lot more dense than 2000sq ft houses on 7000 sq ft lots like we were were building in the 50’s/60s/70s.
    Open google maps and look at the area between 24th and 28th and 160 and 164 in Surrey. How many people in there could walk to their school and local shopping area, how feasible is bus service to the area (and yes, it could be a million times better if built on a grid with proper connections and street fronting retail). Now look at the area between 26 and 28 and 164 to 168 – that is sprawl, 100% unwalkable and unserviceable by transit!
    I don’t see having roads that aren’t gridlocked as being a bad thing. People driving from place to place is critical to the economy of every city on the planet. Whether road infrastructure ‘takes money away from transit’ is up to the Province.

  3. @ Some Guy.
    The common thinking is as you portrayed in your reduce demand / do not restrict supply logic. But that logic is flawed because oil, sprawl and road traffic are deeply and intimately linked, and reducing demand for them is not accomplished by increasing the supply of road space and pipelines.
    Moreover, there are several ways the expression of First Nations sovereignty is manifesting itself. The Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh are moving quickly into progressive 21st Century mixed use urban development in partnership with the federal government with their joint Jericho and Heather lands projects. The public consultation has to date been impressive. The Tsawwassen have chosen a distinctly 20th Century path that has been largely discredited as an appropriate model of urbanism that will not meet future needs.
    Reducing local demand is best accomplished by building a decent local and regional inter city transit network, orienting urban land use around it, fostering greater energy conservation in buildings, and promoting the expansion of the provincial and national clean energy supply and transmission networks. We are not even close, and now we are taking three steps backwards with $20 billion in public debt to build grossly excessive road space in three megaprojects on the South Coast that have already induced the preparation for inefficient, car dependent single-use zoned suburban development. It doesn’t matter if they are zoned for townhouses if they still comprise incomplete communities.
    Regarding selling Alberta bitumen to Asia, no one has produced adequate evidence that proves there is a viable market for this heavy product. People, notably the media, are taking the word of CAPP and the Alberta premier as gospel that getting Alberta heavy oil to tidewater will miraculously cause overseas demand to appear and Canada’s economy to be saved from oblivion. These statements ignore basic economics (i.e. volatile prices, poor diversification, no value added activity, international carbon pricing, the sudden appearance of competitive renewables …) and the demographics of the target markets. China for one is set to become a huge leader in renewables in part thanks to the rise of Trump, that is, until their massive ageing population outnumbers the workers who need to support them and the internal Chinese economy gets knocked to its knees in about 30 years.
    There are strong socio-economic arguments in favour of developing a creative class in Canada where innovation, progressive forward-looking patents on renewable energy technology, intellectual property and highly specialized services, and the huge multipliers attached to locally-built products and locally-managed services transform the economy in positive ways. These trump the simplistic extraction and offshoring of raw resources by foreign-owned multi-nationals who export jobs and profits along with the raw product, and the false economy of deep fossil fuel dependency in our cities. In terms of value, the former really add up and can be especially dynamic when programs to make our cities and towns far more efficient largely through transit and conservation.
    There is a better way.

    1. “Reducing local demand is best accomplished by building a decent local and regional inter city transit network, orienting urban land use around it, fostering greater energy conservation in buildings, and promoting the expansion of the provincial and national clean energy supply and transmission networks.”
      I agree with this 100%, but we still need roads and they need to expand as the population grows. And all or nothing thinking – “It doesn’t matter if they are zoned for townhouses if they still comprise incomplete communities” – doesn’t really help.
      You want more energy efficient buildings – of course townhouses are more efficient than detached houses. You want a decent transit network – of course tightly packed townhouses will support more transit than single family homes. You want better transmission networks – these are much easier to provide to townhouse complexes than to single family homes.

      1. Designing walkable communities should be first and foremost in everyone’s mind who subscribes to sustainable urbanism principles. Achieving 75% transit, walking and cycling mode share is entirely possible. Copenhagen (apologies to Bob) has achieve 80+%.
        Regarding roads, of course there will always be a need. But they don’t need to adhere to the excessive standards that still define every new neighbourhood rife with SFDDs and townhouses but no economic and social centre … other than malls.

  4. Of course it needs to be noted that few of the decision-makers in these affronts to Metro’s legacy were made by Metro actors. The only real exception is support for the 10 lane bridge over the Fraser by the District of Delta.
    There are just too many ways that those outside metro can make decisions for Metro without consultation.

  5. Let’s not forget why Vancouver exists: it is a port city with 30+ ports. This is where almost all roads, pipelines and railways end/start for goods to/from Asia to the rest of Canada.
    MetroVan’s ports play a vital economic role for all of Canada.
    It is not only resorts, recreation and retirement as far too many believe !

    1. Poignant. It was first and will always be, a port City. Lots of street-oriented armchair urbanists have no idea at the sheer volume of goods & dollars that flow through the port system here. I’ve told people that Port Moody has a major terminal, and they are in disbelief.
      Do they know that almost every vehicle from Asian that comes to Canada lands on terminal near New Westminster? Owned by Scandanavians? They actually install vehicle options there.
      Urbanists should go to PMV’s website and look at the locations, types and volumes which flow through this region night & day like blood.

      1. Been there. Done that.
        Yes, the Metro is a very big port. And a very large chunk of the goods arriving and heading inland are by rail. Trucks follow behind rail, but the lowest cost per kg of freight is by rail, especially through the mountainous terrain to the east. Shippers and their customers (especially distant customers) respond accordingly.
        The Port Mann, South Fraser Perimeter, and now Massey and probably the Sunshine Coast fixed link add up to nearly $20 billion in public construction debt, with no plan in place to recover operating costs. Ever. The justification for these elephantine projects has always defaulted to “commercial” traffic. This meme has always been accompanied with a vacuum of data to back it up. But there is one thing common to these projects: massive tracts of low density development or potential for the same wherever they are placed. And, of course, that is where the heart of BC Liberal political support is located, that is outside of the five-star hotel restaurants hosting Christy’s $20,000 a plate luncheons with real estate and oil company bigwigs.

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