Given the implications, this story should have been on the front page:

A B.C. Supreme Court justice has awarded three Cambie Street merchants more than $180,000 as compensation for financial hardship experienced during Canada Line construction between 2005 to 2009.  …

“I can find nothing in the evidence to suggest that the loss of profitability in fiscal 2007 and 2008 was due to any other factor than the work,” Justice Christopher Grauer wrote in his judgment.

“What made the construction intolerable, resulting in unreasonable interference, was the extended time over which access was restricted.” …

TransLink has been ordered to pay Schein $128,880, Dubberley $44,560 and Gautam $7,600. …

Here`s the kicker: “The ruling sets a potential precedent for other judgments.”

You bet it does: probably for every public works project that has any peripheral impact – mostly all of them, and certainly for projects like Surrey’s light-rail, already affected by escalating budgets for land purchase.  (Thanks, BC Liberals, for the delay caused by the referendum.)

What additional amounts will now have to be estimated for Broadway, even if a bored tunnel?  Station excavation is hugely impactful too, as this shot in Yaletown for the Canada Line illustrates:

You can bet that any business or residence seemingly affected by any public works will be lawyering up to make a case for compensation.  And it’s not just the prospect of extra costs that will likely make some projects dubious; it’s the uncertainty.  How many, how much, how long?

BTW, I see that Metro Vancouver is planning to replace a main waterline for the region in front of my building. There’ll be noise for months.  Restrictions on our parking,  Looks like they’ll close off the bike route.  I feel a headache coming on.

Can I get the compensation in advance?


  1. Lest we forget, then MLA Gregor Robertson justly stood up for compensating the impacted businesses in the face of a powerful minister responsible and Premier Campbell, thus becoming a leading figure at the municipal level. Credit where credit is due.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong – I wasn’t actually in Vancouver at the time – but wasn’t the original plan to bore the tunnel instead of cut and cover? If business decisions were made based on that plan then it seems reasonable to expect some compensation. And of course if they’d offered that at the beginning it would have been a lot less.

    What really fascinates me though is how every single works project seems to shut down roads for months, or even years, with the same stretch of road excavated two, three or even four times in a row. Even if you allow for unseen issues it seems like there’s a significant lack of planning. If Cambie Street was under construction for three years there was obviously some serious problem with either the planning or the execution of the project.

    1. Basically, pricing in an externality, in the way that we don’t usually do for car infrastructure … if so, the precedent becomes doubly interesting.

    2. The original plan was to bore the tunnels to 63rd Ave. The Bombardier bid was said to have come in second and proposed just that, not to mention expanding SkyTrain tech to seamlessly match the existing network. But Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon were offered a deal they couldn’t refuse with the SNC Lavalin BC Liberal donor group that changed the goalposts: two years of trench warfare on the community in exchange for a bid about $500 million cheaper and packing an inadequate design.

      Probably the only two good things to come out of that were the notion that a subway will generate surprisingly good ridership beyond original expectations despite the obvious design flaws, and a hard lesson on what not to do next time regarding the construction planning process. On that note, it’s a Good Thing (to quote Martha Stewart) that the current government killed large corporate and union political donations. Goodbye P3s.

      On a note of interest, we are in London and just experienced our first Friday afternoon rush hour on the Tube tonight. We arrived at Charing Cross Station at 5:30 on the Southeastern regional commuter train service from Ramsgate (an excellent and affordable service, BTW). The crowds were horrendous at both Charing Cross and Embankment Tube stations. But these crowds are filled with old hands at creating efficiently flowing streams of human bodies up and down Tube station stairs (which are pitifully short on escalators in the older stations). Our District Line train arrived before we got to the platform. It was 100+ m long and packed. Our stop was only two over, so it was tolerable. After we got off we barely lost sight of the rear of our train before another long train appeared packed to the gills. The headways were probably as tight as one minute.

      [We probably beat the largest wave of the crush by stopping for dinner at the Cafe in the Crypt at St Martin in the Field church first. I recommend their fish & chips — the fish was sweet and lightly battered and fried in light oil, and the fillet was a foot long! Eating supper on top of graves (the flat headstones are part of the floor…) had to be the most original cafe experience I’ve ever had, and the lighting over the warm brick columns and arches overhead was magical. Highly recommended while waiting out the Tube rush and helping out an organization that does a lot of good charity work.]

      With 140 years of living with urban and regional passenger rail, London would never dream of short circuiting the future with cheap and inadequate transit infrastructure again. After all, they have only just recovered from the most egregious effects of the Thatcher Cuts. I wish TransLink folks could spend a week riding the London Underground, red buses and regional rail at all times of day to see the effects of efficacious planning and the quality of life it imparts in cities where freeways never really took hold.

      1. Keep in mind that first London subway was built over 150 years ago when there was hardly a soul in Vancouver. We are likely a century behind London.

        Proof point 1: we think a surface LRT with frequent roads crossing is a good idea of urban planning, rather than a subway, we indeed have a long LONG way to go.

        Proof point 2: a subway that ends halfway to a busy university so 40,000+ students have to switch from a short subway to a bus is a good idea.

        Proof Point 3: Still no Uber

        1. I haven’t done the research but it’s probably a good guess that London built its first subway (converted from the original Metropolitan Line) when its population was hovering somewhere around a million people. We built our first in 1985 (Expo Line downtown) when the pop was just under 2 million. I agree that London is ahead of Vancouver, but I disagree that its in lack of money, but in not having a legacy car addiction to contend with.

    3. One more point. It won’t break the bank on a bored tunnel operation to cover over the station pits with temporary bridges (both longitudinally and latitudinally) and in some cases excavate out the side into adjacent properties. The city owns the south 400 block of West Broadway, the one-storey commercial building on the SW corner of Oak and Broadway, and much of the land around the Arbutus Station temporary (but maybe permanent) terminus to the Broadway Line. The excavation contracts could include the adjacent sites, so the city has a ready-to-build, pre-excavated site for city facilities, leased dedicated office or residential rental uses.

        1. Some jurisdictions place limits on compensation for major projects, sort of like insurance policies. The idea is to make it fair, not outrageously low or high. This comes from the political ramifications of damage and dislocation lawsuits afterwards. The agreement signed between merchants / residents and the transport authority will bear weight in court, and not signing it could have less weight than leaving it open like with the Dark Ages engineering practiced on the construction of the Canada Line with no compensation, which also left them open to lawsuits despite the original rules.

  3. You have to blame the governments for this one. For one the cut and cover contract did not come with a clause to expidite restoration, so of course the contractor left the repair of the streets until the very last to save a buck on interest.

  4. I’m uncertain as to the actual significance of this particular ruling. How many commercial tenants are still around on the corridor that were operating and affected by the 2005-2009 construction? And of those how many are in a position to similarly prove loss of income that was most directly caused by the construction (as opposed to some other reason(s)). And how many others will spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to bring their cases to court in the hopes of winning back about the same amount?

    This should certainly give municipal authorities pause to get this element of public construction right, but I don’t foresee Translink or the City going bankrupt paying out disgruntled commercial tenants along Cambie for a contract administration oversight nearly 14 years old now.

    1. The way I interpret the impact, government will have to estimate the amount of compensation that will be incorporated into the budget. An uncertain account, to say the least. Then court action may occur if the designated recipients contest the amount – as I fully expect they will, along with others who now believe they should also be compensated. Public works become a kind of cash cow.

      1. (1)If its going to be a subway a cut & cover along 8th . with pedestrian tunnel access to both sides of Broadway would reduce costs ——–(2) Compensation could be capped by legislation as Ford is doing in Ontario with the wind farms

      2. Cash cow? Really? 12-16 years later three businesses are awarded a pittance for loss of business because somebody decided on a disruptive construction strategy to save money. If we want the public to support rapid transit projects we have to do better than a ‘so what attitude, sue us if you have the resources and the perseverance and you don’t like what we are doing’. The cost difference between tunneling and cut and cover is substantial. There is plenty of money to compensate businesses when they are actually being impacted. This is a story of screw the little guy because we can!

        1. This issue is whether there should be compensation for disruption. Once established, there will be those hiring lawyers to establish that they were sufficiently disrupted. Regardless of what -pre-mitigation is taken, the argument will be that it isn’t sufficient, and there shouldn’t be a cap on compensation arbitrarily pre-detetmined.

          1. It has been established that there will be compensation for disruption. The question is quantitative and I would expect that the wronged party will have its ducks in a row when seeking compensation. This is not a question of “sufficiently disrupted”, it is question of degree, demonstrated through evidence.

    2. My understanding was that the three claims were used as a test case so that the formula determined by the court could then be applied to all the others who registered as part of the class action.

      1. And, presumably, future disruptive major projects. All the more reason for the authorities to create a standard scale for compensation, hopefully with some flexibility to allow the disrupted to attain a fair if not 100% return from common construction practices.

  5. In Seattle, I understand that developers often pay nearby residents a fixed monthly amount for construction disturbance. (As should movie crews when using an area for days on end!) Perhaps such an arrangement could be negotiated where applicable for transit projects which can, obviously, impact businesses quite a while, Needn’t be a large amount, but an acknowledgement of responsibility.

  6. Just a comment on the local disruption due to the Metro Vancouver water main construction. The project team reached out to cycling groups last year. We met and went over their plans to maintain cycling access around the two shafts being dug near cycling paths (Park Drive and Chilco). The plan we saw was to reroute the bike routes, not close them. Also, I believe the construction project is measured in years, not months.

  7. One of our favourite bistros was the Tomato Cafe, formerly at Cambie x 17th. They had a large clientele who appreciated the quality food, and loyal staff. We were very sad to see them get disrupted out of the neighbourhood when the Cambie Big Dig was a few months in. They moved to Bayswater just off Broadway in Kits. We continued to patronize them, but not as much of course as when they were within walking distance.

    We knew several staff quite well and when we asked about the move they responded that they lost 40% of their business from the effects of the subway project, but the losses were even more in Kits due to the competition and student population with less disposable income. They stated that in discussion with the owner figured out they could have stuck it out on Cambie and survived. That was a surprise.

    It stands to reason that a large project is ethically bound to provide some compensation, and hearing the plight of the Tomato Cafe even covering half their losses (I’d say that should be the minimum) meant that they could stick it out.

    It was an even sadder day when Tomato closed for good, done in by the second swipe, not the first.

  8. Only someone who has lived off the public purse could begrudge the merchants what they are owed for the BC Liberals’ decision to cheap out on the Canada Line and cause this fiasco. When you run your own business, it’s your money on the line, whether you or your employees get paid, or laid off.

    Going back to the first subway construction in London, cut and cover has always been horrendously disruptive, everyone knew that. The government and bureaucrats caused the financial pain, not the merchants. They shouldn’t be expected to bear the costs, especially as in this case when they didn’t even get a station with the promise of future business.

  9. Nobody is begrudging anyone anything in these comments. Of course they should get full compensation. The issue was NO compensation, NO negotiation, and NO say in the overnight switcheroo from bored tunnels to cut & cover.

    Having said that, one wonders what kind of advance warning one needs. One year? Two? When I was a consultant in two different firms the admin staff (or the managing partner) did their due diligence with respect to their office leases, research into planned major zoning changes, regional utility projects, and so forth. They rejected several locations because of issues around potential disruption, or too-short leases which sometimes indicate landlords are not committed to retaining ownership of their buildings. They moved around quite a lot and had the process down. One large architecture firm had an advantage because they had good contacts with inside info, and designed the building they ultimately settled into with their former client as their landlord — until the partners broke up and sold out to their competitors not five years later, laying off 25% of their staff in the process with nothing more than two week’s severance pay.

    Small scale consulting firms and merchants should also learn to practice due diligence as far as they can with leases. The first question should be, why is it not possible to get a long lease in certain locations? This is saying that a certain amount of responsibility resides with them too. The RAV Line, as it was known then, was on the books for at least three years clearly identifying Cambie as the preferred corridor prior to contract award.

    The question also needs to be asked, what losses did the landlords suffer from the disruption? Some storefronts remained empty for over a year. Were they part of the legal action?

    1. (1) Greed< Buildings are unoccupied when landlords refuse to meet the market —–(2) Subways increase the value of real estate. Never mind compensation .— They should be chipping in for the cost, Value capture

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