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March 12, 2016

2040 Transportation Plan – Update Required ?

The 2040 transportation plan for Vancouver is here. A similar version is here.
The MetroVan plan for 2040 is here.
The latest amendments are here.
Given the enormous changes in single family house prices, and thus pressure to move further out if one wants a house and a yard, are these plans, especially the MetroVan 2040 plan, still solid – or do they need more amendments than shown ?
With the new SFPR (South Fraser Perimeter Road), the East-West highway to Abbotsford and the likely 10 lane Massey Bridge, is this 2040 Metrovan plan still solid ?
I’d say no, as the subway east out of downtown to get people out of cars onto RAPID transit is missing, for example. It would revitalize the blighted E-Van and spur high density and affordable housing along Hastings, and ease N-Shore traffic congestion if extended via Second Narrows to Lonsdale Quay and then to W-Van’s Park Royal, Ambleside and Dunadrave.
Given the disconnect between MetroVan planning and provincial planning – especially in light of the failed transit referendum last year – is the plan still solid, or does it need updating ?
Are these five MetroVan goals solid, or do they need change ?

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According to freedom of information access results the provincial government did a 180 on the Massey tunnel. In 2006 the tunnel allegedly was good for another 50 years, and now it has to be replaced, with a bridge. Yes commercial expansion along the wide Fraser River is relevant. It is utterly unclear why a twinning of the tunnel isn’t good enough, or perhaps an additional tunnel for a train connecting via Richmond to Cambie Canada Line, or perhaps a deeper wider tunnel instead of a new bridge.
Indeed the lack of consultation and discussion with MetroVan is odd. While much of the 2040 transportation plan needs revision in light of reality, certainly as tax payers, commuters and residents we’d expect more transparency and cooperation re massive $3B+ investments.
Back to the drawing board, or full steam ahead anyway, assuming of course a Liberal win in May 2017 ( not a given, of course ) ?

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According to this update the aquifer was hit by an inexperienced driller in about twenty meters of depth, but then he pulled out the drilling pipe, unable to plug the hole. A typical rookie mistake – according to an experienced driller – as aquifers are frequently penetrated and drilled through for geothermal energy systems in Vancouver on a regular basis.
Keep the drillers phone number handy for next summers drought …
Update as of August 2016: no drought .. but aquifer is still gushing .. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/vancouvers-west-side-aquifer-still-not-capped-nearly-a-year-after-being-breached

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Let me wrap up this week with a topic that confuses me more and more. Like many, I am an immigrant to this fine country. I did not go to school here to learn Canadian history, and it means little to me, and most recent immigrants. I came here in 1986 when I was 26 to do my MBA. I saw it as a wonderful way to broaden my horizon. I met a wonderful young woman in 1987 in Edmonton, and, as they say, the rest is history. I had a wonderfully successful career and the kids are now well off into their professional (medical) careers – a testament to Canada’s economic environment to turn a poor immigrant into a success and to its superior education system.
I love Canada. It has many positive attributes. Many though have to do with geography, such as oceans, beaches, river, Rocky Mountains, Whistler, Banff, Prairies .. to me mainly the word “space” comes to mind as a key differentiator between Canada and other (often far more crowded) countries. Canada has more space, more forest, more oil, more water, more coastline, more wheat and more land per capita than any nation on earth. It easily can hold 100M people, or more. People, meh, they are very similar wherever you go: idiots, loners, weird ones, brilliant ones, outgoing ones, curious ones, loving ones, rich ones, poor ones, caring ones, self absorbed ones, liberals, conservatives, greens, ugly or good looking ones, lazy or ambitious ones .. similar to wherever you go .. never have I seen a true “Canadian” persona or trait that I might not have encountered in the other many countries I spent time in.
It used to be that I thought Canada was not as capitalistic or raw as the US and not as socialist as Europe, a good blend basically. But it is becoming alarmingly more like Europe in my opinion. Canada’s laws and social systems are already very similar to the EU nations and will likely approach its very high taxes, artificially high energy prices, high debt levels and thus, reduced economic opportunities soon, too.
However, with more and more immigrants, roughly 300,000/year, and many ethnic groups concentrating on certain regions or parts of regions I wonder more and more what is means to be “a Canadian” besides that you carry a passport, obey the specific laws and pay certain taxes here.
Trudeau was asked about this this week in the US and described Canada as the first post-national country. Story here. He is quoted as saying: ‘‘There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada,’’
What are Canadian values ? Is our Prime Minster right that it is “openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice.” Or is this just the usual politically correct mushy stuff one says, as this certainly applies to many Europeans, Asians or even Americans (both north, central and south) ?
Looking at this blog here, many people take offense to certain things I or some other folks say. Is this the opposite of “openness” ? Is this un-Canadian ?
Many folks come here for the passport as they escape a corrupt regime. Many have 2 or more passports. Is it true that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, or is it more true that some Canadians get special rights (indigenous people) while others with dual-nationalities should be stripped (but are now not) of a citizenship if they commit hideous crimes ?
Many more, most perhaps, come to better their economic well being. Some come because their religious beliefs are oppressed were they came from. Now they’re here, what makes them Canadian ? Do they have to change their dress, culture or language ? Anything goes ?
Is English or French speaking a requirement to be Canadian as many immigrants speak little, if any, of it and live in their ethnic enclave, often for decades. In Richmond now, some shops sprout a sign “we speak English”. Are they actually Canadian, or just their offspring that typically goes to school here, learns English (or French), some Canadian history (that is irrelevant to many in their cultural context) and becomes bi-lingual or even alienated from their parents’ home (like my children who speak a passable German but go there only as tourists) ?
Is Vancouver more Canadian as it has more Asians or Toronto,

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We cancelled our TV last year as we watch almost no sports, movies get interrupted by ads constantly and the Canadian news is so biased. Issues such as man’s impact on climate change, bloated public sector salaries, union power, immigration, public sector debt, crippling of our economy through dumb policy decisions or inaction and content in our education system is so poorly covered in Canada from both sides of the aisle, if at all.
Whereas in the US, and quoting from the article below ” on almost any day of the year, year in year out, Fox News draws more viewers than CNN. More than MSNBC. Often, Fox News draws more than both of them combined. While many major media are in decline, losing audience due to competition from social media and new media, Fox News keeps setting records.
We are seeing a flight to quality. Non-Fox news fares poorly because it’s mediocre — timid, politically biased and untrustworthy. Fox fares well because it’s meritorious — unafraid, politically balanced and trusted, as advertised. Unlike its competitors in the U.S. or, for that matter, in Canada, Fox doesn’t distort world events through a politically correct lens; it brings events into focus with expert commentary and news-breaking reportage, and is rewarded with viewers’ trust.”
Continued …
Where is the Canadian equivalent of Fox News ?
In my opinion, it is unfortunately missing in our sea of left meaningless politically correct mushiness like CTV or tax payer funded CBC for more balanced reporting on such topics as the last federal election but also:
1) persecution of Christians in the Middle East
2) substance abuse on native reserves
3) Ontario’s massive debt, the highest in the world per capita of any sub-nation (aka province or state)
4) WCS vs WTI (i.e. the price oil producers receive in Canada) and the impact of pipelines on this price differential (it is in the billions of $s)
5) the massive economic impact of oil & gas production in Canada and the massive tax benefits provinces and the federal government receive
6) the many falsifications of data of the global warming crusaders
7) the waste of tax payer $s sending 300+ politicians to the climate summit in Paris last December (the biggest contingent, by far, of any nation, even close by European nations)
8) the rocket attacks on Israel
9) unsustainable pensions paid to public sector workers and politicians
10) the cost of green energy
11) the massive subsidies paid to Quebec
12) tax payer subsidies to news outlet in the internet age
etc ..

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I did not know until today that there is a huge aquifer below Vancouver. According to wikipedia, “an aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, or silt) from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well. The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is called hydrogeology.  If the impermeable area overlies the aquifer, pressure could cause it to become a confined aquifer.” The Vancouver aquifer is fed from somewhere up the Fraser Valley as it has been leaking under considerable pressure for over six months.
As per the linked Vancouver Sun story “For more than six months, millions of liters of water a day have been flowing out of the ground at 7084 Beechwood St. onto public property, prompting concerns about erosion and the possibility of a very large sinkhole that could affect several homes. Despite efforts by the homeowner and consultations with hydrogeologists to halt the breach, the leak has only increased in volume from 800,000 liters a day to more than two million liters. It is now so serious that the city has issued evacuation alerts for homeowners on either side of the property and says as many as a dozen homes could be ordered evacuated.”  Full aquifer story continued here.
As you recall, last summer the wise city councilors of the City of Vancouver didn’t allow watering your lawn, trees or flowers, while Capillano water reservoir was still over 55% full. Now, of course it is super full again after the torrential rain falls this winter. Surprise. It is raining in Vancouver in the winter. Did they not get the memo that Vancouver is not California ?

Summer usage and reservoir readings are here. Metro Vancouver manages three watersheds, each with a water collecting reservoir, to provide almost 2.5 million residents with a clean, reliable and affordable supply of drinking water. The watersheds are closed to the public for protection from pollution, erosion, fire and other hazards, with the exception of registered tours.
But hurry, let’s disallow water use for the few dry months to show who is really in charge in Vancouver. And of course, no talk of water metering for single family homes anytime soon. Like parking, I guess. [squatting underground ?] Just a flat fee, whether 5 people use the shower daily or a single occupant. But of course, no watering your lawn by the single senior who might have a bath once a week while next door the 3 teenagers have 1/2 h shower each, daily, and 2x/day on sweaty weekends.
This is called good governance ? Where is the media or public outrage at this silliness ?

But back to the aquifer. As you can see in the map above, there are quite a few in BC, due to our mountainous terrain and heavy rain fall. A good overview of them is here in this BC government report. The parks department apparently has been tapping into it for 25 years to irrigate its Langara golf course, taking pressure off the region’s treated drinking water supplies.  Golfers apparently are more important than home owners even in Vancouver.

Since I could not find a lot more on this Vancouver aquifer, and since it is still gushing over two million liters per day 6 months later I suspect that we need far more insights into this important water source below us. Perhaps more time and money spent on this important resource right under our nose rather than global warming research about the “climate” in 100 years is a better use of scarce public $s ?
 

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If you haven’t been to this 1000 acre “island” off Vancouver lately, called UBC, maybe you should.
Vancouver ends at Blanca. West of Blanca is Pacific Spirit Park, UEL and UBC. Generally speaking UBC is west of Wesbrook Mall. Besides academic and research facilities, student housing and sport facilities UBC also has five residential neighborhoods where you can rent or buy a condo. My wife and I live in one of these condos. The oldest one, Hampton Place at the corner of 16th Ave and Wesbrook Mall was established in the late 1980’s. The newest one is Wesbrook Village, also referred to as South Campus, south of 16th Ave. All of UBC’s land is leased to developers for 99 years who then build townhomes or condos. The lease payments feed into UBC’s massive multi-billion $ endowment fund. The land under development south of Wesbrook is worth close to $1B in my estimate, with prices exceeding $30M an acre for a 20+ story tower, and condos now like Yaletown in the $800+/sq ft range. There are no single family houses at UBC. What attracted us to live there were the views, the closeness to the various beaches, parks and Vancouver, and a very car free walkable environment.

Since UBC is not in Vancouver, but a provincial entity and governed by a Board of Governor (BoG) it is in the unique position to be the land owner, the land developer via UBC Properties Trust (UPT), the building developer (in many cases, but not always), the approving agency and the project funder.

  • 1 Wreck Beach
  • 2 Museum of Anthropology
  • 3 UBC Main Academic Campus
  • 4 UBC Aquatic Centre
  • 5 University Village (off Campus, in UEL)
  • 6 Old Barn Community Centre
  • 7 UBC Tennis Centre
  • 8 Doug Mitchell Winter Sports Centre
  • 9 Botanical Gardens
  • 10 Thunderbird Sports Park & National Soccer Center
  • 11 University Hill Secondary School
  • 12 Future Community Centre & Elementary School

Did you know that UBC’s annual budget is over $2B ? Did you know that UBC is BC’s largest residential landlord ?  Did you know that UBC is aiming to create a city with around 80,000 people and that we are close to 65,000 today ? The goal is to have roughly 15,000 permanent residents, roughly 20,000 student residents, roughly 10,000 employees and roughly 40,000 student. Did you know that there are several highrises with over 20 stories at UBC ? Did you know it has the only 2 lane traffic circle in an urban environment in BC ?
Here is part 1 of the UBC overall plan and here is part 2.
UBC has its own planning department, called Campus and Community Planning (C&CP), with their own very detailed and comprehensive website. The current head of planning is the very capable Michael White who used to work for the city of Vancouver as a senior planner and then for several years as a senior planning manager in Abu Dhabi.
UBC Residents Governance: UBC created a society in the 1990’s that governs residents affairs, to its now 9000+ residents living on the UBC campus, called, UNA. The UNA is providing municipal-like services to residents and is funded from property taxes. In my 3 years as one of 5 elected director & VP Finance/treasurer at the UNA  I often likened UBC to the Habsburg monarchy. While UBC does extensive consultation, it is more to the left side of the continuum of information – consultation – accommodation in a somewhat democratically constrained (or shall I say castrated) environment. There are no residents on the BoG and we elected a representative for Electoral Area A for discussions on the MetroVan level, but have little say on planning and density discussion here at UBC. Unlike Vancouver, where you can elect a new mayor or new councilors if they do too many foolish things UBC residents can only voice their opinion but cannot vote on planning related manners.

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A submission from a reader:

No one could quite understand how the Province decided a ten lane bridge was more effective than a reboot and twinning of the Massey Tunnel. It would take up less land area and have less of an ecological impact.

More on this in today’s Vancouver Sun.
 

The tunnel was said to have a fifty year life span, and there has been a lot of press from the son of Geoff Massey, who is suggesting that the reason the tunnel is being abandoned is to provide a deeper draft for future ships to navigate up this arm of the Fraser River. More on Geoff Massey in the The Province today It was Harold Steeves, a councillor for the City of Richmond that put in a Freedom of Information Request to find out how a ten lane bridge, which would take out ALR land on both sides of the bridge approaches, got approved. It turns out that Port Metro Vancouver and Fraser Surrey Docks had lobbied  in favor of the bridge, exchanging memos in 2012 and 2013 noting “the sensitivity to premature disclosure of their choice…Replacing the tunnel with a new bridge at the same location. Not publicly confirmed yet, but this is (Port Metro’s) preference”. This is curious as the documentation from the new Massey Bridge project states that the bridge is NOT being built to assist the navigation of ships. Except, this latest disclosure of FOI information says that is the reason for the bridge option, not the tunnel. OOPS. Read more »

Is far higher Vancouver’s answer to affordability and commuting problems, asks provocative Vancouver architect Richard Henriquez.

Main story here in the Vancouver Sun of today.
What do you think ? Is this a mere marketing ploy for his firm, Henriquez Partners Architects ? Or is there merit to this ?
They are also working on the new very dense (but not nearly as high) Oakride Center project which will look like this:

 

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