Governance & Politics
August 9, 2018

The Broadway Line: Ransford vs. Walker

We’re reviving a Vancouver-oriented Price Tags Golden Oldie from December 2012 that rings with resonance today, as we enjoy lively and informed debate about when subway and LRT are appropriate.

Given that the VCC-Clark Drive to Arbutus section is funded and underway, the Arbutus to UBC section is getting scrutiny. Given UBC’s involvement and possible financial support, the impending Jericho development and the lengthy low-density section of the proposed line, not to mention Skytrain vs. LRT, it’s fertile ground for thinking.

So many of the topics discussed in 2012 are relevant today, perhaps in a different manner on the Arbutus to UBC section.

The Editors of Price Tags

Bob Ransford discussed the push by the Vancouver Council to get a rapid-transit line down Broadway in his Vancouver Sun column.  Lots of good points.

I sent it off to Human Transit blogger Jarrett Walker to see if he had any counterpoints.  Oh yeah.

So here are the two of them, with Jarrett’s remarks italicized along the way:

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TransLink, UBC and City of Vancouver engineers and planners have told us what they think about the technology for the Broadway to UBC rapid transit line.  There’s no room for more busses on this monster corridor, and LRT has too-low capacity.

This information came out at the July 28 Town Hall meeting mentioned recently in Price Tags along with significant background.

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Metro Vancouver campus commuters and transit-takers, here’s your chance to attend a “Town Hall” presentation and discussion on extending Vancouver’s Skytrain beyond Arbutus Street to UBC’s Point Grey campus.

The event will be hosted by Joyce Murray, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra, with participation of representatives from TransLink, UBC, City of Vancouver and West Broadway Business Improvement Association.

Not sure whether to attend? Here’s some background, via an earlier Price Tags post.

If you go, remember — you get your say, you don’t get a veto.

Saturday, July 28, 2018
Registration 12:30 – 1:00 pm
Town Hall: 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Pacific Spirit Church, Memorial Hall (2195 45th Ave at Yew)
Light refreshments will be provided

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They’re back, attacking a favourite target.  In an op-ed in the Sun, director Canadian Taxpayers Federation director Kris Sims says:

Remember when the people of Metro Vancouver overwhelmingly said “No” to a TransLink tax hike in 2015? Bureaucrats and experts had all proclaimed at the time that a sales tax foisted on people to pay for even more TransLink was the right way to go.

Thankfully, there was a referendum and the people rejected the new tax. Now, the politicians have stripped voters of their right to a referendum on transit taxation and want to make us pay anyway.

There is one ballot box they cannot avoid, though. The municipal elections are being held this fall and motorists need to call campaigning politicians and tell them that they will be out of a job unless they cancel this latest gas tax hike.

Why does CTF hate TransLink so much?  What could be driving it?

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TransLink has approved the routes for major new regional bike infrastructure — the Major Bike Network (MBN).

Funding is already approved, and is included in the $9.3B 10-Year Vision as $131M for “Regional Cycling”.  That’s 1.5% of total spending, showing that bike infrastructure is really cheap, and that you can do ambitious stuff, even spending less as a percentage than cycling’s regional mode share (~ 2%).

The plan calls for around 300 km of separated bike lanes, and 2,400 km of bike routes (usually in neighbourhoods with lower traffic).  The MBN will be cost-shared with the municipality.

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Another sign (literally underfoot) of improved responsiveness and service from TransLink.

With approved plans and assured funding, TransLink has been fulfilling some of the promises made as far back as the ill-fated referendum. And that may be contributing to a more receptive response to the decisions made, as recently as last Thursday, to fill the funding gap required for Phase 2 of the $7.3 billion Ten-Year Plan.

It would have been unthinkable a year or so ago that regional politicians, months before an election, would approve the prospect of a gas-tax increase. And yet, most did, and (so far) the coverage has been balanced and blowback moderate.

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In April, Price Tags published a post on the UBC announcement regarding their desire to fund the remaining dollars — possibly up to $1 billion, depending on how you parse the extant project information floating in the ether (or who you know) — to bring the Millennium Line extension all the way to campus.

It remains our most-viewed post of 2018. It’s also our most-commented upon piece of all time. That’s 10,000+ posts over a dozen years.

So we decided to provide an update. Just one problem.

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Last month the Seattle Times sent reporter David Gutman up to Vancouver for a story on the similarities and differences in transportation between the two cities – an unusual commitment in this day of constrained resources.  He talked to a lot of people (including Price Tags) and here is a much-abridged version of what he found. (Full story here.)
 

With three fully-built light-rail lines and an interconnected bus network, Vancouver’s transportation system is like Seattle’s, just a couple of decades in the future. But the Canadian city differs in its rock-solid commitment to building housing right on top of transit.
Metro Vancouver — which comprises Vancouver and 23 surrounding cities and towns — is a region being built, more and more, around its thriving and ever-expanding light-rail system. …
South Lake Union, home of Amazon and the epicenter of Seattle’s construction boom, currently has 15 major projects under construction, about evenly split between apartments and office space.
South Lake Unions are sprouting up at SkyTrain stops all over Metro Vancouver. …
“There’s different attitudes about density than in Seattle, that’s for sure,” said Kevin Desmond, CEO of TransLink, the agency in charge of transit and roads in Metro Vancouver. “But if you’re going to manage congestion, which is getting worse and worse in Seattle, you’ve got to get people nearer to transit.”  …
Throughout the region, 146 developments are being built close enough to a SkyTrain station or track that they need special permission from the rail agency.
In 2012, there were only two such developments. …

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Most things change, but some never do. It’s time for a (nearly) serious review of the World of *Mageddons™ .  We’re happy to do it, so that you don’t have to, and since few others will call this type of failed prediction what it is:  failed.
What this *mageddon review does illustrate is the difficulty for anyone in public life who makes decisions.  While it’s easy to dream up *mageddon scenarios, it’s much harder to plan, make decisions and commit big resources amid strident choruses of negativity, and amid the usual incomplete information and the fundamentally unknowable nature of the future.

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Similar to YVR Airport’s approach, UBC may decide to kick in some money and other inducements and approach senior governments to help pay for running the Broadway subway from Arbutus to UBC. The distance is around 7 km, a longer distance than the currently-underway Broadway Millennium Line extension that stops at Arbutus.
Perhaps the owners and developers of the 92-acre Jericho Lands should get onboard for this ride —  making their development transit-oriented, benefitting themselves and benefitting the city as a whole.

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