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Death of the livable region plan, says Peter Ladner

November 29th, 2010 · 27 Comments

This thoughtful column from former city councillor Peter Ladner.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Tessa

    First of all, why is Metro calling for both the Evergreen Line and the South of the Fraser improvements before Broadway to UBC? Politics? Translink will hopefully know better than that and choose to support rail where buses are already running over capacity and where the ridership growth would be immediate rather than high capacity rail in sprawl.

    And speaking of sprawl, we the public, as well as the province and the ALR, really ought to be telling our municipalities that the agricultural land isn’t negotiable and that the urban growth boundary is essential to making Vancouver sustainable. The “rural residential” we see so much of is also a problem, but at least it’s not being overly built on. It will be there when peak oil begins to truly bite and we find we need a lot more local land for food production.

  • George

    Do you think that the development of the Riverview property has anything to do with the Evergreen Line getting priority?

  • Richard

    One of the reasons why the UBC Line does not have a higher priority is due to resistance in the west side of Vancouver to higher density. This is really unfortunate as the west side, being close to downtown Vancouver, is an ideal place for higher density.

    Hopefully as time goes by, there will be less resistance as the younger generations move in to this part of the city. This is happening in Berkeley where a resent ballot measure supporting taller buildings passed by a significant margin.'s+Top+News+-+Sightline+Daily)&utm_content=Google+Reader

  • Julia

    I am not sure I agree with Richard. One of the issues with the UBC line is that it is only necessary 8 months of the year and, there is clear indecision about what we want it to look like at the end of the day- regardless of cost.

  • gmgw

    Anyone who would ask why the Evergreen Line seems to be getting priority over the UBC line has obviously never tried to get from downtown Vancouver to, say, Maple Ridge (or even just PoCo) at five o’clock on a weekday afternoon. Much less the experience of having to do it every day in each direction. Kinda puts the terrible, inhuman ordeal of having to stand on a crowded bus heading down 10th Avenue in proper perspective.

    Something this blog could use is more contributors from the ‘burbs. Seems like just about everyone who hangs out here never ventures east of Boundary Road, across the Fraser or to the North Shore. Without those hands-on experiences (preferably on a regular basis), how can anyone discuss regional transportation issues in an informed manner?

  • Dan Cooper

    Three cheers for preserving light (and heavy) industrial land! especially in places where it is easily accessible to the people who work there. It’s good to see M. Ladner bringing up the need to protect both that and agriculture.

    On the topic of rapid transit: It seems to me that both the northeastern and south of Fraser communities have been waiting a long time for improvements. Personally, I would benefit a lot more from some kind of rapid transit on Broadway, but I don’t see it as the most pressing need.

    Speaking of density on the West side (a la Richard #3) albeit not very West, I attended the second round of the general Cambie Street corridor consultations this weekend. My impression is that – at least regarding the northern end of the corridor – the planners did listen to the feedback from the prior round (e.g. lowering some proposed building heights) while maintaining the general idea (greater density is coming to town!). They also have some interesting concepts around public spaces, walking routes and green ways, though of course the implementation could vary greatly.

    There is one more consultation coming up, in Marpole at the southern end of the corridor:

  • Diane

    Thanks gmgw for your understanding of why the Evergreen Line is a priority over UBC. I don’t live in the Valley but my work often takes me out there and I can tell you that, if we want to take more cars out of the downtown core, we desperately need to improve the mass transit options to that area.

    I realize that it would be nice to have less crowded transit going to UBC but Metro Vancouver serves the region, not just the city, and has a duty to look at the big picture. I, for one, sincerely hope that Translink makes the Evergreen choice.

  • boohoo

    Skytrain along Broadway is not skytrain to UBC. Skytrain from Commercial to Arbutus is necessary. From Arbutus to UBC—that’s a different story.

  • Jason King

    I would think that part of the reason that evergreen is more of a priority is the rising cost of homes in the core area. Most young families can no longer afford to be in the central core and are having to move farther and farther out to find affordable housing.

    If we can’t get these people quickly and easily back into the downtown core, Surrey and other municipalities are going to continue to have significant business growth at the detriment of Vancouver.

    And boohoo, is the Commerical to Arbutus route really such a priority? While more capacity is always welcome, it seems to me that we could survive awhile longer on traditional transit. It’s a hell of a lot easier taking a bus from Commercial to Arbutus than it is from Maple Ridge to downtown Vancouver!

  • Dealbroker

    hmmm, I don’t really know why we are debating Evergreen vs UBC. Evergreen has been “shovel ready” for quite some time and has almost 2/3 of the money committed. All that we are waiting for is TransLink and the Province to figure out a deal how to pay the rest of it.
    TransLink hasn’t confirmed what technology or route will be used for UBC, it doesn’t seem likely that they could ever complete the studies and find funding before Evergreen.
    The real debate is whether Surrey or UBC should happen first…

  • MB

    Thank you Tessa for bringing up the issue of peak oil and its potential to erode the security of our food, which is largely imported. The need to protect the ALR from further intrusion will likely become apparent well before this decade ends, and the 3,000 km cabbage disappears.

    WRT transit … folks, we need it all. The north of Fraser / south of Fraser dichotomy widened with Metro’s unfortunate opinionating that major new transit assets should, after Evergreen, be directed to Metro cities “where the most the growth will occur.” Well, what about the cities where the growth HAS ALREADY occurred, and existing transit has been packed to the gills for 30+ years?

    That is a particularly myopic view for a regional administration, but it’s easy to see that it was fostered in an environment of anemic senior government participation (except to bend the locals to their will), and that transit will continue to be placed far, far behind the car in priority.

    I agree with Ladner that the new plan is watered down, but I feel it became so only to suit disparate council’s existing interests and priorities. What we really need is a powerful federal presence in regional planning to fulfill defined national energy and food security needs. That begins first and foremost in our cities.

    Part of such a program will be to have an elected Metro government that accounts for the priorities of individual cities as long as they do not interfere with a more powerful regional mandate to truly plan for a realistic future.

    That future will look a lot different than the 20th Century the current attitudes and policies seem to be locked into.

  • boohoo

    I think the Broadway corridor to Arbutus is a priority. But routes to the burbs are just as important–the discussion around keeping land rural/agricultural is exactly why we need better transit to the burbs.

    So Vancouver needs it cause the demand is already there. Surrey et al need it because we now know we need to foster denser development and as someone working south of the fraser, I can tell you a huge reason people don’t take transit isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t/won’t because it’s massively inconvinient.

  • Paul C, Vancouver

    It would be interesting to know if and when they build the Evergreen line and possibly a line or two in Surrey. That if any of the new potential riders goes to the Broadway corridor. That would create a bigger strain on the system in that area. When the system right now can’t even handle any new riders. So for this reason the Broadway corridor is important but all the way to UBC isn’t all that important it would just be nice.

    However if all the new riders from other areas don’t head to the Broadway corridor resulting in no new customers to the Broadway corridor than the Broadway corridor is still a priority but it isn’t a critical priority.

    The biggest thing to remember is any increase in capacity along one corridor in the system. Will have a cascading impact on other routes depending on the travel patterns of people do and from that corridor. This can be seen by the impact that the Canada Line has had on routes like the #49 or #41 just a basic example.

    With that said I do feel the evergreen is next in line even if it may not be the most important in terms of pure potential first day ridership.

    After that I feel Broadway to Arbutus is slightly more important than a line down King George or Fraser Hwy. But a B-line down King George or Fraser Hwy is far more important than a subway down Broadway to Arbutus.

  • gmgw

    @Paul C:
    Speaking of B-Lines, now that the Canada Line has been pronounced a runaway success, there’s no reason why TransLink couldn’t restore the 99 B-Line that ran from downtown, along Granville, and over to Richmond Centre. No reason, of course, except the obvious one they would cite: Money. In an incredibly short-sighted and cynical decision, the 99 B-Line was terminated when the Canada Line was inaugurated, presumably to force people onto the then-unproven CL– in the process also forcing the large number of Richmond-bound people along the Granville corridor, and further west, to travel an extra ten blocks to the CL.

    The 99 is much-missed by those of us who used it to access transfer points along the Granville corridor, or to gain quick access to downtown from the Broadway & Granville area (it saved me from being late for work quite a number of times). It served its purpose admirably, transporting large numbers of people rapidly and efficiently, and its termination is one of the real black marks on TransLink’s already spotty record. I realize the 99 about as much chance of being restored as the proverbial snowball in the ninth circle, but I can still dream…

  • Tessa

    First of all, I should acknowledge an error in my first post. I ought not to have asked why the Evergreen Line got priority at this late stage in the game. It’s already decided, money is committed, let’s build it already. But the UBC line ought not to be bumped for a second time, and I still believe politics has everything to do with the evergreen line getting chosen as first priority, not transit needs.

    @GMGW: I could say the same thing to you, that you obviously don’t understand why the UBC line is so needed because you don’t experience the pass-ups every day, but I won’t. It’s pointless and anecdotal.

    Translink could improve service easily in many of the ‘burbs without using heavy rail. On Broadway, that’s just not possible. The buses are packed and people wait sometimes four or five buses to get on, and then they’re in a sardine can packed to the gills. Keep in mind many commuters from the burbs work in the Broadway corridor and go to UBC. Understandably, people from Coquitlam aren’t going to be excited about riding transit if they’re forced to use the B-Line when they get to Broadway, even if the Evergreen Line is built. And what about people commuting from Burnaby to Richmond, or vice-versa, who currently have to route through downtown or catch the B-Line for just a few stop, forcing an extra unnecessarily arduous and uncomfortable transfer?

    It comes down to numbers. The Broadway-UBC line would attract well over 100,000 daily riders on its first day of opening, I’m certain, given the success of the Canada Line, and as Boohoo mentions, doesn’t have to be skytrain the whole way to UBC necessarily (though that is certainly my preference). The Evergreen Line is projected to carry just more than a fifth of what the Canada Line does right now at the same cost. The practical choice would be Broadway-UBC, and the same metrics apply to Surrey at the moment.

    And before you accuse me again of not understanding what it’s like to commute to and from the ‘burbs, I grew up in Deep Cove and lived in North Vancouver until I was 21. Currently, I commute there for work from Vancouver. I do personally understand the challenges of transit in the ‘burbs, not that that should be a requirement for commenting on transit in the region.

    In the end, transit advocates in Surrey, Vancouver and PoCo all have a province more interested in building bigger and wider roads than building sustainable transit and complete communities to blame for a lack of progress. Had Gateway money been spent on transit in that area, Surrey would have one of the best systems in the region, I’m sure.

  • Morven

    I have nowhere near the knowledge and background of the post originator or the blog participants.

    That said, I would accept that this is the death of the livable region plan. But is it the death of a livable region?

    As far as I can tell, the business model of the livable region may have been doomed since the year 2001 but the players, particularly the provincial government, has yet to signal what alternate forms of organization will permit a livable region to survive and also to underwrite the massive infrastructure projects required.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    “… the plan now breaks up what used to be “urban” lands into industrial, mixed employment, general urban and rural (as in rural residential, also known as “rural sprawl”).

    Everyone cringed at the initial draft’s proposal for many more red- tape-bundled approvals by the region to prevent municipalities from taking dysfunctional shortcuts to new tax revenue.”

    I am much less a fan of the livable regions plan than Peter Ladner. The ALR is state-of-the-art (or perhaps the other way round: art of the state). However, the regional town centres are a flop; Skytrain is straining under the weight of the calcification of an idea whose time never came; it is failing to deliver on the Evergreen corridor (where transit IS the B-Line); and it will fail to deliver south-of-Fraser unless more flexible concepts emerge.

    Then, there is the Gateway project. More than any regional plan voted on by elected local politicians, this scheme will shape growth in the region in the next 40 years to come. And suck much of the investment money from other more innovative forms in the process.

    gmgw doesn’t like the drive to the suburbs? It’s about to get worse and cost more. Where are all those cars going go? If they are coming into Vancouver get ready for a real NYC-style environment. Uneven build out with high-priced properties next to vacant lots and open frame garages.

    Joined at the hip to the Skytrain stations is the concentration of condo towers within the station areas. These plans too, are already hatched. The development formula, the built form and resulting character of these places has concretized well in advance of this new regional day-dream.

    It is not so much that Metro lacks teeth—which it obviously does—just drive down your favourite arterial and have a look: Scott Road, King George, Lougheed Highway, Marine Drive in Vancouver, Kingsway, No. 3 Road, Bridgeport… oh, its endless.

    The real problem is that Metro lacks vision. The quote at the top of the article sounds like a late awakening to Andres Duany’s “Transect”. However, it also sounds a lot like trying to zone our way into the future. These are tired thoughts in the face of a stark reality staring neighbours all over the region in the face.

    Just ask the folks living in houses fronting the fly-over the CPR yards into Coast Meridian in Port Coquitlam; or any of the apartment dwellers that are buying into single orientation suites fronting any of those arterials cited earlier, or their new incarnations in the new sprawl areas facilitated by the next increment of vehicular capacity on the Port Mann.

  • gmgw

    Calm down already. I had to go all the way back to your #1 post to see what I might allegedly be “accusing” y0u of. My comment re the ‘burbs was not directed at you but rather to the BulaBlogosphere in general. Coincidentally, I grew up in North Van myself– though not in Deep Cove (although my oldest friend lives on the Dollarton Highway near Cates Park)– like you, until I was 21. Which does make me rather more sensitive to the need for efficient regional transportation (in the last year I spent in North Van I was working in Richmond. Believe me, it was not fun in those pre-SeaBus days getting from Queens & Lonsdale to the Richmond Centre area by 8:30 AM). And although it’s been more than 20 years since I had to be at UBC for an 8:30 class, I regularly travel along Broadway, anywhere from Commercial to upper 10th or even UBC, depending on the errand. I use the B-line as much as possible and have experienced being passed up (usually at Commercial for some reason), although in my experience it’s almost always been a relatively short wait for another one. I just wish that the other major north-south transit routes besides the Cambie corridor were as well served as the Broadway corridor.

    The real issue with UBC is not the student population, but the extraordinary development binge that the UBC administration has been engaged in for the past decade or more. They seem hell-and-determined to pave over and build on every square inch of land on the peninsula that’s not been preserved as parkland, and no level of government seems able to step in and say “slow down” (the GVRD/Metro government did tried and was told, essentially, to butt out). This has resulted in a significant upsurge in westside auto traffic. West Fourth between Fir and Vine has turned into one of the worst bottlenecks in the city. Whether these drivers could be persuaded to use some form of rapid transit is moot at this point. In an ideal world there would be money available for both a UBC line and the Evergreen. But given that that’s not the case, I would cast my vote for the Evergreen, as the traffic problems in the Tri-Cities area are exponentially worse.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    gmgw… we’ll be blogging on the expansion plans for UBC soon. No doubt the argument will be in the air that in order to sustain an east-west subway, we need a bar-bell diagram with a new Town Centre at UBC.

  • Paul C, Vancouver


    I believe you meant to say the 98 B-line that went from downtown to Richmond not the 99.

    Even still I feel it would be a waste of resources bringing that service back at this point in time.

    In 10 or 20 years who knows, but right now resources would be better spent in other areas.

  • Tessa

    @gmgw, didn’t mean to sound grumpy, it’s just in context it did look as though you were referring to me, or that I had tripped the general complaint. I can’t imagine what North Vancouver commutes would have been like in the pre-seabus days. It sends a shiver down my spine. And I actually lived a five minute walk to Cates Park up Dollar Road. Nice area.

    I expect UBC could use rapid transit even without the development binge. What they ought to be doing is providing student housing, considering the university is surrounded by the most expensive housing in the region, but no, apparently making a killing off of private developments is more important than serving your students. I’m glad I don’t attend there. But either way, there would be more people out there.

    Unfortunately, though, I don’t think rapid transit will solve traffic problems in either area. There needs to be a combination involving either traffic calming measures, mainly reduction of road capacity, or some sort of road pricing, if we’re going to fully shift people into rapid transit for a larger portion of the trips. Jarrett Walker at talked about congestion and transit, and made some pretty good points to that effect.

    If nothing else, I’ll certainly travel to Coquitlam more once they build the Evergreen Line. Might be good for some hiking in the parks up there.

  • Tessa

    @Lewis, good points on Gateway. I doubt that project would have ever survived a vote from the region, and for good reasons, but it’s not like the Liberals would let those pesky local representatives ever get in the way of their pet project.

  • Tessa wrotes “First of all, why is Metro calling for both the Evergreen Line and the South of the Fraser improvements before Broadway to UBC? Politics?”

    At a workshop, I got the opportunity to ask the question to Johnny Carline.

    His answer is that Broadway transit is to “serve”,
    evergreen line or a Surrey one is to “shape”.

    From memory:
    “It is none of the business of Metro Vancouver to answer existing transportation need, that is Translink one”, So metro could recommend to build a ghost train in the confine of metro, while people are crammed into bus on Broadway because the first one “shape” while having a functional transit system is the least of Metro concern.

    So to answer to your question, my opinion is that is the result of a very dysfunctional political administration of the region, mostly due to the fact that Translink is not put under the Metro Umbrella…

    That was acutely fore-casted by Harry Rankin has soon has 1970 (see ), saying then:

    “Under no circumstances should the Transit authority become an independent or autonomous body” and “The Transit Authority must be appointed by and be directly responsible to the GVRD for all its action. Only in this way can public control be maintained. Don’t forget that if and when we get a rapid transit system, the special interests who oppose rapid transit and support freeways would be only too happy to see rapid transit run in trouble”

    Should we be surprised to where we stand now?

    PS: regarding the 98B line: it has briefly worked in parallel of the Canada line last summer 2009: it was then a ghosty bus. Clear and plain, only gmgw is regretting it, but it look he could not have ride it that often…so yes it is a pure waste of precious resource

  • gmgw

    I can assure you, I am far from the only one who misses the 98 B-line. Not to mention the direct-to Steveston bus that my partner was able to take each rush hour to get to and from work, instead of taking, as is now necessary, two buses and the Canada Line (all of which takes an extra half-hour).
    If you lived near the Granville corrridor yourself, you might understand.

  • Ron

    That’s right – the Livable Region STRATEGIC Plan is to SHAPE growth.

    It’s the same old chicken and the egg debate – build to SERVE existing growth or build to SHAPE new growth.

    Under the LRSP the “T-Line” would go on Broadway only as far as Arbutus. An extension to UBC is a new development arising from ballooning ridership due to the subsidized ridership generated by the U-Pass (and maybe UBC’s plan to have a community of about 40,000 out there). The PortMoody-Coquitlam (PMC) Line (now Evergreen Line) and “Vancouver West” extension were, together, “Phase II” of the Millennium Line. The Millennum Line is technicall “incompete until both are built (so any criticism on the shaping growth function of the Millennium line is not valid because it neither collects riders from its full cathment area, nor delivers them to one of their main destinations (the Broadway corridor office district).

    Assuming the Millennium Line is completed as intended (to Arbutus and to Coquitlam) – where next?

    Build out to UBC to serve riders subsidized by the U-Pass (who really don’t carry the load of providing their service (although it would foster transit use in future generations) plus a small ciommunity of 40,000 plus neighbourhoods that have essentially peaked in terms of population density and are “coping” with rapid bus service…
    Serve the areas where growth is expeted to add hundreds of thousands of residents and are willing to build to a density exceeding the single family domain (even with laneway housing) ?

    In addition – there’s the question – do you build rapid transit to incrementally better the experience of many riders (i.e. save a UBC rider 10 minutes) or do you build it to save somewhat fewer riders (though increasing in number) a significantly better experince (i.e. save a Surrey rider 1 hour) and perhaps take more people off the road. i.e. it is a question of the “haves” clamouring for more versus the “have-nots” just wanting to get to the table?

  • Ron

    Also – it also depends on whether you view transit as a “soial service” or as a “business” (of course its a mix of the two).

    As a social service, you would look to shape growth.
    As a business, you would look to the most profitable (busiest) areas.
    Now, if transit were solely run as a business, you’d have routes placed in respnse to where there is density. If you always followed that pattern, transit growth would be very slow.

    Mind you, if transit lines were concentrated in areas with existing (moderate) density, the pressure to inrease density in those areas would be enormous – and maybe we’d see much much dhigher density closer to the City core – where it should be.

    I was surprised to read in this story:

    that Strasbourg’s tram only extends out 4 km from the city core – but does so in all directions. Imagine if Vancover’s growth were concentrated in an area that small – the transit service would be great!

    Rennes’ center city is less remarkable than Strasbourg’s and the streets below or above which the VAL runs have not been substantially improved. Nevertheless, the large increase in transit use that has been experienced there suggests that it isn’t the tramway per se that makes transit in these cities successful. Rather, it can likely be attributed to the focus of both systems on serving only sections of the region that have adequate density to support heavy investments in rail transit. It may be hard to believe, but the furthest station from downtown Strasbourg on the tram system (Illkirch Lixenbuhl) is less than four miles away as a bird flies from the central station downtown (Homme de Fer). In other words, the region has focused its investments on a dense network with multiple, intersecting lines downtown, rather than a series of long, suburban extensions.*

    Of course, we don’t know what development looks like farther away from Strasbourg’s core.

  • Ron

    Oops, 4 miles, not 4 km.