Complete the Millennium Line


Video from Translink: UBC Line Rapid Transit Study Situation Analysis

This is my latest column from 24 Hours…

There is no bigger political football kicked around by local politicians than where to invest in rapid transit. Just ask the folks waiting for the Evergreen Line to get built.

While the SkyTrain extension to Port Moody seems assured, it’s where the next big rapid transit investment happens that is the subject of speculation.

What any urban planner worth their salt will tell you is that you must first meet existing transportation needs before using transit to “shape” the future of low-density communities. However, influential senior bureaucrats at Metro Vancouver are hinting they favour expansion in Surrey over the comparatively dense Vancouver.

By far, the greatest need to move people in the region currently exists along Broadway from Commercial Drive to the UBC campus. The West Broadway corridor currently generates one-quarter of the City of Vancouver’s economy. Plans to build rapid transit along this route are stuck on the drawing board, while thousands of suburban commuters are stuck queuing up every morning for the bus.

If urban planners made all the decisions it’s possible that shovels would already be in the ground to complete the Millennium Line. However, it’s our political leaders that make the final call on where we invest in rapid transit, and the sphere of influence of the region has moved away from Vancouver to outlying cities.

Since taking office nearly two and a half years ago Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver council have not said a peep about making Broadway rapid transit a priority. Meanwhile, in Surrey, you can hardly stop Mayor Dianne Watts from cheering on more rapid transit in her city.

Continuing the Millennium Line out to UBC was a political promise made by our former Premier, Gordon Campbell. Ever the policy wonk, Campbell understood that UBC had become a vital economic engine for the province. Moving tens of thousands of students and employees on and off campus daily is critical to its success.

Campbell is now gone, and so is the influence Vancouver once had at the Cabinet table. When Premier Christy Clark formed government, Vancouver went from five ministers to one, yet Surrey remained well represented by several MLAs holding senior portfolios.

Over on the B.C. NDP side, none of the five candidates for premier has thus far described his plan for rapid transit. Not even Adrian Dix, an east Vancouver MLA.

With Vancouver’s mayor silent, the government MLAs less influential, and the suburb’s star rising, the writing may be on the wall. TransLink can consult with citizens and businesses in the Broadway corridor all it wants, but the political will to extend rapid transit along Broadway out to UBC has, for now, evaporated.

However, the hundreds of transit riders queued at Broadway and Commercial shouldn’t despair. Soon, the biggest decision maker of them all, B.C.’s new premier, will be elected to a Vancouver riding.

Let’s hope Christy Clark makes completing the Millennium Line as part of her mandate.

– post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen and @24HoursVan on Twitter.

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  • chris (one of many)

    Do NOT agree with this post.
    The Evergreen line must be built.
    The Broadway corridor line is a smoke screen for higher density along Broadway.
    How many developers have bought property along the Broadway corridor?
    Just waiting,just waiting.
    I hear that that the stretch of properties along the 3600 Block West Broadway are coming down soon.
    Retail on main level, apartments above.
    I love how U.B.C. students drive into the west side and then get on the bus and proclaim that they are taking rapid transit.
    This group is NOT going to go onto rapid transit in another city.

  • politics101

    Where in the article does it say the Evergreen Line won`t be built – it will be built – the article is asking where to we go after the Evergreen – to UBC or Langley/South side of the Fraser.

  • Steven Forth

    Great post. I would add that there will be many knowledge business spin offs by better connecting SFU and UBC to each other and with the New Media campus, ECUAD (an institution critical to Vancouver’s economic future) and to the city itself. Virtual connections are great, but opportunities to meet in person and to spark ideas are equally important. And (chris (one of many)) as a person who lives along the Broadway Corridor I would love to see density go up 3X to 5X. Increases in density srive better shopping, restauarants, can provide more varied housing options, and I am hoping we can see some art galleries move into the area.

  • yuri

    I live in port moody and gotta say although the evergreen line will be built I am not sold on it. Port moody people are well served by westcoast express and we could use better bus service. To me the line going through port moody doesn’t make sense even though it will help my property value. Port Moody’s biggest need right now is completion of the murray clarke connector and when it comes to evergreen Moody council is still agruing with translink over how many stations to build. Also this line will be built at grade so I can’t figure out the 20 million dollar price tag per station. A run along lougheed through coquitlam and poco make more sense as it will service a commercial area around united blvd.also no tunneling would be required. As for millineum line well I think vancouver has gotten their fare share for now. The line would be a success but I suggest vancouver taxpayers should pay a unbablanced portion of the cost of this one.

  • Sharon

    more art galleries? there are about 20 galleries within walking distance of Broadway and Granville.
    The will never be in a position to afford new reality rents once density becomes part of the conversation. That will be true of much of the current retail as well.
    The province, BC assessment and the city will need to handle this very carefully to ensure all these great ideas do not wipe out the existing retail mix we currently enjoy.
    Cambie is gearing up for Disaster Round 2 as a result of the zoning potential.

  • Max

    The sad thing about the 3600 block of West Broadway, the old Hollywood Theatre is on the chopping block.
    It has been there for 75 years and will be taken down so we can have some shiny new buildings.

  • Max

    The West Coast Express is fine for traveling to and from work, but that is it.
    The service is limited.
    If they ran the train more frequently throughout the day and evening, as well as weekends, it would make a difference.

  • Sharon

    This is serious stuff. Let’s face it, some of our retail space along Broadway is getting to the end of its life. In some cases, the adjacent buildings are holding each other up. I can accept revitalization one property at a time so the evolution of a neighbourhood can retain some authenticity. It is the wholesale renovation of entire blocks that trouble me.
    The South Granville BIA is fighting for dear life to try and coach the area through revitalization with an eye of the integrity of the neighbourhood… and we don’t have density pressure. It is going to be tough for Broadway, just like it is going to be tough for Cambie, Marpole and Norquay.
    Perhaps the Hollywood Theatre can be re-purposed? When you start singing the density song and the market starts speculating about values, the owners of some of these properties will be hard pressed to not grab the money and run. Can you really blame them? In many cases it is their pension plan!
    What strikes fear into my heart is the impact on existing retail tenants when such conversations start to swirl.
    Serious, serious thought must be put into the transition of these properties and the protection of existing lease-holders and that needs to start NOW.

  • Max

    The article on the Hollywood Theatre closing ran in the March 26 issue of the Van. Sun. (as well as 3 or 4 other second run threatres.)
    http://www.vancouversun.com/Hollywood+Theatre+faces+final+curtain/4509142/story.html

  • chris (one of many)

    The Hollywood is in the 3100 Block West Broadway.
    That is another block that appears to be slated for redevelopment
    The 3600 Block is right near Alma.
    Some of the tenants have been saying that the block is going.
    Everything ends up looking the same when there is a wholesale redevelopment.
    Not much difference from one building to another.

  • Sharon

    And where would the rapid transit station go? And so it begins.

  • politics101

    Sharon – you seem to have some real concerns and valid points about the Broadway line – make sure you attend the meetings – at this time they are gathering information so your input could matter.

  • Max

    West 4th is a good example of that.
    At one point, there were neat little one of a kind shops and eateries.
    Now, it all yoga, babies and sushi places.
    The leases are raised so high, nothing but chain shops can afford them. The little guys are pushed out.
    And the charm of the area is lost.

  • George

    Two years ago there was talk that one of the stations would be at the corner of Broadway and Kingsway..
    This was before the mysterious fire….then suddenly after the fire a proposal for the 26 story condo tower came into play.

  • Max

    Sharon, oddly enough about a month or so ago, I was shopping on West Broadway and right around the area where the theatre sits, they had a car counter stretched across the road.
    I was curious as to why.

  • Sharon

    Ironically, the biggest problem with all of this is not the change in value… it is what happens to property taxes as a result and how that impacts the current user – usually a small tenant with a multi-year lease.
    Case in point:
    Cambie next to King Edward Station, a property was recently listed at $14.7 million. The 2010 assessment is only $4.5 million. Current taxes are 83,863.35 ($229.76 a day). IF the property sells, the current tenant is trapped by a lease and will get hit with a $273,953.61 tax bill even though absolutely nothing has changed with its current use. $750 a day folks! They have to come up with $750 a day before they even turn the lights on.
    The reality is that as long as tax rates for class 6 properties remain many times the rate of residential property taxes, businesses are at risk, especially in areas of transition. And the current practice of averaging the taxes for the entire class is not the answer.

  • Sharon

    sorry, hit submit too fast.
    As neighbourhoods evolve, one either moves forwards or backwards. Is the new tenant stronger and more viable than the previous tenant? If so, you can hope that your area is on the upswing… and isn’t that was we all want? As much as I hate to say goodbye to businesses, there is no lifetime warranty on retail.
    Once given a fair and equitable tax system along with protective planning, the business community must be allowed to live or fail at their own hands. If that means the waterbed store does not make it because it forgot to look at the trends, I am sorry…there is no real solution or forgiveness for stupidity. However, when time and time again you see well run businesses get trapped in scenarios not of their own making, something has to be done.
    The Vancouver Fair Tax Coalition (of which I am a part) is desperately trying to get action from BC Assessment, the Province and the City on this issue. We can use all the help we can get.

  • chris (one of many)

    The rapid transit station at Broadway and Alma will probably go into what is now a mini-mall (where all the tenants are on a month to month lease.)
    It has already begun.

  • Max

    All the way from MacDonald to Alma are small shops.
    Shops that have been there for decades.
    I would hate to see them negatively impacted.

  • boohoo

    I love all the conspiracy theory speculation going on here. I think we can ratchet it up a notch though, don’t disappoint me now!
    As for the transit, any government that could see past its narrow little term in office would realize and pay for transit to and through Surrey, UBC, Coquitlam, etc. Unfortunately, we’re getting a few shiny new multi-billion dollar highways in the suburbs (and now claims that there’s no money! ha!). No public consultation, environmental destruction, expropriations, businesses going under, arrogant politicians–this one had it all! But no one gives a damn cause it’s east of Boundary.

  • chris (one of many)

    At the risk of sounding like a totally (lost in the past) individual.
    A few years ago I was in Napier(New Zealand).
    A town that after a major earthquake had to rebuild.
    They did it in the Art Deco style of the time. The 1930’s
    It’s now a major tourist destination.
    Maybe Broadway is a left over from the past.
    The real question is:
    Is the past all bad?

  • Sharon

    boohoo, I fail to see your point or what sort of conspiracy theory you have in mind.
    We are calmly discussing the effects of the planning process on the real estate market and how it impacts neighbourhoods. The principles apply east or west of Boundary, they currently occur regardless of which government is in office and the consequences remain the same regardless of how you voted.

  • boohoo

    I don’t have a conspiracy theory in mind, there’s just a lot of ‘I hear that…’ and ‘the mysterious fire’ etc…
    I agree about the planning process and the impacts on property. Nothing will have more impact on Metro Vancouver for the next 50 years than the craze for highways taking place–but it’s never even discussed.

  • Sharon

    alot? I saw it once and nobody wanted to touch it with a 10 foot pole.
    we are not talking highways because this post is about transit, density and rezoning. That is more than enough for impact.

  • boohoo

    “we are not talking highways because this post is about transit, density and rezoning. That is more than enough for impact.”
    ughh..and this is exactly why we get shitty patchwork planning.
    Highways are integral to this discussion!–you can’t talk about a transit system or densities in Vancouver and ignore the growing road infrastructure in the suburbs. It’s a network, an integrated system in a complex regional metropolis…seeing skytrain or Vancouver or the highway expansion as isolated issues gets us nowhere fast.

  • George

    Boohoo
    it was me that mentioned the mysterious fire at Kingsway and Broadway…
    I don’t feel that my statement was a conspiracy theory…statement of fact.
    Fires with suspicious causes…
    In a six week period 3 unresolved fires happened on valuable real estate…in an area that is now set for massive redevelopment.
    Fact or fiction?
    A cause for none of these fires have been found. where is the conspiracy? Did I miss something?

  • Sharon

    I highly doubt that there will be a highway built anywhere near the Broadway corridor so why not save that debate for another day. If we aways fly at 30,000 feet, we miss the details. In this case, the details are rather significant.

  • david hadaway

    @ George
    Much as occurred in the centre of North Vancouver a few years back.

  • boohoo

    Out of sight, out of mind Sharon?
    Too bad the real word doesn’t work that way.

  • George

    david hadaway
    I wasn’t aware of the North Vancouver situation…which area?
    In the Main Kingsway corridor, it has been since the Parker mattress factory fire a number of years back where Waves coffee shop now sits…
    Coincidentally all fires have been reported as suspicious and undetermined cause..

  • Glissando Remmy

    The Thought of The Evening
    “When too many seniors from any of the many ‘Assisted Paradise Living, Healthy Sunnyvale Nursing and Joyous Retirement Communities’ die from ‘unknown causes’, they call it the ‘Angel of Death’ syndrome a.k.a.’the result of advanced age, a lower than average monthly dues as a result of longer than average tenancy, and a dire need for more space at newer, more enhanced and higher rates’. Same here,in the ‘Best Place on Earth’. Only with bricks and mortar.”
    I am asking you this ‘Do you think that the Little Mountain Coop Fire from a year or so ago was accidental? I think not. As long as you don’t believe in coincidences you’ll be fine.
    Costs for investigating these fires are supported by…taxpayers, in the cases where the properties were not insured, abandoned, etc. so the interest in getting to the bottom of it is relatively low.
    Developers, shrewd property owners and their stockholders are usually the ones that benefit. Not communities, neighbourhoods or tax payers.
    Jacking up the rents and forcing people out through ‘Renovictions’; tearing down of ‘the dying breed of affordable housing’ and back-room cutting of non-bonding deals between government agencies and shaky developers; turning a blind eye to suspect fires that just happen to clear the path for rezoning and redevelopment on a ‘key site’, is only a different interpretation of The New Environment Act for ‘City Greening 2020’ chapter 69 – ‘Burning of Building Crop Residue and Non-building Crop Heritage Regulation’
    Again, I don’t believe in coincidences.
    Think nothing of it though.
    Burning crops, is an antic farming procedure for clearing out land for new crops, and for enriching the soil with nutrients. As per above, same here, only with bricks and mortar.
    NOTE TO READER
    If you live near a building that looks in disrepair, but in a good location with good potential for redevelopment at several times your FSR, here’s what you need to do:
    – put your 911 on your speed dial;
    – invest in a few fire extinguishers; – sleep less and/or light;
    – move away if you can’t take the stress
    – if you can’t move away, buy the damn property…and only then burn it down yourself! But please, don’t quote me on this. 🙂
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • George

    Glissando,
    Exactly !!

  • George

    Little Mountain Coop November 11 2009
    Main at Broadway November 12 2009
    Broadway at Kingsway December 24 2009
    all reported suspicious and cause unknown…

  • Max

    Off the track a bit:
    Did anyone see the Global report on the container housing that is being planned for an empty lot location in the DTES?
    One of the housing groups is behind this (and I am sorry, but I can’t remember their name.) It will be used to house homeless women. The mock-up of the building looked great.
    12 units along with other amenities.
    Cost per unit – $85,0000, completed.
    If they get the go ahead from council (Jang made the comment about making sure this structure fits the neighborhood…) it will be completed by September.

  • david hadaway

    George, I was speaking from memory of the late 90s / early 00s when a number of inconvenient historic structures caught fire, I proposed arson as the ‘Occam’s razor’ explanation, a friend said ‘it’s not like that here’.
    The only one I remember specifically is the Aberdeen Block, the exterior of which fortunately survived.

  • Bill McCreery

    Max, the container housing is a good idea for a number of reasons. But, I don’t share your appreciation of their appearance. I hope the design panel review process will force the proponents to do some more work. They can be made more attractive. Aside form the visual assault on our individual senses, it is important that these ‘homes’ blend in as much as possible so that their occupants have a comfort level of normalcy in that part of their lives.
    The cost is also not that cheap. $85,000 / 320 sf = $266/sf net. Since either container or wood frame boxes can be designed to move, there is no advantage there either. You can do traditional wood frame for that. I would like to know more about the costs and benefits of this idea before opining further.

  • John

    5 stars. That is all.

  • Nicola

    Excellent points Glissando Remy!I like your ironic…’Assisted Paradise Living, Healthy Sunnyvale Nursing and Joyous Retirement Communities’ as I am one of those seniors living from day to day.
    God bless you. The cause it’s not all lost when we have people who think for themselves instead of repeating and mouthing out loud what they read in the useless familiar Media . George and ChriS and David I do share your way of thinking too. Thanks. Now… who is going to do something about it? No, really.

  • Max

    @Bill:
    According to an article that ran in the April 2, Province, the city is also experimenting with container housing at an undisclosed location. (see below).
    This is up and above the 12 units being slated for building in the 100 block of Jackson Ave. And actually, I thought the design was not bad, very artist loft like and somewhat similar to pre-fabbed units stacked on West 4th Ave. They are 320 sq/feet which is larger than the units of the refurbised Pennsylvania Hotel – they were 250 sq/feet and cost an average of $320K per unit. $85K/unit is a steal by comparison. And, it gets 12 women off the streets.
    ****
    ‘Shipping containers pitched as cheap housing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside’
    …..’ Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, a UBC psychiatry professor who has long advocated for modular housing, says the idea could be a low-cost solution to a long-term problem.
    “I’m really excited. We want to do something which anybody would be proud to live in,” he says.
    “But they really have to be livable. They can’t be stacked boxes for poor people. People have to accept them,” he says.
    Manufacturers are telling him that purpose-built units can be run off on industrial-scale production lines with provisions for things like waste, water and electricity.
    But council wants to examine the concept with a test site for multiple units at an undisclosed location.
    Jang says a request for proposals will be issued to manufacturers in the next few weeks. If the plan proceeds, he says there would be a public hearing to provide input.’

  • Bill McCreery

    Max you are right in the context that the article is speaking, the product is inexpensive. But, if you add in the land cost @ +30% of total + soft cost @ +15%, + 15% profit for a developer or equivalent higher overall costs for a government or non-profit, you get an end product no different in cost than a traditionally built unit.
    I am not yet convinced that putting single parent families into 320 sf tin boxes for more than a few weeks is going to be helpful to them. I designed a secondary care facility of battered families in Calgary which housed families who needed longer term assistance. Ie: a similar clientele in terms of living requirements. The units were 800 sf to 1050 sf + large balconies, not 320 sf hotel room bachelor suites. Imagine a family of 4 watching TV, doing homework, changing nappies, eating, sleeping and cleaning in a 10′ x 30′ space.
    This looks like another ill conceived and not thought through Vision attempt to get some media attention in this election year. My job, in part, is to identify and critique such misguided attempts to deceive voters into thinking Vision is actually doing any thing useful. They are not IMO.

  • douglas

    Mr McCreery – I respect where you are coming from with your comments, but believe there is still some positives to be said for the container housing movement (all politics aside). There are advantages to using what is highly movable, prefab and already there to ‘stem the bleeding’ as it were.
    It may not be a good long-term solution for a family (agreed) but it may provide dignified housing for those single individuals or couples in crisis now, and it looks from this Japanese effort as though $85 000/unit could actually be a high cost estimate.
    Here is a link to some container housing being promoted for temporary shelter in Japan – a good cause and a good idea.
    http://exc.ysmr.com/top_e/