Density shouldn’t be Cambie corridor focus, prof says – From the Georgia Straight.



Since the province and BC Transit and TransLink embarked on light-metro only construction in the region 30 years ago, the public have been told over and over again that higher densities were a must. Made redundant industrial lands (made redundant by municipal politicians rezoning land) were rezoned to higher density residential housing along the Expo Line route, compelling light industrial operations to move to Surrey and beyond. This meant, for many moving into the new housing, a car was a must to commute to work as the SkyTrain metro system did not serve the new industrial precincts. With densification car usage tended to increased.

What did happen, of course, were windfall profits for the owners of the lands rezoned.

The Evergreen Line is another example of politicians and municipal planners mania for densification, where the proposed Evergreen Line ia being sold as a  public transit panacea for the massive high density developments taking place, yet many of the commuters in the Tri-Cities are going to where SkyTrain doesn’t. What of course is happening again, is windfall profits for land developers who had low density residential and industrial lands rezoned to much higher value high density condominiums and apartments.

Now its Cambie Street’s turn with the newly opened RAV/Canada line where lower density commercial and industrial properties are being assembled for much higher density use, again making large windfall profits to the owners.

What is very strange, is that the highest residential densities in Canada are located in Vancouver’s West End, which is ill-served by transit and not even even serviced by a metro route.

The question must be asked, especially with the SkyTrain/subway lobby with the now demand for a SkyTrain subway to UBC: “Is the demand for SkyTrain subway to UBC, nothing more than a $4 billion ruse to rezone residential and commercial properties to much higher densities, to create windfall profits for developers?”

Density should’t be Cambie corridor focus, prof says

By Matthew Burrows

A professor with UBC’s centre for human settlements wants to see more public discussion about “the benefits of a more compact urban form” along the Cambie corridor.

“I think we need to get away…[from] just using this word density,” Lawrence Frank told a special meeting of council’s planning and environment committee on January 22. “From a ridership and transportation perspective, density alone does you nothing; it actually can cause you a lot of trouble. So, we need obviously to focus on the complementary land uses.”

Council unanimously approved seven planning principles and an interim rezoning policy for the Cambie corridor. The guiding principles appear to be on the right track, according to Frank. However, he added that he wanted to see “follow-up work done” to bring forward strategies for accommodating “young, middle-aged, and elderly” Vancouverites with varying incomes.

This sentiment was echoed by COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth.

“It’s important that we get affordable housing along the nodes of densification on Cambie Corridor,” Woodsworth told the Straight via cellphone.


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5 Responses to “Density shouldn’t be Cambie corridor focus, prof says – From the Georgia Straight.”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    Land use and transit should always go hand-in-hand. Development pressure can be seen with other modes, like tram-train.

    “The potential for urban regeneration was considerable. Janis cited the town of Bretten in the Karlsruhe region… “The town’s population is up 16 per cent and land values are up 300 per cent,” ”

    Zweisystem replies: I believe the land use and transit issue have been vastly over stated to camouflage land dealings. Public transit is to move people efficiently and affordably, something we don’t do in the region, but we can sure inflate property values. In Bretten, ease of transit use plus an over inflated real-estate market in Germany, increased property values. One wonders how much value the same properties lost in the past year?

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Shouldn’t there be mixed zoning, with higher densities… For example say you have a mall, with 2 say 2 stories of office space above it, with 6 or 8 or some number of residential above that? I guess I’m off the subject of transit here, but we seem to really like building suburbs. People are opposed to tall buildings, so we spread out our footprint further and further… If we built up instead of sideways we would get better use out of a smaller footprint, and people could live closer to where they work and shop.. Instead we keep building sideways, we use massive amounts of land, we build huge infrastructure that needs to be maintained, water mains, electrical, roads, etc. and we can’t afford to build transit to move people so far. But the tall buildings would obstruct their view so they complain. It sure will be a nice view when all you can see anywhere you look is 2 – 4 story buildings covering the entire lower mainland.

  3. Another David Says:

    Interesting observations, although I don’t agree with argument against Cambie densifying. Frankly, there are a lot of forces at work driving up real estate prices. And with limited land space you either densify or your housing prices (albeit with other controls that have been lacking in Vancouver) or you start to see prices exceeding a million dollars in places like East Vancouver (for relatively modest single-family housing). That said, I’ve always wondered why Skytrain (Expo Line) wasn’t extended at Waterfront to do a loop of some sort of loop to Chinatown (closer to the Downtown Eastside than the current Chinatown-Stadium station), through Yaletown back through the West End and ending at Coal Harbour. Considering the density in this area, this has always seemed like a massive oversight. I’m sure there are certain engineering issues they’d need to be careful of, but the ridership would be there. Especially seeing as car ownership/usage in these neighbourhoods is well below the regional average. That said, it would probably be much smarter and more cost effective to go with trams and stop all this Skytrain building.

    Zweisystem replies: At the time of construction, SkyTrain was supposed to be an elevated transit system to mitigate the high costs of subway construction (The Dunsmuir Tunnel was already built and was converted to SkyTrain use. Considering the antipathy to wards elevated transit systems in heavily populated areas, any question of an elevated SkyTrain in Vancouver’s downtown would have been stopped cold in its tracks.

  4. David Says:

    Another David mistakes density for demand. Huge numbers of people living on the downtown peninsula walk to work every day. There is no value whatsoever in converting pedestrians to transit users.

    Waterfront station does need improved train turning facilities if TransLink is going to maintain 108 second headways. Trains pile up there every morning. This morning the train was delayed about a minute. Last week I was on a train that took 5 minutes just to get from the tunnel exit to the platform.

    I’d have the problem solved tomorrow. I’d package up the Mark I vehicles into mostly 6-car trains and increase headways. I can wait another 45 seconds for a train and that time would be more than made up by eliminating the delay heading into Waterfront.

    Zweisystem replies: Two comments: 11) Delays reduce capacity. 2) There has always been a problem operating 6 car Mk.1 trains at close headways. This has been a problem since the system was built and Zwei doesn’t know the answer. I was told some years ago that the SELTrack automatic train control ‘saw’ a 6 car Mk.1 train-set as a 4 car train with a 2 car train following very closely. Two many 6 car trains at close headways caused the computer great worry and it shut down. I just do not know if the problem persists.

  5. David Says:

    I hope the SELtrack system has been fixed.

    Something has to be done about the fact that the time required to reverse a train exceeds peak headway, a problem that will only get worse as average train length grows.

    The issue is somewhat unique to Vancovuer. In most cities the core is somewhere in the middle of the region so routes typically converge and then diverge again, each one terminating in a different location. Here both Expo and Millennium trains terminate in the same place.

    Fortunately there are inexpensive ways to deal with the issue. The cheapest solution is to lengthen both trains and headways as I already proposed. Selective door operation would allow very long trains to operate in the existing stations, but utilization of end cars would be low and thus undesirable. In the long run the problem will return worse than ever, but that’s many years into the future.

    The next cheapest solution would be to take some space from the mostly empty freight yard and move the WCE one track north. SkyTrain could then be extended a few blocks east using single track to an at-grade, single platform station in the alley behind Water street. I’d use the foot of Carrall street for the entrance.

    Waterfront would then have 3 tracks immediately east of the station: the mostly overgrown CPR siding would be electrified to handle M trains to Gastown, the middle track would continue to reverse Expo trains, and the track currently used mostly for storage would have a switch connecting to the Gastown track to handle outbound M line trains. The Gastown station wouldn’t be heavily used, but any additional passengers would be gravy since the main purpose of the extension would be to improve operational efficiency.

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