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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Premier changed his tune on helping merchants hurt by transit construction

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Vancouver Sun Editorial

I have passed along here several times the general complaint of the merchants impacted by Canada Line construction. They have not got anywhere

the response, whether from the province, TransLink or InTransit BC, has been consistent: Each has adamantly denied any responsibility to compensate business owners for their losses.

In the case of “Cambie Village” this is egregious, since the only reason Vancouver accepted light rail along Cambie (home of the “heritage boulevard” a designation invented to frustrate an earlier surface LRT proposal) was Ken Dobell’s solemn promise that it would be in bored tube and thus would have no impact on surface businesses. This promise was forgotten once the P3 was awarded and the In Transit BC consortium came up with a cost saving proposal for cut and cover along Cambie (not something they talked about for downtown either, but once again bored tube only related to running tracks not station boxes – detail, details) . Despite this major change in project scope, nothing was to be allowed to slow the indecent haste of the project’s progress, as it was “essential for the Olympics”. So essential that they don’t work on weekends, or at night. In other cities 24/7 construction schedules for major infrastructure projects are not uncommon. Indeed, with underground projects’ surface impacts, night shift working is often the only way to avoid massive disruption to traffic. The extent that this is avoided in cities like London would probably surprise the merchants of Cambie Village.

But what the Sun’s leader writer has noticed is that there is a precedent.

In 1987, construction on the Expo SkyTrain line extension was creating many of the same negative effects that the Canada Line is creating today. In an effort to seek compensation for declining property values, many homeowners thought of taking legal against against the province.

But ultimately, it was the City of Vancouver that stepped up to the plate, and decided to launch an action against the province. And who was the mayor of Vancouver at the time? Why it was none other than Gordon Campbell.

But Gordon Campbell has shown that he has an infinite capacity for holding two conflicting priorities at the same time. He is after all the man who has adamantly insisted that Highway #1 will be expanded and at the same time that we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Perhaps what is most damning is that the people who think they are represented by the BC Liberal Party and the Vancouver NPA, and who vote for them and provide both monetary and volunteer support are small businesses. A lot of them are shop keepers – or were until the road outside their shops was dug up. Because those two political organizations calculate that they can afford to offend quite a few of these people since they will not likely turn to the NDP or COPE respectively.

And because the BC economy is still seemingly going great guns, the BC Liberals are riding the crest of a wave of electoral invulnerability at present. And Gordo seems set to win a third term even without Carol Taylor. Who might also prove to be a better Mayor of Vancouver than Sam Sullivan – which is not such a high standard, after all.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 30, 2007 at 2:49 pm

Posted in transit

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