Stephen Rees's blog

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

The Choice in Vancouver

with 7 comments

Don B wrote

Would you consider doing a post on the NPA/Vision policy platforms wrt transportation? I know you live in Richmond but it would be great to hear your opinion on these concrete proposals that deal with the issues you write about.

So I went to and downloaded the “NPA Action Plan” which contains the following

• Work with the provincial government, the federal government and TransLink to secure funding for the Broadway-UBC rapid transit line.

I have written often about this proposal – and it has been the subject of much debate int he comments section.  I can understand why the City would regard this as a priority – I just do not think it should be a regional priority. It is about time that rapid transit provision reached beyond the Burrard Peninsular. Coquitlam and Surrey should be the next two priorities for majort investment, not Vancouver. The City can however, on its own, do a lot to facilitate better transit and bus lanes on Braodway woudl be a great start – but the NPA has no intention of doing that.

• Work with TransLink and the provincial government to implement a public bike-sharing system in

Again, the City could do this on its own. In Paris the whole velib scheme is funded by J C Decaux out of billboard revenues – but of course Vancouver hates billboards. The invovement of outside agencies just gives the NPA an excsue for not moving faster.

and also

• We will continue lowering parking requirements in new housing developments to foster sustainability and encourage housing affordability.
• We will investigate the feasibility of redeveloping surface parking in existing multi-family residential zones to provide for the development of purpose-built market rental housing.
• We will investigate using City parking and parking revenues to fund the development of non-market housing for those in need.
• We will relax regulations for secondary suites

all of which are good things but should have been happening mush faster. The NPA, of course, is very careful to protect its voter base which is small c  conservative and fundamentally opposed to much change in existing neighbourhoods

• We will explore options for closing streets for pedestrian-only use, based on experience during the 2010 Games.

Street closures do not need to wait for 2010 either. They are either part fo the philosophy of cities for people or oipposed becuase the city is for cars. The latter is the reality that the NPA has protected – not least by its shameful record on Burrard Bridge. They did keep Granville Mall, but they really dropped the ball on Cambie Street – and lost any credibilty on reducing car movemnet space as a result.

• We will ensure that the Broadway-UBC rapid transit line remains a priority for TransLink and the provincial government.

erm , excuse me, but you already said that a few pages back

• We will lead local neighbourhood planning that extends the best practices and legacies of the
planning for Vancouver’s dense downtown with its high levels of walking, cycling and transit use to manage change in a way that improves quality of life in our neighbourhoods.
• We will implement a public bike-sharing system in collaboration with TransLink.
• We will expand the City’s bike routes and lanes with an increased emphasis on safety for cyclists.

The province has been dropped from public bike sharing in the second time it is mentioned – and is that thord point a tacit acknowldegement that there has not been enough attention paids to saftey for cyclcist in the past?

So over to Vision’s website where I tried to find a link to a platform document comparable to the NPA’s pdf and couldn’t. The “policies and issues” section seems to be a long list of things they voted against in the last term – and the news section has press releases on different subjects including a commitment to $1.5m in spending on bike lanes – I am not sure of they mean $1.5m more – or if it is an increase on what is currently being spent.  They want a new pedestrian bridge across False Creek – which of course is not needed if you bite the bullet and take two lanes away from cars on Burrard Bridge. Again I am on record as supporting this plan as the traffic on the bridge simply does not need three lanes each way – the intersections at each end determine that the flow is always going to be less than the need for three lanes.

Now as it happens I woudl not recommend voting for anyone based solely on a platform. The last time I did that when as a neophyte Canadian voter I read all three party platforms, and decided that Jean Chretien’s Red Book looked the best. How wrong I was to trust that man. Neither should you vote on the basis of transport policy alone – even if it is better integrated with land use.

Despite its name, the NPA is about as partisan as it gets. If you do one of those tests (there are several on the internet) and find yourself on the right side of the spectrum, than NPA will be a comfortable home for you. Gordon Price (who is no longer in this racket) and Peter Ladner are at the progressive end of the spectrum – and more than one commentator has pointed out how close Robertson and Lander are in reality. But the NPA owes its large and well funded support to the business as usual crowd.

Vision is, or should be, a bit more left leaning but without the “loony lefties” of COPE. Of which I suppose I must probably count myself even though I would never join any political party that had people like me as a member.

The choice I am afraid in Vancouver is not much. Personally I would like to see some real change in Vancouver – but without silly notions like another pedestrian bridge across a body of water that has plenty of fixed crossing capacity and delightful little ferry boats too. Vancouver’s greatest sin is insufferable smugness. It greatest issue is not transportation but homelessness and the open sore of the downtown eastside. And I blame city politics for both of those – although of course the province and the cannot be given any sort of credit there either. So a plague on both your parties I say.

And what happened to the downtown streetcar – is the NPA dropping that?

If anyone has the Vision or COPE plaforms handy please comment and provide a link

I was going to put a poll in here but there is a gremlin in WP right now. I will try again later

Written by Stephen Rees

October 30, 2008 at 11:50 am

Posted in politics

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7 Responses

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  1. Vision’s platform can be found at
    In brief: trial use of one lane on the Burrard Bridge for bikes and blades, with reversible traffic lanes. Support SkyTrain to UBC, as they did in 2005. Velib. Traffic priority for buses. More cycling infrastructure (like every other Vancouver party…)

    The COPE platform that’s been released so far is at and contains a lot of griping about fares, and promises the city can’t deliver. Fareless Downtown/Central Broadway loop. Cheap passes for all seniors. U-Pass for all students, and more buses. Obligatory dissing of RAV. Take one lane from the Burrard Bridge. Usual nods to cycling.

    Ian King

    October 30, 2008 at 12:26 pm

  2. Thank you Ian

    The Vision Platform is obviously different from the “Action Plan” I was using and I had not been to the COPE web page as they are not running a full slate

    I do not have time right now to do any analysis as I am off the Victoria, but I will take a look at both documents when I get back. That should not, of course, preclude further debate here

    Stephen Rees

    October 30, 2008 at 1:07 pm

  3. The Vision platform includes the conversion of one lane of car traffic on the Burrard Bridge to bikes, a far cheaper proposal than the NPA’s previous proposal to build $65 million outrigger sidewalks resulting in the ruination of the bridge’s Class A heritage architecture. There was a lot of discussion here several months back on how the bike conversion could be done.

    Regarding converting asphalt to pedestrian space, there was a fascinating article by Chris Turner published in the Globe and Mail recently (link below) on this topic, notably on Jan Gehl’s current efforts, and the success of the kilometres-long Stroget in Copenhagen. If you Google Image “Stroget” you’ll see photos of this very unique pedestrian street, which is actually four streets joined together.

    Chris Turner is the author of “The Geography of Hope”, a rather chatty and journalistic (but relevant)tour of sustainable communities and efforts all over the world.


    October 30, 2008 at 4:36 pm

  4. “Vancouver’s greatest sin is insufferable smugness. It greatest issue is not transportation but homelessness and the open sore of the downtown eastside. And I blame city politics for both of those …. a plague on both your parties I say.”

    I think your comments on the downtown eastside and Vancouver are patently unfair and offensive in their glibness.

    The DTES is the region’s problem, not just Vancouver’s. The walking undead dwelling there didn’t just magically appear out of the mist, they came from somewhere, like Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey, Tsawwassen, the North Shore, the Valley, the North Coast, the Island, the prairies and TO. Very few come from Vancouver.

    Furthermore, most of the local communities — notably Richmond — allow NIMBYists to control the leadership and absolutely refuse to deal with their own addicted sons and daughters. Therein, these towns reject treatment centres. That to me is a sign of true “insufferable smugness”, of someone saying their community is better than Vancouver, and let Vancouver rot.

    Well, Vancouver, to its huge credit, faced down the NIMBYs and built a treatment centre that actually did not experience any of the problems forecast by the small coterie of Fraser St NIMBYists. Vancouver is also addressing other urban challenges, like density, with better planning and community consultation processes and more courage than any other community in North America, except Portland.

    Further, Vancouver has acted with historic courageousness, intelligence and independence by accepting so many challenges imposed only by the pressure from other towns, among them freeway rejection in the face of mass suburban commuting, and the absorption of so many social problems that originated elsewhere. Moreover, it is not “insufferable smugness” that subjects Vancouver to the impact of the irresponsible lack of help from senior governments.

    “Insufferably smug” leaders as Phillip Owen (NPA), Larry Campbell (COPE/Vision) together developed and implemented the Four Pillars approach to addiction, the only such approach on the continent outside of the discredited War on Drugs box, albit with needed further work. Saving the Woodward’s site with a very unique consensus building multi-level negotiation was possible only with the huge effort led by Jim Green (COPE/Vision), whose personal history, sense of social justice and decades of experience on the DTES is any but insufferably smug. I have not seen the kind of leadership demonstrated by these individuals anywhere else.

    I would hope your comments were the product of typing before thinking, or perhaps a lack of coffee. But I resent that I have to take time out my working day to knock down an insufferably smug commentary that succeeds only in reinforcing myths.


    October 31, 2008 at 11:55 am

  5. My guess is that the City of Vancouver buys into the “materialism” of having to be the best or look the best, and there seems to be a lot of spending to do so.

    There have been articles in the papers (Vancouver Sun?) commenting on the City of Vancouver needing to reign in its spending.

    Apart from the Burrard Bridge bike lane issue (and I agree that removing one (not two) lane is a reasonable cost-effective solution), other spending sprees that I see are the revitalization/redevelopment of Granville Street (at a time when the street is coming back to life on its own) and the revitalization/redevelopment of Pacific Boulevard (at a time when the oak trees lining the street are forming nice crowns, just in time to be replaced with “more suitable” species). The latest is the City’s project to redesign the Cambie St. landscaping at City Hall.

    Ron C.

    October 31, 2008 at 1:44 pm

  6. These examples do not add up to “overspending.” Vancouver has an inordinant number of larger-than-life challenges that most other cities in the region do not have.


    October 31, 2008 at 2:41 pm

  7. Remove two lanes on Burrard – there is no need for three general purpose lanbes in either direction

    Me offensive, glib? And “walking undead” isn’t either I suppose

    Neither Phillip Owen (NPA) or Larry Campbell (COPE/Vision) are running this time – and in any event the problem did not get much better during the term of either of them. This morning’s Sun does delve a bit further into the differences between the parties on housing policy, but none seems really determined to do very much. Certainly the idea that one of the richest cities in the world (with of course its very own charter which no other BC city has) actually do something that might require its wealthy citizens to dig into their own pockets occurs anywhere in the discussion.

    As usual the only people who are trying to do something are in various NGOs – many of which are now struggling for funds as charity is the first thing that dries up when the indexes turn down.

    The DTES cannot, I agree, be looked at as those it was somehow separate from the federal withdrawal from housing provision and the closure of mental hospital beds by the province using the fictional “care in the cimmunity” rubric. Obviously homelessness is a housing issue first and foremost – and that is one that no level of government is willing to tackle effectively.

    The measure of a society is the extent of the protection it provides to its most vulnerable citizens. Vancouver collectively likes to be thought of as one of the best cities in the world to live in, enjoys the endorsement of all sorts of experts who come here to tell us how well we are doing compared to most US cities. The City seems to care a great deal more about the athletes who will come here for a couple of weeks – and the prospects of significant income too – but actually does very little for its own most needy residents.

    And really I cannot believe that you are suggesting we all have to carry internal passports so that the municipalities can return people to their “home city” if they become needy when on their doorstep. Indeed come to that very few Vancouver residents at any level of income “come from Vancouver” – whatever that is supposed to mean. We are all immigrants – and that could probably apply to First Nations too if some theories of migration are accepted (they, of course, don’t). Human beings have wandered the face of the earth ever since the discovery of fire allowed our ancestors to leave Africa.

    And no one requires you to take time out of your working day to comment here. That is your choice. I resent that you set yourself up to be my editor, and I reserve my right to write what I choose on my blog.

    Stephen Rees

    November 1, 2008 at 11:15 am

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