Stephen Rees's blog

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

Port Metro Vancouver steams ahead

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Globe and Mail

This story appears in the paper’s real estate section – and shows how the region’s land use strategy is being ripped apart by the port. The people who run the new combined port do not report to anyone. Like the airport they are a publicly created agency but there is absolutely no oversight or control by any level of government. While nominally federal, the government of Canada now takes little interest in their activities, and there is absolutely no local or regional input. Metro has expressed its concern about the Port buying up agricultural land in Richmond, but it might just as well have saved its breath. Expansion is going ahead – even though there is currently no need for any expansion – traffic is down – but the port is confident it will recover.

It does not matter if the people of this region decide that they want to live in a place that has long term sustainability – or even livability. Because the port has decided that its interest is best served by expansion and they will do that no matter what. The tail is now wagging the dog – because both the PM and the provincial Premier have bought into the notion that the port will lead economic growth.

No one at the port (or either level of government it seems) is able to grasp the reality that continued economic growth cannot be pursued indefinitely on a finite planet. That the present economic dislocation is not simply a temporary set back in a trajectory of expansion – but a result of the fundamental flaws  of recent economic and political strategies. Capitalism has failed as badly as communism. The earth cannot support the way the rich countries now live – and which the developing countries wish to emulate. The carrying capacity in many important respects has already been exceeded. The temperature of the planet is increasing – and doing so more rapidly than anyone cared to acknowledge until recently. The growth that we have seen was predicated on lots of cheap oil – and we no longer have that. We are rapidly running out of fish – and a lot humans depend on fish for their diets. There is a serious crisis in the supply of drinkable water. Droughts threaten many of the places that we depend on for agriculture – as do rising sea levels.

But none of this bothers the port. As far as they are concerned “There’s just one hitch.”

Regionally, a study for the province last year found that 2,700 acres of land are required to support port capacity over the next 20 to 25 years. These sites have to be large enough to handle traffic volumes, have adequate servicing and be close to transportation infrastructure – both highways and airports.

“There’s probably only approximately 600 acres of suitable industrial land,” Mr. Winkler said. To protect its interests, the port has started buying up available properties.

What the Gateway program did was distort our transportation priorities. Now the land use priorities will be distorted too. Forget whatever we may have decided regionally or locally – the port has enough resources and no need to defer to any level of local government. Even if it is completely wrong and traffic levels do not start to climb again – which does not seem to be a possibility that they have even taken into consideration.  And cannot be required to.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 8, 2009 at 10:42 am

Posted in port expansion

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