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

Archive for July 19th, 2012

Airport’s mall plan angers authorities

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The Globe and Mail‘s headline included the words “in Richmond” but the story also notes the dismay of Metro Vancouver

Vancouver International Airport, where politicians and planners are fuming over the airport authority’s plans to partner with London-based McArthurGlen in building a massive luxury outlet mall.

The proposed 460,000-square-foot mall will be three kilometres from the airport terminal, on 22 hectares in the southeast corner of Sea Island, near the bridge that crosses to Richmond’s Lulu Island.

Well, there are two bridges that do that – Dinsmore and No 2 Road

Both of them feed onto Russ Baker Way – and thence to the Arthur Laing Bridge. Thats three lanes of traffic plus the airport’s two which results in congestion and tail backs at peak periods – morning and evening.

Google map of the SE corner of Sea Island

Google map of the SE corner of Sea Island

Richmond is questioning whether the airport has a mandate for a mall – when it is supposed to be running an airport. It seems to me that YVR can legitimately get into retail for airport users and staff – but a “luxury outlet mall” remote from the terminals seems to be stretching that more than a little. Moreover, the airport needs to keep some sense of perspective. The opening of the Canada Line has made a huge difference to mode share at the airport and allowed the authority to make much more profitable use of its limited curb space. But all that depends on the people who do not arrive by train having a reasonable chance of getting to their plane on time. Most mornings, AM730 is going to be reporting the same issue – back ups to 64th Avenue as now. It is in the afternoon that things will get hairy as people trying to get to and from the mall mix with all the other traffic. The AM peak is short and sharp: the evening peak is longer and heavier, and adding shoppers is not join got help anyone – especially those really desirable travellers who have spent a business day in Vancouver and now want to leave on time.

YVR is, of course, completely unaccountable. Its board is appointed, and it reports – after a fashion – to Ottawa. Though for all intents and purposes it can pretty much do as it pleases. This is not winning it many friends. It is also a cash cow for the feds – who get ground rent from it. Quite a bit of attention is now turning to what this does to the famed “competitiveness” of this essentially private sector operation. They are losing local passengers, who are finding fantastic bargains a short drive away at Bellingham. Heck, you can even park at the terminal there for $10 a day for as long as you like (beware the predatory adverts from the park and fly merchants who offer much worse deals). At the same time Calgary is going after the “gateway to Asia” traffic with its own huge expansion.

The only question in my mind is what, if anything can the City of Richmond and Metro actually do about it?

Written by Stephen Rees

July 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm