City council approved an ambitious transportation plan Wednesday but its goals of having two-thirds of all trips in Vancouver done by foot, bike or transit by 2040 will be derailed if a subway is not built along the Broadway corridor.
That was the warning from Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s director of transportation, who said the operation of an underground rapid transit system from Broadway and Commercial to at least Arbutus is crucial to the 2040 transportation plan’s success.
“We cannot reach our goals without rapid transit through central Broadway,” Dobrovolny told reporters after council passed the plan. “The region can’t meet its goals without rapid transit through central Broadway, we can’t meet the provincial goals without rapid transit through central Broadway.”
A rapid transit system along Broadway to the University of B.C. could cost up to $3 billion, according to provincial government estimates. Council’s push for such a system comes one month after TransLink released its dire 2013 Base Plan and Outlook.
TransLink’s plan showed the agency expects $472 million less than forecast in revenue over the next three years, mostly because of lower fuel tax and transit revenues. That means fewer dollars for future investments in transit, road, bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
Dobrovolny noted when the Evergreen Line from Coquitlam is completed in the summer of 2016, the Broadway and Commercial transit hub will see an increase of 25 per cent more transit users. Already, he said, some transit users at the hub have to let five buses go by before boarding.
The need for a subway and improved transit will reach a crisis when an already clogged system is coupled with the construction of five-million square feet of new job space via commercial developments around transit hubs.
More offices mean more workers but Dobrovolny said the city has run out of road space for more cars. That is why, he said, the push is on growing the number of trips by foot, bike or transit. When asked by a reporter why the city doesn’t have a “plan B” to be put into action if a subway isn’t built along Broadway, Dobrovolny replied: “I’d ask you what ‘plan B’ would be? Freeways? Elevated roads? There is no ‘plan B.’”
The city’s transportation plan, however, does mention the idea of having developers help pay for transit improvements. Developers already pay what are called community amenity contributions that go towards building such additions as community and childcare centres in a neighbourhood.
Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs said it was important for council to consider all possible means to fund an expansion of transit. But, he added, that’s not to say he would want to see transit funding from developers replace the construction of other community amenities.
“These are tools that this council or a future council can put on the table in terms of making sure that the financial investment is appropriate and that the upside that comes with more transit investment flows a bit back into the investment,” Meggs told council.
City manager Penny Ballem is a member of a committee appointed by the regional mayors’ council to look at funding mechanisms for TransLink. She said many cities in the world are considering development-related funding for transit.
“This is one of a number of options—it’s certainly something the city has control over in terms of looking at and it’s obviously something that council would need to agree on and process,” Ballem said. “But it is a very fundamental piece that every big city that’s looking at funding rapid transit is either considering or putting in place.”