Mayor Gregor Robertson is on a transit tear these days.
Last Thursday, he and University of B.C. president Stephen Toope joined together to call for a subway linking the Commercial Drive-Broadway transit hub to the university campus.
This wasn’t necessarily news since both of them previously said publicly that a 12-kilometre tunnel needs to be bored under some of the most expensive real estate in the country to move people along the UBC-Broadway corridor.
But last Thursday, their pitch wasn’t so much about moving people as it was about the loss of “economic potential” for the UBC-Broadway corridor, if a subway isn’t built.
More on that in a sec…
If you weren’t among the lucky media types like your correspondent who got to fire questions at Robertson and Toope, don’t worry — this Sunday (March 10), the mayor and his go-to transit councillor, Geoff Meggs, will be selling the subway plan from 2 to 4 p.m. at St. James Community Hall.
If you go, be prepared to be in the company of Vision Vancouver types, since it was the mayor’s party that tweeted out the event Monday morning.
Robertson and Meggs will take questions “so we can begin a dialogue about how to get the provincial and federal governments on board with a Broadway subway.”
In other words, let’s make some noise to convince senior governments — and possibly a private partner — that spending at least $2.8 billion on a subway is a good idea.
Now back to that “economic potential” pitch…
At the press conference, Robertson and Toope touted a new KPMG report, which was coincidentally named, “The UBC-Broadway Corridor — Unlocking the Economic Potential.”
The report identified “two major weaknesses” limiting the “economic potential” of the UBC-Broadway corridor. The weaknesses: a lack of “collaborative approach among stakeholders and the absence of superior transit infrastructure.”
OK, so the first “weakness” is that UBC, the City of Vancouver and the health sciences and tech sectors could be working better together, and a subway would help make that happen.
Toronto’s MaRS district, San Diego’s CONNECT and London’s Tech City are thriving because of effective transit links, according to the report.
To the second “weakness”: Are businesses really lining up at Robertson’s door, saying “If only Vancouver had a subway along the corridor, we’d be setting up shop today.”
I wanted to find out.
So I asked Robertson to give us a sense of how many businesses were telling him they want to set up in the corridor but the lack of a subway has foiled their plans.
His answer: “Space is a challenge here in the core of Vancouver, in the Broadway corridor in particular. So we see a lot of job growth happening on the East Side of the corridor on the False Creek flats, the Broadway Tech Centre —areas that do have better rapid transit service to the rest of the region. What we’re finding is as there’s enormous population growth and pressure on the Broadway corridor, it is more difficult for companies to locate here because of the transit challenges.”
So, no, he didn’t answer my question.
If you’re attending Sunday’s event, maybe ask him again for me. Or if you’re a business owner and the only hurdle keeping you from moving to the corridor is a subway, give me a call.