Attended my first campaign news conference of September on Wednesday.
It was held at the VCC-Clark SkyTrain station.
The featured speaker was Ian Campbell, Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate. He had nine Vision candidates with him serving as his backdrop. The topic: the Broadway subway.
Not only does Campbell and his Vision team support a subway line from the VCC-Clark station to Arbutus, but he also thinks extending it to the University of B.C. is a good idea. It’s not, as many of you are aware, an original idea or wish.
Mayor Gregor Robertson, who has led Vision since 2008, has talked ad nauseam about this very idea for several years, with the best evidence of his support coming in March 2013 when he stood on a riser with then-UBC prez Stephen Toope and outlined the benefits of a subway.
To make his argument, Robertson touted what was then a new KPMG report that provided details on how the city could “unlock the economic potential” of the Broadway corridor. It was a very detailed and interesting report.
So I’m not sure what Campbell was on about at his newser when he promised to “immediately initiate a third-party economic impact study of building the subway all the way out to UBC.” It would seem to me the info in the 2013 report is still relevant today.
Campbell also wants to extend the city’s Broadway corridor planning process, which is already underway, to include the extension to UBC. Again, not an original idea and one Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s chief engineer, is fully behind.
Dobrovolny told me as much in November 2012.
“Our feeling is a subway all the way to UBC is the best approach,” he said at the time, noting buses on the route are over capacity and adopting a light-rail system would mean an overhaul of the Broadway corridor.
Council, by the way, is on record of opposing a cut-and-cover approach to construction of a subway and been on record since the year 2000 as supporting a “SkyTrain tunnel” at least to Arbutus, which is the line that governments reiterated their financial support for in a news conference in Surrey Sept. 4.
One of the questions I asked Campbell at the newser was what was new about his announcement since Robertson has for several years been the biggest booster of a subway that runs to UBC. This was Campbell’s answer:
“What’s important is that we see the congestion every day, and that we cannot stop with a project that only goes half way. This will not solve the long term issues and problems that our people face in the city. We need to continue to be bold and progressive—to push our partners, to compel them as to why this is important for the region.”
As mentioned, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan have already committed to spend at least $3.1 billion on the subway and the Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail transit project.
An additional $1.2 billion for the two projects will come from the City of Vancouver, the City of Surrey and TransLink via donated land, property taxes, fees and transit fares. So, I asked Campbell, where’s the appetite for governments to spend more?
“To us and our team, it makes sense to continue the synergy with governments who are willing to invest,” he said. “We need to capitalize on the opportunity as we go into a federal election to make this a priority for Vancouver. It’s going to solve a lot of problems for the entire region.”
Mike Magee, Robertson’s former chief of staff, had a more direct answer on Twitter in response to a question from Global B.C. reporter Richard Zussman: “Funding shouldn’t take that long now that there are finally transit friendly governments in Ottawa and Victoria. Stephen Harper and Christy Clark were obstacles to getting the subway built. And riders are from around the region, not just Vancouver.
A couple of other observations about Campbell’s announcement Wednesday…
First, his newser was held at the same location where Robertson announced his support in October 2014 for a Broadway subway. That announcement came during Robertson’s re-election campaign.
Second, Campbell didn’t launch any attacks during his speech or in an accompanying news release against the rival Non-Partisan Association, as Robertson did in 2014 in his speech and release headlined: “Vision leadership on transit in contrast to NPA confusion.”
Third, Campbell is now going by Chief Ian Campbell in news releases, a shift from a month ago when Vision releases referred to him as Ian Campbell.
What do these observations tell me?
I’m not sure yet.