Vancouver City Council approved the ambitious Transportation 2040, a wide-ranging strategy that commits the city to ensuring two-thirds of trips in Vancouver are made by foot, bike or transit – up from the current 44 per cent.
A key component is transit expansion, yet there is no clear plan to bring that about along the Broadway corridor.
Councillors don’t have an alternative in mind to reach the two-thirds goal if rapid transit along Broadway doesn’t come about in the next few years.
“I’d ask you what Plan B would be. Freeways? Elevated roads?” Vancouver transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny rhetorically asked reporters on Wednesday after the plan passed unanimously. “There’s no Plan B.”
Instead, there’s the 123-page strategy that focuses on expanding transit service, upgrading the city’s cycling network and making improvements to pedestrian infrastructure, among other measures. There is no price tag. Approval of the plan clears city staff to work on the scope and cost of relevant projects as they come along.
But an upgraded transit system along Broadway is key. “We cannot reach our goals without rapid transit through central Broadway,” Mr. Dobrovolny said. “Our long-term needs require SkyTrain through central Broadway.”
Accelerating development combined with growing lineups for existing transit services is creating a “crisis.” He said it will become even more complicated when the Evergreen Line opens in 2016 and funnels thousands more into an area that is home to such massive institutions as Vancouver General Hospital and the University of British Columbia.
Mayor Gregor Robertson said all he can do right now is keep making the case to Victoria and Ottawa for financial support to make such a transit system happen.
“We need to keep the pressure on to get Broadway rapid transit in place,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview after the vote, noting it has been a “skipped over” priority for the region.
“I’ll keep pressing with the province and the federal government,” he said. “It has got to come back on the table as the top priority with Surrey light rail. Those are the two regional priorities for rapid transit that need to be addressed in the next handful of years to keep up with growth.”
Mr. Robertson conceded that the transit piece of Transportation 2040 will be “very difficult” to achieve without Broadway.
“We need that service right out to UBC to address the current demand, and there’s huge growth pressure ahead. The longer the delay in building rapid transit on Broadway to UBC, the tougher it gets to hit the targets,” he said.
He said there’s a strong business case for the commitment. Rapid transit on Broadway should receive immediate high ridership levels, he said, suggesting they would echo those of the Canada Line when it first opened.
Mr. Robertson noted the province can’t credibly achieve its greenhouse-gas goals and economic growth without investing in rapid transit for the Broadway corridor, which he noted is the second largest job centre in the province.
Gordon Price, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University and a former city councillor, said there’s nothing wrong with having a plan in place without clarity on the transit piece as it will help with the debate. “You don’t need the pieces to be together to pass the plan. You’d never pass the plan,” Mr. Price said.
One other unusual piece of the plan is a goal to achieve zero traffic fatalities by employing innovations in urban design and planning. Mr. Robertson noted that it’s a goal many cities are making, and that there is no specific time deadline set to reach it.
“If our focus is on zero traffic fatalities, it does change how we build and shape transportation,” he said. “This puts safety on top as fundamental to all our future investments.”