Facts Don’t Seem To Matter – TransLink Gaslights The Truth.

Gaslighting:  a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs. Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

When it comes to regional transit and regional transit planning, TransLink’s gaslighting rules.

Three issues which TransLink’s gaslighting has been a success.

  1. SkyTrain is not a proprietary transit system.
  2. Broadway is the most heaviest used transit route in Canada, no North America
  3. LRT is in inferior
SkyTrain is a proprietary transit system.
The question those claiming that SkyTrain is not a proprietary transit system, would be restated to; Since when did the proprietary Movia Automatic Light Metro cease to be a proprietary transit system?
SkyTrain is the name of the regional light-metro network and not the commercial train used.
The Canada line uses EMU’s made by ROTEM.
The Expo Line used the  the proprietary Advanced Light Rail Transit (ALRT) system, renamed from the original Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS), developed by the Urban Transportation Development Corporation (UTDC), an Ontario Crown corporation.  The later  Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) cars (MK.2′s), which came with the Millennium Line, were produced by Bombardier after it acquired the remains of the UTDC after it was returned to the Ontario government when Lavalin went Bankrupt.
Lavalin briefly owned the proprietary railway, renaming the proprietary transit system Advanced Light Metro (ALM) but the UTDC was returned to the Province of Ontario, after Lavalin went bankrupt trying to sell the often renamed proprietary transit system to Bangkok.
The MK.3 cars so boasted about are just again renamed when Innovia line of light metros were cascaded into the Movia line metro systems.
Strangely enough Bombardier does produce a proprietary SkyTrain system, but it is a rubber tire proprietary airport people mover system.

Bombardier's real proprietary SkyTrain transit system.

The key to the now called Movia Automatic light Metro (MALM) being proprietary is the use of Linear Induction Motors and the steerable axle trucks as no other company offers an “off the shelf” product compatible to operate son the MALM Lines.

As one German Engineer told me; “One just cannot slap on a pair of LIM’s on a conventional bogie (truck) and expect it to operate!

The steerable axle truck, and LIM, the key to the proprietary light metro.

Broadway is not the busiest transit corridor in Canada.

The hype and hoopla that Broadway being the the heaviest used transit route in Canada, no North America is a common refrain one reads in the mainstream media and hears on the radio or TV, made by politicians and bureaucrats.

Sorry it’s not true.

According to a to letter I revived from TransLink:

Finally, on January 31, 2019, you contacted several news organizations and this Secretariat raising concerns
over TransLink’s assertion that the 99 B-Line is the busiest bus route in the US and Canada. TransLink is
confident in its data collection and peer comparisons, noting that the 99 B-Line route on the Broadway
Corridor moves 60,000 customers per day on articulated buses running every three minutes at peak times.
This is our region’s most overcrowded bus route. Pass ups are already common, as our regular riders on that
route are fully aware. TransLink projects that the 99 B-Line from Arbutus to UBC will be at capacity in the
peak when the Millennium Line extension from Commercial-Broadway to Arbutus opens.

Cutting through the TransLink speak of this reply, TransLink only admits to Broadway being “our region’s most overcrowded bus route” and nothing more. What seems to be causing overcrowding is not heavy use, rather poor management because the capacity offered by B-line buses is under 2,000 persons per hour per direction at 3 minute headway’s.

Why not offer peak hour 2 minute headway’s for the 99 B-Line and increase capacity by 50%; much simpler and affordable than a $3 billion subway.

Broadway in the rush hour - Busy but not gridlocked.

Light rail is not inferior.

TransLink’s anti LRT screed is laughable and in the real world, they would be “thrown off the stage” with the drivel they peddle.

It seems TransLink’s six figured salaried bureaucrats can’t or won’t read transit history for if they had, they would know that only seven of the now called Movia Automatic Light Metro proprietary transit systems have been built over the past 40 years, under six different names. During the same period well over over two hundred new build Light rail systems have been built and most of the existing streetcar/ram systems have been upgraded or partially upgraded to light rail standards.

No MALM system has been sold in the past decade.

Modern trams, today can obtain capacities beyond 20,000 pphpd on portions of their routes at peak hours. This is why modern light rail has been so successful due in part for its ability to carry heavy passenger loads when need be. This is part of the flexibility of service inherent in modern light rail.

Today, the modern tram can operate as a mainline passenger train, a light-metro, light-rail and a streetcar all on the same route! Modern LRT has a proven record of attracting motorists from the car creating a viable modal shift from car to transit.

The last forty years has seen an unprecedented investment either building new or refurbishing existing transit systems around the world. It is a field where success is eagerly copied and what is deemed poor avoided. During this time, no other city has copied Vancouver’s transit planning, nor has copied Vancouver’s exclusive use of light-metro.

Sadly, Translink’s “gaslighting” has so perverted transit planning in the region, that there is absolutely no hope is any coherent transit planning for the foreseeable future, leaving Vancouver with a “museum piece” transit system, too expensive to deal with today’s transit ills.


7 Responses to “Facts Don’t Seem To Matter – TransLink Gaslights The Truth.”
  1. Major Hoople says:

    It is interesting to see that Translink has used this cunning method of manipulation exceedingly well to keep building what the rest of the world deems a historic blunder.

    In France, there is much buyer’s remorse over VAL, due to its cost and lack of extendability. Much study has been done in France vis a vis light metro metro and the tram and the trams wins almost everything but politicians, yes they are the same everywhere, want to spend more to show the taxpayer how well they are spending the taxpayer’s money.

    This cannot continue of course and some one, someday will have to be the bearer of bad news.

  2. Readers of this blog will be interested to know that the ‘moment’ is here.

    At least, a new opportunity that will not repeat for a generation (if all goes well). I’m talking about COVID-19. And yes, the caveat is that we find a vaccine and treatment, or else jamming people into trains and buses is a no-go proposition.

    What transit planners need to put in their toolkit, IMO, are the facts. Including the fundamental concept behind the entire enterprise: that transit is supposed to ‘access new land’ for housing.

    Just THAT simple. Let’s ID the facts first, about which we are in consensus…

    HOV 2,400 pphpd
    SOV 1,200 pphpd
    Skytrain 15,000 pphpd (Transport Canada certificate)
    Modern Tram 38,824 ppphpd (4 car train-set, what is the max?)

    Now, if these facts are OK with everybody (or else, let’s change them to better numbers), then we have a startling conclusion:

    Six lane highway capacity (travelling in one direction) = 4,800 pphpd
    Modern Tram 38,824 ppphpd

    Putting modern tram on the BCER ROW delivers the same capacity as 8 six-lane highways. Or, for the space of 2 highway lanes, we can move the same amount of capacity as 48 highway lanes.

    The ModernTram number = 275 p/car x 4 cars per train x 1.7 min headway. But let’s get numbers everyone is comfortable with…

    The second step is to price construction in millions/km.

    HOV (what is the cost of adding new lanes to Abbotsford?)
    SOV (what was the cost of the Island Highway reconstruction?)
    Skytrain (Surrey) 200 m/km
    Skytrain (Broadway Tunnel) 600 m/km
    ModernTram (our estimate) 50 m/km

    The Brutal Facts: gaslighting is about building Skytrain-and-Towers, at a rate 250% above growth projections for Vancouver (Broadway Plan and Vancouver Housing Strategy). Other numbers may be necessary for Surrey.

    With the Housing Crisis and the COVID-19 we have two crises bumping together. How many more straws before we reach the final one, and the whole shell game implodes? …I won’t hazard to guess. We are on ‘Joe Friday’ mode, here: Just the facts, Ma’am.

    To ‘win the game’ we have to agree about the numbers first. Let’s use the historic stops on the BCER for guidance purposes only.

    60 stops on the BCER from Newtown to Rosedale
    Cloverdale was stop #14
    Stops 15 to 60 today are Greenfield
    The opportunity that presents is to build a Regional Transit System https://lewisnvillegas.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/a-regional-system-not-a-subway-to-ubc/
    The North Vancouver to Newtown section will add new stops on Greenfield along No.5 Road in Richmond
    All other improvements north of Fraser and west of Newtown will be neighborhood revitalizations
    Average size of a farm in BC: 500 acres
    Average size of a TramTown housing 4,250 souls in affordable houses: 120 acres
    5 TramStops in Richmond; 45 TramStops Cloverdale to Rosedale, equals…
    One new town per stop delivers: 50 new TramTowns, hard-wired to the regional job centre
    That is housing for over 200,000
    Critical to understand: ModernTram provides a rapid supply responseto the crises confronting us

    In other words, that sound you just heard was (1) house prices returning to normal; and (2) the BC economy pushing through the stratosphere as Human Scale TramTowns employ mom-and-pop shops by the thousands.

    A similar, though proportionately smaller result, is achievable on the E&N on the Island.

    To grab the brass ring, transportation professionals must return to their roots. We need to start making the connection again that a Regional Transit System—which Skytrain is too expensive to deliver—is needed today for one purpose, and one purpose only: to access land to build houses by the thousands in new neighbourhood extensions and new TramTowns.

    Because the ROW is all in place, and owned by government, a Regional Transit System is the right, and best rapid supply response to restart the post-COVID economy.

    It’s been a long time coming. But, it’s finally here.

  3. Haveacow says:

    For traffic engineering in North America a standard arterial road can move up to 900 vehicles per hour per lane.

    Considering most Canadian cities have a median vehicle occupation range of anywhere between 1.05-1.23 people per vehicle. Ottawa’s peak hour median value in 2014 was 1.16 passengers per vehicle

    Now a limited access highway with at the least, a minimum distance of 1.2 km between interchanges has a capacity of up to 2000 vehicles per hour per lane.

    This is assuming either interchanges have no serious limitations like, moving on/off ramps for different directions into parallel facilities because of geographic limitations and having them end/start at a combined signaled traffic intersection on a arterial road (doing this saves a lot of money when building).

    The next trick to make sure your transit line really works is, make sure all the new housing developments are self contained. Meaning each new community has a town centre with no fewer than 1 major grocery store and other general service stores that are within easy walking and cycling range of each other and the the majority of the community’s homes. Some low to mid rise apartment buildings will be needed near those town centres. Housing has to be mixed in all areas to promote livable higher densities and housing choice. This way most local trips can be done on foot, cycle or local regular standard bus routes inside each community. On demand local bus routing systems (like dial-a-bus services from the 70′s here in Ontario) either by phone or internet have never worked and are very expensive to run. Each commuity has its own rail rapid transit station. This arrangement also limits the number of trips outside each community. Jobs and other industries are located in each town centre, or next to the rapid transit station and or on the major road routes (4-6 lanes at most) at the community’s periphery. Road pattern should be a grid, bus routes as well. No hub and spoke system routing. No community should have more than 10,000 people, then your idea has a chance of working.

  4. Great points. Haveacow…

    Thank you for providing median vehicle occupation rates of 1.16 people. If we drop the headway between cars in rush hour conditions in freeways to 2 seconds, and use the 1.16 figure, then we arrive at an SOV capacity of 2,088. pphpd.

    Staying in my ‘ballpark’ that vehicle occupancy in an HOV = 2 x SOV, then the HOV capacity returns 4,000 pphpd.

    A six lane highway in one direction would then carry (2 x 2,088) + (4,000) = 8,200 pphpd. Compared with 38,800 for Modern Tram, tram still enjoys a 4.73 advantage. Say, five 6-lane highways for a single ModernTram line.

    That is still an eye-opener. Maybe even a transformative difference.

    On the TramTown footprint side of the equation, you capture in your comments the very essence of the proposal: these are walkable urban footprints where half of the daily trips normally made by car in a suburb might be walking or cycling trips in a TramTown.

    That makes a huge difference.

    Now, In BC, the other huge advantage is that government retained ownership of the commuter rail ROWs when these services were decommissioned in the 1950s. But…

    We have a sticky wicket: in the 1970s most of the lands the these corridors cross were designated as Agricultural Land Reserves. That is why I mention that a TramTown is 1/4 the size of the average BC farm.

    It is also why I am thinking in terms of 120 acre TramTowns home to 4,000+ residents. Rather than the 10,000 population communities you reference.

    Of course, in order to achieve the 10,000 population that you describe, we would simply join two of these TramTowns together. Which I think is perfectly doable, especially since they are on a tram line.

    The TramTowns would have 20 acres for civic uses; 20 ac for mid-density uses (30 dwelling units per acre), and 80 acres for single family homes on small lots (6 to 15 units per acre). At full build out that would get us a population in the low 4,000s.

    I see ‘neighbors’ in these new towns travelling one and two stops in either direction to acmes a wider variety of services and jobs.

    If that seems reasonable, then we are on the same page.

    That is very exciting, because as I’m sure you appreciate, what we really need is a ‘rapid supply response’ to deal with both the Housing Crisis and the COVID-19 crisis.

    We could not pick better locations than BC and Ontario to test this thesis.

    Which brings me to the next point. Provincially, there has always been a lot of contact between BC and Ontario. How did Ontario handle the decommissioning of the Interurbans in the 1950s? Was there cross-fertilization there, and did Ontario government also hang on to its interurban corridors?

    It is the combination of all of these factors together that makes for an explosive mix.

    Over here, we have the rail corridor more or less intact, or ‘ready to go.’ We have been suffering restricted land supply for houses for 30 years, and a crisis in housing affordability has gotten worse each of those three decades. Right up to the present. Then, like the rest of the world, we find ourselves In need of priming the economic pump to get the economy moving again after the COVID lockdown.

    In my view, stimulus is most effective when it is targeted at the small business sector (mom and pop economies).

    The combination of TramTowns and ModernTram seems unbeatable. The construction of the houses, together with the need to supply the new families, just keeps churning up new opportunities.

  5. Bill Burgess says:

    In the era of anthropogenic climate change, this form of relatively low-density/sprawling development (and that would require land from the ALR) is the wrong direction to take. Even if a tram train provided a backbone connection between communities there would be a great increase in auto trips. If Skytrain is a subsidy to high-rise condo developers/speculators this would be a subsidy to suburban developers/speculators (plus car dealerships, etc.).

    The key premise, that the housing crisis in Vancouver is due to constrained supply of land to build housing, is questionable. There is strong evidence that demand factors are instead mainly responsible – more square footage per person, low mortgage rates, laundering of drug money, out-of province/country migrants and investors, and generally the conversion of housing from a consumer good to an investment ‘vehicle’. As Prof. Rose of Kwantlen University has noted, contrary to the ‘constrained supply’ theory, between 2001 and 2016 the number of housing units in the Vancouver CMA increased more than the number of households – (https://www.kpu.ca/sites/default/files/The%20Housing%20Supply%20Myth%20Report%20John%20Rose.pdf).

  6. I’m glad you brought up these points, Bill. These ideas are important.

    But, let’s not forget that this post is about ‘gaslighting.’ The idea that we can’t build housing in Canada affordably because there is shortage of land—honest?—is ‘gaslighting.’ Someone is making away like bandits with bags of money when we buy into that view.

    The idea that we cannot build the Canadian Dream (cottage on a garden plot) because we are warming up the globe, or causing sprawl, or burning too much carbon, is ‘gaslighting’. And someone is making a lot of dough from having us buy into that.


    We can support middle and low densities—’good’ urbanism, as it turns out—sustainably. Let’s not forget, which we seem to do much too often, that affordable housing is a core principle in sustainability.

    Now…. where has that principle been hiding for the past 30 years?

    Myself, I question whether the anthropogenic GHGs are the problem. My concern, really, is that the sources are really solar, operating at the planetary scale rather than global scale, and no matter how hard we try…

    We may reduce the anthropogenic GHGs and still have increasing global temperatures and climate change. Something like this took place during the Mini-Ice Ages. I have written about it here “Kiss Kyoto a Good Night” (https://lewisnvillegas.wordpress.com/2018/12/24/kiss-kyoto-a-goodnight-a-zero-carbon-footprint-step-by-step-analysis/).

    But let’s leave that one to science, and take your other points under consideration, one by one.


    We can’t have it both ways: either it is low density, or it is not. Either it is ‘sprawling’ or it is contained by an urban boundary. There is no good data supporting the notion that ‘low densities’ (say, cottage on garden plot) are NOT sustainable. The Canadian Dream, IMO, is very much alive. Though, on life support due to the land price lift effects of building skytrain-and-towers.

    The TramTowns have a hard boundary. Ergo—they cannot s-p-r-a-w-l. Hope that is clear. If it’s not, let me know and will explain further, in greater detail. It is an important question.

    The TramTowns have a footprint of 120 acres (not 121 or more acres), and house approximately 4,200 people at full build out. That is a density of 35 people per acre. Or, using 2.2 people per unit, 16 units per acre.

    Suburban subdivisions are in the 4 to 6 units per acre. 16 units per acre is about 3-times that density. So, TramTowns are not low density. However, I question whether ‘low density’ is not in fact ‘The Canadian Dream’, and as such, all that we aspire to.

    My gut tells me that this ‘density fallacy’ (https://lewisnvillegas.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/the-economics-of-high-rise-buildings/) is not in fact just another bill of goods (gaslighting) we are being sold by multi-national corporations and the politicians they have in their pocket.

    Otherwise, it just does not pencil out.

    So, we face a choice. Do we want towers-and-skytrain? Do we want suburban development with hours of standing-still traffic congestion? Or do we want something in between and A-F-F-0-R-D-A-B-L-E?

    The downside of swallowing the Kool-Aid of the Livable Regions Strategic Plan is that we have bought 30 years of a housing affordability crisis (https://lewisnvillegas.wordpress.com/2020/05/28/7829/).


    The ALR was set down in the by-gone era of the early 1970s. Half of the ALR is not being farmed. And in the other half, a quarter of it is being used for growing grass for cattle feed. It’s really THAT bad.

    The Land Commission was set up in the 1970s by the Barrett NDP, to beef up the regional governance system. Land was set aside for farming, industrial footprint, and urban footprint (keep your eye on the last two). Then, as what I see as a give away to the real estate industry, when the Soc-Creds got back in, they turned the Land Commission into an Agricultural Land Commission. Industrial and urban footprint was simply folded into ‘agricultural land.’

    It is no secret that a LOT of the land in the ALR is non-arable.

    Keep in mind that in the 1970s we were working with paper maps. GIS was not available. No computers. Aerial and satellite information was still in its infancy. No Google Maps to be sure.

    I have written about it here (https://wp.me/p1yj4U-1zw).

    Then, there is the issue for BC that government has retained ownership of the early 20th century commuter rail corridors. Thus, South of Fraser—topic of this website—there is a feral rail corridor waiting to be activated.

    Should we give up on this great legacy just because it runs along farm fields, thus some TramTowns would be built on agricultural land?

    Historically, there were 55 tram stops between Cloverdale and Rosedale. Today, most of those sites are greenfield’s, some under cultivation. Some not. The agricultural sector in the valley could use a shot in the arm, though.

    It turns out that the average BC farm is 500 acres. That is enough footprint to build 4 TramTowns with affordable housing for 17,000 people, or some 4,000 families. Fair trade? 1,000 families get affordable houses for every (average size farm) we give up?

    Growth rates in Vancouver are 1% per annum (Stats Canada). So its not like we are going to be giving away farms by the hundreds. 50 TramTowns occupy the same footprint as 12 farms. My hunch is that the number is lower than that, because many sites for TramStops and TramTowns along the old BCER are non-farmable.

    Going a step further, some urbanists consider 12 farms for 50 towns is a fair trade. Give up a minimum of agricultural land in return for achieving much higher productivity in farms nearest to the new towns. Those same farms today could use a local market made up of what are essentially new farm towns built along a re-activated transportation corridor.

    All of it hard-wired to the regional job centre, by the way, with the Modern Tram. Good deal all around.

    Wrong Direction? Seems to me that building condos for the off-shore market in Communist China has proven to be a lot worse.


    Let’s hope so. We need to turn the fleet over to EVs, triggering a GIGANTIC decrease in GHGs. The more people have to drive, the more they are going to buy into the long term economic advantages of burning renewable energy.

    The increase you talk about is often referred to as Induced Traffic Demand. Or “Build it and They Will Come.” Yet, it applies to building new highways, not building new towns or new regional transit. Induced Traffic Demand. follows new highway construction, not new ModernTram and TramTown construction.

    If you drive, this will make all the sense. Traffic looks for the path of least resistance.Thus, if we build more highways, we will attract more cars onto the new roads looking for routes with the lowest congestion. Drivers just migrate to the path of least resistance.

    As far as new residential construction, built in the peripheral zones of the region, rather than in condo towers at the centre, its a net zero outcome.

    If we are building to house the same local population (and not off-shore investment portfolios) then the same amount of housing is going to be built. All we are asking is: where? Is new housing better located on cheaper land in the periphery, or on condos in land with spiking prices near the centre?

    If you and I are looking to reduce the number of car trips (because I for one hate congestion), then we have two proposals on the table:

    1. TramTrain will carry as many passengers as 4 new highways (using revised numbers suggested by Haveacow, above).

    2. Inside TramTown footprints ALL destinations are within easy walking distance, reducing the number of times people need to drive. Small towns and country roads are better for cycling too, making that option more viable. And if you can’t find what you need in your town, you can go one or two towns in either direction, and probably find it there. You are driving electric either way: in a car or ModernTram. Chances are that if you are going off-peak you will take the car (no longer an offensive choice). While if you are travelling on-peak, for example, on your way to and from work, you will ride the commuter rails and maybe jump out a stop early because you really like the bakery there best.

    So, I am not so sure there will be ‘a great increase in car trips’. And if there are, I am pretty sure more and more of them will be EVs. So that is a net reduction in pollution. If you hate congestion, then you take the ModernTram.

    People who live in towers get in the elevator and drive out of the garage. Translink is not reporting a higher incidence of Skytrain riders in stations with towers built nearby.

    One of the reasons is that—save for the west end—the rest of the Lower Mainland is not walkable, and will not be made walkable for generations to come. Conditions in the Fraser Valley are much the same.

    Given the housing crisis, the more likely outcome is that—like NYC—Vancoiuver will start to see negative growth rates per year. Guess who gets the knife in the back then?

    That’s right. All the taxpayers left behind.


    Agree… Though the Skytrain is not a ‘subsidy.’ It is merely part of the ‘glossy marketing image’ that is sold off-shore.

    Economists might prefer the word ‘stimulus’ to subsidy. And we have to take into consideration issues of scale.

    The ModernTram costs 12-times less to build than the Skytrain. All else being equal, that is either (a) 12-times less taxpayer money going out the door, or (b) 12-times more bang for the buck. More route, a LOT more route, for the same price.

    In the (b) scenario you begin to see that not all subsidy or stimulus is made of the same stuff. The Human Scale urbanism feeds into the mom-and-pop economy in a way the towers-and-skytrain do not.

    A tower developer contracts for kitchens just the same as the house builder. But the woodworking shop that delivers and installs the 250 kitchens all at the same time to tower site is a BIG corporation, probably foreign owned. The millworker that delivers 5 to 12 kitchens per year is a small business, possibly located in a TramTown, employing one or two workers.

    That makes a huge difference.

    But let’s not forget that unless we structure the TramTowns deliberately, there will be no shortage of giant multi-nationals competing to build several tram towns at the same time. So, its not an ‘automatic’ solution. We have to stay up and pay attention to make it turn out right for the ‘small businesses,’ individuals and families.


    You make another important point: there is more than one cause behind the housing crisis (though I still think that Ending the Housing Crisis is government job #1).

    In my presentation to Vancouver Council I identified the following:

    • Over restricting land supply in a by-gone era (the ALR discussion above)
    • Building Skytrain and Tower (economists point to private and public sector mega-projects combining on the same site as lifting land valuations).
    • Off-shore capital flows (much of it form a communist economy bleeding us dry on the way to becoming #2 in the world)
    • Money laundering
    • Taxing empty homes and foreign property sales (those costs are just passed onto consumers as higher taxes)

    A final one may be:

    • A Vancouver Housing Strategy overbuilding Stats Canada population growth projections by 250%.

    The point I would make here is that each and everyone of those bullets is ‘made by government.’ We elect governments to regulate the market place, not profit from it!

    As far as Mark Rosen’s observation, the problem is known to me. The Regional Growth Strategy stopped reporting house numbers separate from ‘housing numbers’, lumping condos and houses into the same soup.

    Yet, the numbers show something different. There is a clear bifurcation in the market along product types. It is the house prices that have continued to go up and up. Condos also have increased, but at a lesser rate.

    Problem is, both markets rely on the same land supply (rezoning is just too easy to effect—something the TramTowns are also designed to build out). So, the increase in supply is generally all in the condo side of the markets. But the increase in valuations hits the house market hardest.

    The result is inflationary price pressure on real estate valuations in the house market, since the price of real estate is mostly on the land—not the building—and land supply is being artificially constricted.

    That tightening is in the ALR, and it is in the traffic congestion. People will only spend so much time in daily commuting, thereby putting at a premium the price on lots nearer the core. ModernTram would put downward pressure here.

    As long as we are not building enough product to satisfy pent up demand of median income families and individuals stuck in apartments, this too will drive up land valuations.

    The COVID-19 has for the first time demonstrated that people can work productively from home. A twice-per-week commute is doable further away from the centre. With ModernTram as an option, that opportunity grows even greater.

    In the final analysis, it is houses and towns that people are looking for, and competing by raising the ante on the purchase price of a house on a lot. Apartments we have plenty to choose from.

    In the final analysis, it is avoiding hours spent in standing still traffic jams that people want to avoid.

    I’m not sure it is possible to design and build the highway that will not experience peak hours once and twice a day.

    However, I am reasonably sure that we can provide all the capacity necessary to move people between North Vancouver and Chilliwack by building a Regional Transit System, and seeding it with affordable houses at every stop.

    The fact that the same tram that runs in the valley can then run on the streets of Vancouver (i.e. the Arbutus ROW) is new. And VERY cool. But all the other stuff, the affordability, the houses, the resilience of small town urbanism, that’s as old as the hills.

    Great points, though. And I hope I have offered some new lines for thinking this through. Problem through to a happy solution for median income households in the Metro and Fraser Valley regions.

  7. Bill Burgess says:

    Lewis, you suggest we “leave to science” the question whether anthropogenic GHGs are the problem. But you assert a climate change denialist position against the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists on this issue (that the ‘problem’ is anthropogenic, and that current warming is different from past periods).

    No discussion of sustainable urbanism can be serious unless it is grounded in a scientific approach to this critical issue. From what you write I can’t view your’s this way.

    If your ‘tram towns’ housed significantly more people than current new suburban developments, and functioned as more complete communities (hosting employment, services, recreation, etc. for those living there) I am with you. More compact urbanism should not mean all towers in the central city and residential sprawl in the suburbs.

    But given our capitalist land market, what mechanism will achieve this outcome, which is opposite to its usual sprawling result? What would limit lot sizes and the town boundary?

    What would provide the employment opportunities and a good range of services, so that driving cars is much less necessary or attractive? The increase in auto trips I referred to was from relatively low density/almost exclusively residential development, not just the induced demand from building highways.

    Electrifying private cars is not the solution. They are not quite as bad as cars powered by fossil fuels, but the solution is compact, whole communities served by excellent public transit so that most private car trips are unnecessary.

    Again, if tram towns were a step in this direction I am all for them. But in our current real world I think they would generate more sprawl and car trips. The inter-urban rail corridor should be revived, but one of the weaknesses of its proponents so far is the lack of any serious analysis of the demand side for ridership. I just don’t see large numbers of ‘suburb-lite’ tram town residents switching from their cars to the tram.

    Your references to the Sustainable Region Plan and the ALR indicate that you see constrained land supply as the main root of the ‘Vancouver housing crisis’.

    I suggested that demand factors are instead key. True, most economists (who are mostly pro-free market) uphold the supply side explanation, but as Professor John Rose from Kwantlen (not Mark Rosen) and others like Prof Josh Gordon from SFU have pointed out, the evidence justifying that position is poor. Unless tram towns can be built without being vehicles for private investment/speculation/money laundering, etc. they will reproduce the same problems as currently prevail.

    We instead need not-for-profit and public housing, including in your tram towns. I don’t think your ideal of a ‘cottage and plot of land’ for everyone is feasible in the epoch of climate change, but yes to mid-rise over towers, mixed use, lane-way housing, garden apartments, etc., and the general de-commodification of housing!

    Finally, I think you exaggerate in saying that “1000 families get affordable houses for every (average size farm) we give up”. The average farm in question is not your 500 acre BC average; in Metro Vancouver the average farm is 50 acres (http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/PlanningPublications/Farming_In_Metro_Vancouver_Oct_2014.pdf), and this source reports a BC average of 327 acres). And while it is probably true there is some land in the ALR that is not farmable, most is excellent quality by world standards. Making peri-urban agriculture viable on this land is another essential part of sustainable urbanism, not covering it with pavement and lawns.

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