Hume: The suburbs ask: Whereai??i??s the subway? In Metro Vancouver, the ‘burbs ask: Where is SkyTrain?

Like the Vancouver Metro Region, everyone wants SkyTrain, but there is no money to pay for it. Trouble is, no one has explained this to civic and provincial politicians, who continue to promise multi billion dollar SkyTrain extensions.

In the Fraser Valley mayor Watts of Surrey does get it, with her support for LRT construction, but not TransLink who continue plan for light rail as a poorman’s SkyTrain acting only as a cheap feeder line and nothing more. Other valley mayors don’t really get it and repeat TransLink’s mantra that; “we don’t have the density for rapid transit.”

In the Victoria region, BC Transit continues its long tradition of gold-plating planned LRT to such a point that the cost for proposed light rail is so over-engineered, that it rivals SkyTrain. TramTrain, which would be a natural for the E & N railway (with trams offering through service North to Duncan or even Nanaimo), is willfully ignored, despite a positive track record that greatly surpasses that of the bureaucracy’s Ai??favourite, SkyTrain.

As the deafening crescendo of anti-LRT rhetoric rises to fever pitch on other Vancouver centric blogs, the one question the SkyTrain lobby refuse to ask is; “How are going to pay for it?” Of course ever higher gas taxes are proposed and levied and regional bureaucrats are compelling politicians to impose a car levy or road pricing, which will do more to increase the number of bureaucrats in TransLink’s expensive new digs in New West, than improve transit.

It is not money that is stalling ‘rail‘ transit in the region, it isAi?? blinkered transit planning, which depends on extremely expensive SkyTrain and/or light-metro for regional transit and not much cheaper LRT. We are spending up to fifteen times more for SkyTrain instead of LRT, yet regional and provincial politicians remain mute on this point.

Until we adopt much cheaper LRT for regional transit, money for SkyTrain and light-metro will always be in that pot at the end of the rainbow.

Hume: The suburbs ask: Whereai??i??s the subway?

Published On Fri Dec 09 2011

By Christopher Hume Urban Issues, Architecture

Suddenly, it seems, everyone wants a subway. ButAi?? nobodyai??i??s willing to pay for one.

Fereydoon Darvish is an exception. The presidentAi?? of Markham-based development company Liberty ai??i?? think World on Yonge, RoyalAi?? Garden Condos, Thornhill City Centre ai??i?? insists the suburbs have waited longAi?? enough for decent transit.

Weai??i??ve heard that before, but Darvish goes a stepAi?? further. He suggests that his industry and its customers should help pay forAi?? transit.

That might not sit well with his fellowAi?? builders, many of whom complain bitterly about how much it costs them toAi?? continue to make huge profits, but Darvish remains adamant.

ai???Iai??i??m the only developer who says, ai???Letai??i??s put aAi?? $10,000 levy on new units,ai??i??ai??? he declares, ai???a dedicated fee for transit levied onAi?? all new housing units that would average out to about $10,000 per unit.Ai?? Dependency on the car has to be reduced drastically. The first thing we need isAi?? transit. Without transit, the city will not move any

Specifically, Darvish wants the Yonge subwayAi?? extended north from Finch Station to Richmond Hill, just above HighwayAi?? 7.

So does Vaughan Councillor Alan Shefman. ai???Transit is the issue here,ai??? he says. ai???Itai??i??s a street-level peopleai??i??sAi??

First elected in 2004, Shefman points out that ai???50,000 housing units have been approved but not completed between Finch andAi?? Major

As he also notes, at various times there haveAi?? been plans to run the subway north. For various reasons, however, they have beenAi?? dropped. And so Shefman finds himself assembling a task force that will ai???developAi?? a funding model for this

Its members will come from across the GTA. If theyai??i??re to have any chance of success, they will have to be unusually creative. One of the key points, both Shefman and Darvish argue, is that users should pay. That means residents as well as passengers, fees as well as fares; in other words, donai??i??t look to the province, but to the GTA itself.

Indeed, experience shows that weai??i??re more willingAi?? to shell out if our taxes go to a specific program rather than general revenues.Ai?? That would open up all sorts of possibilities ai??i?? parking levies, a regional gasAi?? tax and even TIFs ai??i?? tax increment financing.

As Shefman explains it, a parking surcharge ofAi?? $1 would raise between $1 billion and $2 billion annually. Then, of course,Ai?? there are road tolls, congestion fees, vehicle registration taxes and theAi?? like.

The secret lies in GTA-wide acceptance, butAi?? donai??i??t hold your breath for that. We talk about the need to act like a region,Ai?? but still havenai??i??t learned to think like one. So far, rising above the pettyAi?? rivalries and traditional hostilities has been impossible. One municipalityAi?? distrusts the other, this one is leery of that one, and everyone hates Toronto

ai???We need to raise the level of discussion,ai??? saysAi?? Shefman. ai???Our official plan is dramatically transit-oriented. Thereai??i??s a hungerAi?? for transit in

ai???Thirty per cent of the people who work atAi?? Markham Centre walk to work,ai??? Darvish claims. ai???The public is ahead of theAi??

ai???Iai??i??d stop project-based planning,ai??? Shefman adds. ai???We must build transit continually; otherwise weai??i??re going to

The proposed line would have six stations andAi?? connect with a GO stop in Richmond Hill. As Shefman also notes, theAi?? environmental assessment for the route extension is complete.

The task force will report in June, thoughAi?? getting a commitment ai??i?? political and corporate ai??i?? for these sorts of fundraisingAi?? measures will be tough.

But as Shefman notes, ai???The GTA is the pot ofAi?? gold at the end of the



2 Responses to “Hume: The suburbs ask: Whereai??i??s the subway? In Metro Vancouver, the ‘burbs ask: Where is SkyTrain?”
  1. Jim says:

    Perhaps they prefer transit to be by way of single occupancy vehicles? If they spent the amount of money on transit that they do on the road system and infrastructure to support it we would have a hell of a transit system. They’re too busy repaving roads that do not need to be repaved and tearing up agricultural land to put in new highways. There is more then enough roads here to support the required truck traffic if we could put in some transit and get rid of all the cars. We don’t need more roads. We have plenty. It’s not like they’re cheap, or environmentally friendly, or safe. When we’ve paved everything east to Hope, then will it be time to consider building transit?

  2. Jim says:

    Sorry I should clarify, I didn’t mean ALL of the cars. Just reduce the majority of it, all of the commuters using the same route every day…