Vancouver considers higher-density housing plans for Cambie Street corridor – Have we given land developers a $2.5 billion subsidy?

From the ‘Well I told you so department’.

In Vancouver, expensive subways are built not to move people, but toAi??subsidize land development.

Readers of the Rail for the Valley blog know that this announcement was predicted and why there much hype and hoopla in the mainstream media with the recently opened Canada line metro; the Canada Line must be seen to be successful for leverage to build the Broadway – UBC subwayAi??in Vancouver toAi??subsidize more high density development along the route.

Sorry folks in Coquitlam and Port Moody,Ai??you have won second prize again, as you have already had your land boom and high density development,Ai??no need to build a metro there anymore!

This announcement will have all the Transportation oriented Development crew in ecstasy, but there is a drawback and a very big one.

We have spent our ‘rail’ transit money on a few prestigious light-metro lines, while leaving the rest of the transit system to stagnate, we have no transit network, let alone aAi??‘rail’ network that would provide a realistic alternative to the car. If the people moving into the new high density housing in ‘ high rise towers’ along Cambie Street, do not work along the Canada Line, they will take a car to their work instead. TOD may very well exacerbate traffic congestion and gridlock in Vancouver! This is not a foolish statement, rather it is an observation of what will happen if we do not invest in a realistic transit network that will provide an attractive alternative to the car. With subways costing $200 million or more a kilometre to build and the lack of tax revenue or political willAi??to build such a subway system, SkyTrain/TOD transportation philosophy will turn out to be a fiasco for future generations.

It is sad to think, that if modern LRT ran along Cambie St., it would have provided more capacity than the truncated Canada Line subway, at about one tenth the cost and no need to massively densify Cambie Street.


The Canada Line is not a SkyTrain at all, as it is not propelled by Linear Induction Motors or LIMs, rather

it is a standard heavy rail metro. The $2.5 billion Canada Line has a mere 100,000 boardings a day and needs

three or four times this amount to justify its construction. Thus the need to densify Cambie St.

Vancouver considers higher-density housing plans for Cambie Street corridor


Vancouver is considering a comprehensive land use plan for five neighborhoods along the Cambie corridor and Canada Line that will fundamentally alter the way the area looks and develops.

From 16th Avenue to Marine Drive, postwar bungalows, ranchers and modest single-family homes have long occupied most of the frontage of Cambie’s wide heritage boulevard. But under a proposal now before council, over the next 30 years the corridor would transform into a series of denser “transit-oriented” neighbourhoods with multiple-unit condos ranging from four stories in the north to 12 stories at Oakridge to 36 storeys at Marine Drive.

The plan, which could see as many as 14,000 new residents in the corridor by 2040, would capitalize on the new Canada Line and result in taller buildings lining the corridor. It is being supported by developers and hailed as visionary planning by some of the city’s leading architects.

Planning director Brent Toderian described it to council as “the largest and most complex area planning exercise in the city’s history.” It covers the Riley Park, Oakridge, Langara, Marpole and South Cambie neighbourhoods.

But it’s also raising concerns of some longtime residents who worry the dramatic changes being proposed will wreck their quiet neighbourhoods.

Todd Constant was the second of 125 speakers signed up to give council their thoughts. He’s lived around Cambie and King Edward all his life and watched with consternation as five years of construction for the Canada Line caused his neighbours hardship.

“Now you tell me that because of that (line) you’re going to double the density of the neighbourhood?” he told council Thursday. “From my point you’re destroying the neighbourhood and the community where we live. And you don’t have to.”

He said under the plan his home would be surrounded by four-storey buildings that would eliminate his privacy.

But further down Cambie Bill Konnert had a different view. He’s lived in the Langara Gardens area for half a century. He remembers when Oakridge and the Langara towers were first proposed and his neighbours set their hair on fire thinking the developments would destroy the area.

“Many of my neighbours signed petition after petition against the Langara highrises, and now they live in them,” he said.

“I and many of my neighbours welcome this plan. Not only do we want it, but we need it.”

The proposal, which is the second phase of a planning exercise the city started in 2009, has some controversial elements. The city is insisting that 20 per cent of all new housing to be rental, although several councillors questioned how effective that can be when the city has been unable to achieve more than 12 per cent in False Creek. The city also wants to take a high proportion of any potential rezoning profits ai??i?? as much as 75 per cent ai??i?? from developers in the form of “community amenity contributions” to pay for daycare services, seniors centres, parks and other public services.

Despite those concerns, groups like the Urban Development Institute and the Marpole Business Improvement Area believe the proposed plan would be good for the city.

In the first video recorded address to council ever, architect Peter Busby said the city needs to densify the corridor to take advantage of the $2 billion invested in the Canada Line.

“The transit nodes represent fantastic opportunities to create mixed-use communities within walking distance of those transit access points,” he said. “There are many other people in Vancouver who will thank you for supporting the Cambie corridor plan. It’s the right thing to do.”

Council expected to hear from only about half of the speakers by Thursday night. It will continue the discussion at a later date.



5 Responses to “Vancouver considers higher-density housing plans for Cambie Street corridor – Have we given land developers a $2.5 billion subsidy?”
  1. Jim says:

    How is the transit system in Quebec? after May 2nd I’m considering moving there and becoming a separatist.

  2. zweisystem says:

    As far as I believe, Montreal is now building two LRT lines and Quebec city, one. Montreal has a reasonably good public transit system, after years of federal dollars being spent.

  3. pwlg says:

    I was surprised to see and take two LRT systems in southern France. One in Nice, very short distance and still requires one or two buses to get to a destination. Do like how Nice almost covers its area with transit including up in the hills and mountains to the north. The other system and more extensive was in Montpellier. On a weekday there was moderate use and was great if you were going to the areas in which they serve.

    In Nimes they are building a busway and it appears that busways are now the fastest growing transit initiatives in Europe, South-Central America and Asia.

    In Asia there are 51 planned or under construction. Taipei has 10 busways carrying 1.7 million passengers per day.

    This does not preclude using urban rail where densities exist.

    I think instituting a fast bus system to the Fraser Hwy (Langley to Surrey Centre) corridor as the first step to an urban rail corridor should have been initiated years ago. A B-Line type service should have been in place along the King George Corridor years ago too. But if Surrey wants rail they should first have a conventional grid type bus system in place to carry people from the stations. Land use planning in most areas in Surrey unfortunately is still lagging behind other more intelligent metro regions in North America, Europe and Asia. There’s no use trying to increase transit use along corridors with nothing but big box stores and malls without including moderate density residential into the mix. Every mini-mall big box store etc should be allowed to add residential to the mix.

    I have to agree that the Cambie Street area from Broadway to the Cambie Bridge is a good example of mixing compatible residential and commercial together. Both compliment each other. Come on Surrey and Langley, get with it if you want rail or even a fast bus system.

  4. pwlg says:

    A good example of wasting public money, a la Kevin Falcon, is the bus lane under construction on the 99 northbound from White Rock to the 91 interchange. What was the need? Currently buses are not held up along this section of the 99 Hwy but they do get stalled from the #10 north on the 99. A lane exists there but does not begin at the #10 interchange.

    I find it amusing that the Lib/Socred coalition always builds more highway lanes for people heading into work but do not build the extra lanes for people heading back from work. Usually the NDP does this. So will a NDP government provide an extra lane southbound if it becomes government?

  5. zweisystem says:

    Busways are built in Asia because the world bank prefers to lend monies for new highway like transit projects and not rail and with gas prices rising everywhere, one wonders if buses are the way to go. In Europe, buses based transit systems have stalled as most now seem more expensive than light rail. Again the highways lobby love to see busways because they can be easily converted to regular road use.

    Japan is looking very hard in reinstating European style tramway’s instead of more expensive and fancy bus based transit solutions. One final note, wages paid to bus drivers in Asia are a lot less than paid in North America and Europe and with wages between 70% to 80 % of operating costs of a transit system, cheap bus drivers in Asia may tilt the scales for a bus system, where in Europe and North America the opposite is true.

    As for Surrey and Langley needing good rail transit, all their tax monies have been spent on Vancouver.