Transit Investment Needs to Go Farther
Transit is part of life on the Westside, thanks in large part to UBC as well as several well-established neighbourhoods. Anchored by small-scale retail strips, these village centres helped to focus development in the early days of Vancouver. When the Canadian Pacific Railway began developing West Side homes in the early 20th century, it made sure these areas were served by streetcars, forerunners of the trolley buses we see today.
Transit anchors development
Today, rapid transit is all the rage. Communities around the Lower Mainland have shown that it’s both a magnet and an anchor for new, high-density development. A glance at Metrotown and Surrey Central stations show what’s possible. The award-winning Marine Gateway project in South Vancouver and highrise development around Lafarge Lake-Douglas station are two more examples.
Six new stops
The new line will have six stops, on Great Northern Way, then along Broadway at Main Street, Cambie, Oak, Granville and finally Arbutus. The line doesn’t go very deep into Kitsilano, so the initial impact of the line will be limited to the single kilometre between Granville and Arbutus streets.
When analysts assess the impact of a new transit line, they usually consider anything within 500 metres of a station as transit-oriented. This puts plenty of properties from West 16th Avenue south to West 4th within range of one of the two new Kitsilano stations. Townhouses and apartments at Maple Street and in Arbutus Walk will be prime beneficiaries. You can bet the line’s completion will trigger more redevelopment. A transit hub is also planned for Arbutus Street, right next to the new greenway connecting Granville Island with Marpole. Put together, the line will bring plenty of connectivity.
UBC, not Arbutus
Still, I don’t feel the new line goes far enough. Why not run through to UBC, the biggest transit destination outside of downtown and west of Vancouver General Hospital? Sure, it would more than double the current cost estimate to about $6 billion, but that’s less than the Site C dam. It also makes more sense than stopping short and inviting a two-phase disruption.
The extension is also one more east-west route in a city that desperately needs more north-south connections. Bus routes along 4th, Broadway, King Edward, 41st and 49th serve the Westside well. However, the Broadway line will trigger new construction, and new multifamily projects are also in the works for Arbutus and Dunbar streets.
Don’t get me wrong – Vancouver needs better transit on Broadway. It will make it easier to navigate the busiest commercial corridor in the city, and boost property values. Developers should be able to build smaller, more affordable units than the traditional detached homes that dominate today’s Westside.
Boosting transit off Broadway will support the main goal of keeping people moving along Broadway. This ultimately makes the West Side an easier place for everyone to get around.