Density key to financing rapid transit through Vancouver's west side

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Will a Skytrain eventually be making its way through Vancouver's west side neighbourhoods?

A report coming before Vancouver City Council's Traffic and Transportation Committee tomorrow should be of interest to all Broadway corridor business owners and residents. Or at least is should be of interest to those wanting to prevent what happened during the Canada Line construction.

TransLink and the City are looking at their options along the Broadway Corridor to build a new rapid transit line connecting Vancouver Community College and UBC. While I am encouraging business owners and residents to get engaged in this process sooner rather than later, I'd actually like to explore some of the fascinating data laid out in the bowels of the staff report.

There are some very interesting statistics on the lifestyle and travel habits of three distinct West Side neighbourhoods which were included to help provide context for future development. Those neighbourhoods include West Point Grey, Kitsilano and Fairview. Here is some fun with numbers:

  • Only 1% of the housing in Fairview is single family homes while that number skyrockets to 44% in West Point Grey
  • 67.3% of the housing stock in Fairview is actually deemed to be apartments under 5 stories
  • 58% of West Point Grey residents choose to drive their car to work, while only 46% do so in Fairview
  • 24% of Fairview residents use public transit, while only 17% do so in Point Grey

When you juxtapose those previous figures with current and projected population densities, you begin to uncover an interesting story. In the areas bounded by Blanca and Alma, the current density is 61 residents per hectare. This is projected to increase to a mere 79 by 2041. In other words, current zoning provides for very little densification of this aging and single-family dominated neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, a bit further east in the Burrard-Main area, the current density is 126 people per hectare with projections that it will jump to 193 by 2041. There are also 52.2 dwellings per hectare in this area compared to 11.8 in West Point Grey.

While there may be other factors at play, it's pretty hard to deny that higher densities in the Fairview area has resulted in increased used of public transit and less reliance on the personal automobile. That's why I continue to argue that despite all of the Mayor's thoughtful suggestions through his Greenest City Action Team (GCAT), they will have nowhere near the impact on the environment as increased density.

Unfortunately, the cold hard political reality is that the GCAT initiatives are all much easier to implement compared to taking on tony westside neighbourhoods. This is despite the fact we know denser neighbourhoods impact the environment less.

The Broadway corridor desperately needs rapid transit all the way out to UBC. There is no doubt in my mind about that. Now if we could only figure out the route, the technology and whether West Point Grey residents can embrace the idea that they will need to significantly densify in order to help pay for this massive project.

- post by Daniel


Translink's next priority should be rapid transit through the Fraser Valley...especially lower cost initiatives such as the InterUrban Line revivial. As for UBC, surface-level LRT or a revival of the Arbutus line would do the job as well.

In the end, pushing for density alone is a dead issue that exists only as a wet dream for developers and city planners. As we found out through the democratic process, people like their neighbourhoods, their space, their property values and their quality of life. They rightfully see density as a threat to all of these things.

I think you meant "bowels", not "bowls", unless, of course, you're using the term "bowl" in the, "Please sir, Can I have some more" way,which is entirely possible given the context.

@ John. Good catch. The typo has now been fixed. Someone in our proofreading dept on the 17th floor is going to have some explaining to do :-)

I challenge anyone to ride the 99 B Line on a regular basis and tell me with a straight face that Skytrain isn't the answer. That line is incredibly packed all the time, and there simply isn't enough room on Broadway for a ground level train or streetcar.

This line isn't pushing density in the way that the Millennium and Evergreen lines are, it's just responding to an already bad transit crunch, and helping people get to UBC, which I believe is the #2 destination in town behind YVR.

I agree with Transitrider, rapid transit should be expanded east, not west. The Evergreem line should be the first priority and I think it would be well subscribed to, if the use of the Canada line is any indication.
Put more buses on the 99B line, and more and more until the need is met.
As for the Arbutus corridor, good luck.
CPR would want your granny's dentures for any of that line.
Expropriation anyone!

Maybe it's just me, but considering there is no money to build the long promised Evergreen Line and Translink, itself, is a disaster in terms of its funding, i.e., it spends more then it takes in and then thinks of new ways on how it can tax the very air that we breath, why on Earth are we wasting time looking at yet again another Skytrain line?

In any event, if the love affair of building expensive skytrain lines is going to go ahead; then the Evergreen Line must be built first before a line out to UBC.

Transitrider, your argument does not make any sense. If people on the West Side don't want more density, why would people in the Valley accept the density that comes with rapid transit?

Density, especially if accompanied by transit improvements, does not negatively impact property values or quality of life. Now, some people do have a fear of change but more often than not, the fear is unfounded.

Rapid transit is badly needed throughout the region but especially on Broadway. It would be very hard to jam more buses on Broadway.

If the people in the Valley want rapid transit, they first have to stop governments from wasting money on new roads. The billions that is being spent on roads in the Valley is both using money that could have been spent on rapid transit and reducing the potential ridership for rapid transit.

Who is worrying about this when the bank account is empty? A big waste of time.. Someone at Translink has strange dreams

If the eastern townships want more transit then they'll have change their ways and stop permitting the building of so many low-density. These are car-dependent communities that cannot be serviced effectively by any form of transit, be it bus, LRT or skytrain.

There was a story here on City Caucus not long ago about how the city of Mission recently approved a enormous development of low-density single family dwellings. They just don't get it.

I agree with Bob!! But beware they have stranger ideas on how to tax and fill their "bank account".

I Do NOT support a line to UBC...what so all those "international students" who come here for our cheap tuition can get to class a few minutes the expense of business and taxpayer costs during construction...
How much quicker will it be for them...and more importantly how much additional revenue would be generated...dont forget not everyone taking a bus today would now take the train...there will still be busses along broadway for sure....
Here's an Idea...Lets find an area with lots of cars and congestion / with the density that does NOT currently have a transit option and put something there first...the UBC line should be a lower priority as the whole idea is to reduce car trffic and take cars off the road....A UBC line wont have much affect as many ppl already are going there on the bus...Furthermore the ones that drive to UBC dont fit the demographic for the train line...along Broadway...
How about giant park and rides at the majoe exits of Hwy 1; from Surrey to the Abbotsford Int'l AIrport with a ground level train travelling between the lanes on the "grass patch"...that would be cheaper, you would get more kms of track for the $$ and lots of ppl me included would park at such a facility and take the train into town...where it could link up to skytrain in East Van or even find its way to along the Fraser to the Canada Line terminus for transfer into the DT
core...The evergreen line is the other talk of the town...but they have the West Coast Express on that side,...


UBC is the 3rd largest destination. Downtown being #1 and the Broadway corridor being #2.

Of course since you can get to UBC via the Broadway corridor. Then building a skytrain line down Broadway makes sense as you can kill two birds with one stone.

Whether the Evergreen line or the UBC Line should be built first does not matter. As both lines are need now. Not tomorrow but now. But since the Evergreen line is more shovel ready it should go first.

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