Against the UBC Skytrain? Don’t get me started!
I’ve only lived in Vancouver for a few years, so I’ve never been here to witness, from the beginning, the city’s famous resistance to urban development. Well, the proposed new rapid transit line to UBC is my chance, and I don’t like what I see. I just heard a caller on the CBC Early Edition this morning proclaim roughly the following
I don’t see why we should cause such a huge disturbance for residents and businesses as there was on cambie just for a few students going to UBC. The B-line’s are working fine.
There were also other callers complaining about how Vancouver has resisted this kind of build up for years and it would be a shame to see “kitsilano go”. That sort of says it all doesn’t it? There is some kind of idea amongst the residents of the West End and other cheerleaders of Vancouver that the lack of urban development, the lack of rapid transit, the horrible traffic, the absence of affordable food and shopping is some kind of plus for the city. Don’t get me wrong, Kitsilano is nice, its a great set of neighbourhoods. Peaceful and serene and inaccessible. And the residents would like to keep it that way thank you very much.
Well, you’re not welcome. Kitsilano and the entire West Side of town benefits from a asymmetric set of zoning rules and urban development projects. The West side stays inaccessible because the skytrains were all built to access the east side and eastern suburbs. Why was there no rapid transit to Richmond until now? Why was the Cambie line such a big deal? Its too close for comfort.
The big box stores are all only on the eastern and southern edges of town so that Kits can keep it wonderful neighbourhood feeling. Its so warm and fuzzy. But who lives in those neighbourdhoods? Can you afford a house there? I can’t. Neither can all of the immigrants and working class people who live in the the east side of town. The rapid transit there helps them get to their manufacturing and service jobs, the affordable big box stores make it possible for them to afford meals. They couldn’t live in the west side of town even if they could get their faster. And if they have to work on the west side, well, there’s always the B-line. All of these zoning and infrastructure decisions by city hall support the East-West divide in Vancouver.
So why don’t people from east of Main speak up? Don’t they have a voice in the city council? Oh right, they have no representation at all, never have. This is because the voting at large system of municipal elections favours parties from the well funded west side of town and downtown. So all the members of council conform to policies set by parties in Kits, downtown and shaughnessy. Handy.
The only reason we’re having this discussion at all is because UBC is such a big congestion problem that people are commuting through the paradise of Kits, how inconvenient. It is not “just a few” students, there are 40,000 students at UBC and those buses are packed every morning. Many people have to wait for multiple buses to get in and when they get a bus they are packed like sardines in a can, standing for 40 minutes on the bus. No problem, why would we need a train? Also, although the callers may not like to think about it, there are actually a lot of people on the west side who can’t afford cars to get out of town when they need to, they live in those big houses nearby you that have been turned into rooming houses. The ones with 4 or 5 apartments carved into the rooms. I’m thinking they would all love a faster, more reliable way to get to the centre of town.
This resistance to making Vancouver function efficiently as a whole is a symptom of a larger problem that the city allows gross inequalities from one side of town to the other allowing the city to become ghettoized into different regions with haves and have nots. Its makes for an unattractive result, if you look around at the big picture and for me greatly detracts from claims that Vancouver is a paradise. Just because its paradise doesn’t mean it can be run efficiently.