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Against the UBC Skytrain? Don’t get me started!

April 15, 2009

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.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2009 5:52 pm

    Solution – move UBC to Surrey. 🙂

  2. Alexandra permalink
    April 15, 2009 5:52 pm

    Thank you!

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. As a student commuting to UBC every day I can attest that the B-Line is most certainly not enough. Trying to get to campus at 9am takes about an hour after you factor in all the busses that are full and drive past you. This is an hour bus ride that would take ten minutes by car but most students can’t afford cars and depend on public transit – a quicker way to get to class would be a god send. The dependence on transit is shown in the 90% pass of the referendum to continue the UPass. Alot of Kits residents are out of touch with who actually lives here. Yes, there are many families, but there are also alot of students living in crappy basement appartments and communal houses just trying to get through school. Why kick us when we’re down? People in kits might not realize it, but there are alot of poor people in Vancouver that need this kind of thing.

  3. Dave permalink
    April 26, 2009 7:06 am

    Skytrain costing BILLIONS for a bunch of yuppy wannaby students?! Spend the Billions on the working classes and put the Skytrain to Cloverdale, Langley and Abbotsford, that is where the working THOUSANDS are, and it is the workers who pay the taxes, and it is thousands of cars NOT on the road!!!

  4. April 26, 2009 7:11 am

    Dave, spending millions on new transit is well worth it to reduce cars and improve efficient running of the city, I agree Langley and Abbotsford should have fast, accessible suburban transit as well so that everyone can get into town and work and school faster. But UBC is a huge stress on the system right now and needs to be improved.

  5. Dave permalink
    April 30, 2009 4:14 am

    I guess you are right, I forget how large U.B.C. is, But still, which is a bigger priority ? I think Skytrain To Langley/Cloverdale should come first,even if its; a long term thing..they should commit to it .

  6. Robin permalink
    August 1, 2009 11:24 pm

    I’m a 4th year student who has lived on campus since my first day of classes, even during summers! The B-Line is great, it takes about 20-25 minutes to get to Granville depending on the time of day. The problem is though that UBC is expanding, not only am I talking about students but also about its residents. UBC is no longer only for students, more residents live here than students! They are building a new town south of campus on Wesbrook which will include a retirement community and a Save-on-Foods. So we’re not just talking about more students, UBC is a city and that city is growing. So the need for rapid transit is now more important than ever. Even with B-Line buses running every 5 minutes at peak hours they are still overcrowded, so bad that I’ve seen people miss their stops because they couldn’t get to the exit in time, sounds ridiculous but it happens. Broadway, ableit being a two lane road simply can’t accommodate adding more B-Line buses. These B-Lines protrude into the second lane and are, in my opinion, very dangerous to be sharing the road with, especially when there are cyclists and parked cars on both sides. I take 12th whenever I need to drive to Granville.
    You could assume that most people who live in the west end of Vancouver work downtown so why would they oppose a skytrain line along Broadway, one that would take them to work in no time?

  7. August 18, 2009 2:22 am

    Here’s an idea for building that new UBC skytrain without disrupting the businesses on Broadway too much…build it under 8th.

    All the houses on 8th can get access via the nearest intersecting street and the alleyways. The city can pay them a bit for their trouble and to park their cars somewhere and the businesses get less stress during construction.

    Oh, we’ll have to move the bike friendly street to 7th as well.

    I’m sure that will work out fine, problem solved…. 😉

    • May 19, 2012 3:04 am

      Immigrants cant afford the homes on the west side, or near or in Kits ?
      Excuse me ! Go take a walking tour and see the tonnes, yes tonnes of Asians that inhabit those areas, in increasing numbers. Many of then drive SAABS and the priciest Honda’s, rather than relying on any public transit. My God, if you’re gonna spout opinion, make sure its factual !!

      • May 19, 2012 3:05 am

        btw, this was in response to the original column writer.

      • Renee permalink
        May 24, 2013 4:21 pm

        Asians aren’t the only immigrants living in Vancouver, and while there are a number of wealthy and successful immigrants, there is also a huge number of struggling immigrants.

        What Kits suffers from is simply, NIMBYism. Yes, it is an unfortunate experience to have to go through to expand transit, but at the end of the day – everybody benefits. Rapid transit is necessary for socioeconomic and sustainable reasons.

        To say that it is unnecessary to build a rapid transit through through the west so as not to disrupt the neighbourhood is silly. There are many examples of great neighbourhoods that work alongside rapid transit. The issue is very complex and it stems from a variety of things. For example – rapid transit in Canada has a very complex set of standards of which are not necessarily necessary. The setbacks between pedestrian thoroughfares and transit lines is huge compared to other cities. Taking a look at some successful European cities, and you’ll quite literally see light rail transit going right through and beside pedestrian thoroughfares. It is kind of sad that Canadian planning treats humans like we’re idiots and that we’d otherwise walk right into the a train if there was not a huge setback or if it wasn’t underground or elevated.

        As for disregarding the needs of UBC students, that is another thing. There are over 1000s of not only students, but also faculty and staff, riding the B-line to UBC everyday. The thing is, the people who are against extending transit to UBC need to look at the bigger picture. UBC is a huge resource for the City of Vancouver and it is within Vancouver’s interest to increase accessibility to it. How much money flows in and out of UBC everyday? UBC surely must be one of Vancouver’s largest employers and plays a huge role in bringing in people to Vancouver given its reputation as a post-secondary institution, and for that, it is important to increase accessibility to it. It is much bigger issue than just ‘a few students’.

        And, for the sake of the City of Vancouver….it would be beneficial for increased accessibility to the West side. Vancouver definitely has more pockets of ghettoized areas than in any other Canadian city that I have lived in. To date, since I have moved to Vancouver a year ago – I have gone to Kits 3 times simply because it is just such a hassle for me to get there. But quite simply put…some of the most successful neighbourhoods in the world are those that are mixed, not just mixed use but also mixed income, mixed ethnicities, etc. And creating more options for UBC students to live by increasing accessibility would also decrease the amount of the shitty cramped apartments with outrageous rent that students are paying…simply to just live a little closer to UBC.

        Not to mention, Kits is a tourist destination and tourism plays a big part in Vancouver’s economy. I have a friend visiting Vancouver at the moment and is staying in Kits…and he feels like he’s having difficulty getting to other parts of the city to take see things because it is so disconnected from other parts of the city.

        BUT…funding is always an issue. I don’t know much about Vancouver’s planning but I fail to understand why nobody has considered BRT (bus rapid transit). I mean…the real BRT where buses have their own lanes and do not share with other traffic. Not the express buses with fewer stops that for some reason, Canadian cities call BRT.

        Anyway…long story short. I sure am glad that I by chance, happened to find a place to live in East Van than in the west side when I first moved here!

  8. March 11, 2013 6:43 pm

    Well it is not a question of making the city efficient It is the cost is it worth to travel 5 minutes faster at an extra cost of $2.5 Billion yes that is $500 million a minute. That is what we call a poor investment. But then gain you must be for big box stored and high-rises,. Interesting despite all the high rise developments all over Vancouver the price of housing has NOT gone down.

    So wake up – 5 minutes efficiency at a cost of $2.5 Billion, What is your tax number happy to send you my increased for youth pay in a city that is already way to expensive

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