Comparing Arbutus Rail Corridor vs Cambie Street Boulevard


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Here is a few shots of the boulevard, as one travels along its two to three-lane, bus-friendly length from Cambie bridge to S.W. Marine Drive. Notice the vistas as one heads north or south, as a driver or walker comes up over the hill at 33rd and looks down on the city's skyline north, or at the river and Richmond's flooded plains southward.

Consider the impact of an unnecessary train route on a boulevard-dominated with homes and quiet neighbourhoods bordering a road system already capable of handling bus and car traffic in large volumes. The boulevard's role in mitigating the traffic effects are very evident. Notice the quiet residential areas, and the boulevard's contribution to that showcase ambience that makes this city so world-class. These same neighbourhoods and its boulevard would face ruin at the hands of an unnecessary train system.

Here's the Arbutus corridor, a desolate and overgrown tract running in a well-shielded corridor through the heart of Vancouver's suburbs, close to UBC, dense housing areas and the airport. Wouldn't a logical person expect this route to be ideal for a train transit system, should one ever be necessary? The route is there. The land-use intrusion has occurred here years ago, and the neighbourhood has accommodated it, and in fact has grown around it at such areas as 41st and Arbutus, at 57th and West Boulevard, and farther north from Broadway to Granville Island. Much of the Arbutus route travels through desolate land, in sharp contrast to the situation on Cambie Boulevard, where fine neighbourhoods or commercial development abut the entire route.

The Arbutus Line has accommodated the rails and space for trains, and surrounding development has, too. Any options to increase commercial or housing development at the northern end from Broadway, or at 41st, or south of 57th would be well-served by a train transit system whose impact has been well-integrated into the neighbourhood for generations. In fact, a considerably increased commercial development level triggered by a train would hardly be noticed, considering the Arbutus Line's spacious corridor. At the south end, the rail link to Richmond is close by, as are the rail yard links along the Fraser. Consider the photos of the two routes. Which route would do the least damage? Which would enjoy the greatest new developmental benefit from a train transit system, were such a system necessary? Which is most effective and direct? Arbutus is clearly the answer.

Vancouver's green and quiet neighbourhoods have attracted people and capital for most of the last century. The wide harbour and mountain views rear up as backdrops to neighbourhoods and commercial areas across the city. While not free of wasteful blight (Skytrain) and overdevelopment (Yaletown) the city has managed to earn a reputation for a fine balance between commercial expansion and an ambience that encourages people to live and work in the city's inner core.

Vancouver is not without busy streets and crowded transit. Yet residents and visitors praise Vancouver for a sensible and practical resistance to the very worst of planning venality such as one finds in Toronto, where the city is torn apart by freeways and noisy and intrusive train systems. Vancouver residents tend to congratulate themselves on their taste and calculated self-restraint in the face of pressure to turn the city into another commercial wasteland. Bad ideas often emerge from gigantic budgets ratifying a bad decision through "study."

The North-East Coal fiasco dumped several billion of the taxpayers' dollars into a few dark holes. In more recent times, citizens saw $500 million disappear into three worthless ferries. Skytrain's billions in costs and running subsidies similarly devoured money, with the gigantic uncalculated costs of ruined neighbourhoods and rising crime rates. The Cambie train proposal is uneconomic, on the wrong route even if it were economic, and the costs to the boulevard alone would make it impossible to find enough transportation benefits to justify that route.

We invite citizens to have look at publically financed documents on the Translink website, or get hard copies from public agencies, and decide for themselves whether this train system to Richmond has any merit, whether on Cambie or elsewhere. When you read the reports, you will see that a $1.9 billion plus construction estimate makes no sense. That the traffic projections are muddled and confused. That the cost-benefit analysis is superficial and flawed. That many direct and indirect costs are not counted. And that the entire orientation of the publically financed feasibility work focuses on ratifing an indefensible financial and economic decision. Clearly a bus system could accommodate any future traffic for perhaps a tenth the cost, and allow plenty of flexibility, particularly in the face of the inevitable Richmond flood.

Cambie at 16th Ave. facting North
Cambie at 33rd facing South
Cambie at 57th Ave. facing South - Fraser River in background

North view 18-19th and Arbutus
Arbutus corridor at 33rd Ave. facing North
Arbutus corridor at 33rd Av. facing South
Rail - north view - 41st and E. Blvd. - Kerrisdale

Sky Train - above ground station similar to below ground

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