December 27, 2013

Matt Taylor Video: What a Motordom Metro would be like in 30 years

Matt Taylor did that terrific video: What would Commercial Drive look like with Surrey parking standards?

Here’s his latest: Growth and Mobility in Metro Vancouver.



Do not let that dry title or Matt’s deadpan delivery discourage you from watching.  This is another devastating critique of the consequences of Motordom in shaping our region – and the possible consequences of the transit referendum.

Let me add a little sensationalism:

  • *See* your worst nightmare for Metro in three short decades!
  • *Discover* how many 46-storey towers we would need – every year!
  • *Imagine* what 730,000 additional vehicles would look like if parked.  [This really is devastating when Matt lays it out, road by road.]
  • *Guess* how long that line-up would be across Canada.
  • Or how much space the parking lots will require.
  • Or what it would cost to build the parking underground.
  • *Boggle* at the expense – and what it could otherwise build!
  • *Calculate* the freeway equivalent of the Expo line.

(Answers below the fold.  But watch the video first.)

Matt makes a plea to share the video (you can do so below) and keep it in mind when the transit referendum comes forward.

To my mind, it raises the question as to why we have to vote on rapid-transit expansion in the first place, (especially given that the Province simply announces more highways and bridges as a fait accompli).  Matt’s video shows how it would be both physically and economically devastating (if not practically impossible) to handle the expected growth without transit.



Expected population growth (2014-2044): 1.1 million people.

Number of new Metroplaces (Burnaby 46-storey tower for 730 people): 1,500 equivalents, or 50 more every year.

Number of additional vehicles by 2044 at current vehicle ownership rates: 730,000.

Length of new lane kilometres to park additional vehicles (at 200 vehicles per lane km):  3,700 kilometres – from Horseshoe Bay to Sault St. Marie.

Number of new parking spaces required (3 spaces per vehicle: home, work and all other):  2.2 million.

Space needed for parking: 66 square kilometres.

Cost of underground parking: $90 billion (@ $40,000 per space).

Or $3 billion per year (equivalent to proposed Broadway rapid-transit line).

Expo line equivalent (26,000 passengers per hour per direction): 26 lanes of freeway.


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  1. Mostly I glaze over when lots of numbers are cited. But these come alive, thanks to Matt’s great graphics.

    But the scenario of all additional people living in ultra-highrises needs an alternative: more suburban sprawl. Although parking costs for the cars would be lower, the impact on the environment — and the limits imposed by natural features — would be much higher.

    I suspect that the high-rise option would translate into far lower growth in car numbers than he has assumed — after all, Van has plenty of carsharing around (see this site for a look into China: to offer an alternative path to growth.

    Oh, yes. Matt has assumed three parking places needed for each car. Most literature guesses higher (4-6). What is ironic is that no city administration knows how many parking spaces exist within their boundaries, even though city zoning laws have caused them to be provided.

    Chris, Ottawa

  2. it is obvious that the figure of .75 cars per additional new person is far too high.

    One needs to look at current car ownership rates in high-rise condos, close to transit, say in Burnaby or Yaletown and it is probably closer to 33 to 50%.

    Also, as car ownership gets more expensive, through additional taxes, road pricing, higher gas prices, more congestion and higher parking fees even less people will buy a car.

    MetroVancouver needs tools to fund this internally, and as such the request by the Mayors’ Council makes total sense: more road tolls, higher sales taxes and a higher vehicle levy. Forget the feds or BC province. We cannot expect people in Price George to fund Vancouver’s traffic problems.

    What is missing, and why Christy Clarke is asking for a referendum is cost control. Local politicians have been unable to constrain wages and pensions of far too many and frequently overpaid bureaucrats. Wages of many public servants with high job security need to be 30% below current levels to be in line with reality. Defined benefit pensions should be illegal in Canada as they are a theft from the tax payers in this low interest rate environment. MetroVancouver also has far too many politicians, namely folks in 27 municipalities and that is far too many.

    Perhaps things have to get worse first (i.e. first referendum fails) before they get better.

    Many things, in parallel, have to be looked a: cost control, DB pension, amalgamation of municipalities, higher user fees, more power to the local authorities, more congestion.

    Vancouver was built around the car, and that takes 50-80 years to change.

    Asking for more provincial funding without changing wages, governing structures or wasteful spending patters on the local level will go nowhere !

    1. Firstly, 730,000/1,100,000 is not 75%, it is 66%.

      Secondly, this is based on current ownership figures in Metro Vancouver, not some random guess of how many cars there will be in the future based on your anecdotal perceptions of Yaletown.

      Thirdly, as Gord has noted several times before, administrative costs for Translink are like 5% of it`s budget and are basically pretty inconsequential. You can`t just cut wages indefinitely and expect Translink to be run better. You need wages competitive with the private sector, so there isn’t a brain drain.

      Stupid comment, sorry.

      1. my point. The wages are often NOT competitive. They are too high.

        Personnel costs of TransLink are more like 70%+. Who is talking and/or analyzing salaries and benefits in the public or quasi-public sector ? No one here, not the unionized Vancouver Sun reporters nor municipalities but THAT is one of the key issues of lack of funding for more socialist leaning municipalities by a right-of-center “liberal” party.

        What is the burdened annual cost of a bus driver, for example ? Or a city/TransLink planner ? Given their low risk of unemployment and their cushy benefits the base wages need to be far lower than a private sector employee. But they are not.

  3. You’re saying that in MetroVancouver with 2.0M people we have 1.5M cars ? I seriously challenge that assumption. Yes, more cars is not desired. But I doubt very much that it is even 50%. For every Sikh mega-family with 10 folks in a household there is 7.5 cars ? For every couple in Burnaby there is 1.5 cars ? For every family of 4 there is 3 cars. I doubt these base assumptions very much. Where do you get those from ?

    1. Hello Thomas. Metro Vancouver’s statistics page indicates that as of January 30th, 2013, there were 1,520,776 registered vehicles in the Metro Vancouver area.


      Metro Vancouver has not posted detailed census population and household figures for 2013, however for the 2001 to 2011 decade of time a total of 290,520 additional vehicles were registered; a 24,4% increase over the 2001 baseline. In the same span of time, the population of Metro Vancouver increased by 326,323 people (a 16.4% increase) and 163,288 dwellings (a 21.4% increase). This change in registered vehicles, population, and dwellings works out to 0.89 new registered vehicles per capita and 1.78 new registered vehicles per dwelling.


      1. thank you. very interesting.

        I note that Surrey had among the fastest vehicle growth, higher than Burnaby or Vancouver, due to lower density presumably. As such, one must look at density, so a single family house in Surrey will have, on average, more vehicles than a 1BR condo downtown Vancouver, Burnaby or New West close to a train station. As such, linear projections are dangerous. But clearly, it shows that more cars are NOT the answer, and that car use is still very popular and to reduce it, it has to be far more expensive and/or inconvenient.

        What is also unknown is # of motorcycles as they take less space than cars. I do welcome the idea of having an annual fee that is tied to engine size. Parking should also be based on length of vehicle, not stall, as a SmartCar or motorcycle or small car takes less space than a hummer of 8 cyclinder S500 Mercedes.

        We have to assume, though, that individual vehicles, be they shares like car2Go or individually owned will be with us for a few more decades at least. related article, published in the Vancouver Sun on Aug. 19, 2013, and the UBC Campus resident, page 9 here:

  4. There is no worse way to predict future then by using linear extrapolation of current trends…Unless you are a financial “adviser” or a stock promoter of course…

    We don’t know whether we will have 1.1 million more people living here…We don’t know whether the line between transit and personal cars will be completely blurred by automation. We might not even need bus or taxi divers. We don’t know whether by 2040 people may mostly work and study from home…Maybe all your goods get delivered to you by a flock of Amazon flying drones (creating a new problem of controlling airspace congestion see:

  5. What powers surburban growth is quite simply families’ desire for a single family home. Apparently a lot of urban planners don’t understand that.

    1. Indeed. Any large city must offer variety: cheap rental apartments, condos, acreages, single family homes, townhouses, high-rises, mid-rises, view homes, golf course homes, Condos work for some, but indeed, most families prefer some space around them with a yard. As such, the car, and the suburb, will be with us for decades / centuries to come !

    2. Much suburban growth these days isn’t even detached houses, it’s townhouses. And given the continuing high (some might say extravagant) prices for condos, especially near transit, I think the continued interest in suburban homes might largely stem from the unaffordability and underbuilt nature of higher density living.

      1. Low density and high-density (and everything in between) will co-exist. Always have, always will be. New housing, be it dense, or in less dense suburbs is expensive. Building costs are about $120 to $150/sq ft plus land, at a very minimum, $250 or so for concrete highrises. Anything over that is land and higher end upgrades. Of course land with a nice view or close to transit costs more than land near a garbage dump far away from anything. As such, in poor locations say in Burnaby, Surrey or New West, you can get a condo for slightly less than $300/sq ft all in, but usually it is over $350/sq ft even for the crappiest building in a poor location, and as such a 600 sq ft 1BR is at least $200,000 or far more usually.

        Cities add a lot of requirements such as:
        a) subsidized rental unit
        b) add’l parking
        c) community amenity charges
        d) “green” features
        e) excessive safety or building codes

        All those extra requirements cost money and will be charged to the new owners.

    3. What a lot of individuals desiring a single family detached home don’t understand is that moving forward the North American model of suburban living is simply unsustainable.

      It will become too expensive and people will have to downsize their dreams and expectations to match the financial realities that are coming with the end of the age of cheap oil.

  6. “There is no worse way to predict future then by using linear extrapolation of current trends”

    Sadly, this isn’t true. As our host has demonstrated often, the current planning relies on linear extrapolation of (traffic) trends from decades ago, not taking into account data from the last decade or two.

    1. prediction of number of car according to the council of Mayors’ plan in 2045 (Annex C):

      “NO action”: 1,713,000
      “YES to the Mayors’ vision”: 1,675,289

      a 2% difference forecasted in 30 years from know is probably well into the error interval.