March 11, 2015

Defining Plan B: The Default Scenario

From Vanessa Calatano in comments:

The vast majority of no votes represent the public interest, and that has to be respected. …

The vote has been decided, and it is NO, not NOW. Get your house in order, come back in 3-5 years. Proof? Greg Moore was asked by Vaughn Palmer “What’s your Plan B” and Moore said he doesn’t have one. That’s irresponsible.

Oh, there is a Plan B.  It is called “Default” – what happens automatically in the event of no further funding.  As Vanessa implies, new transit investment will be deferred for 3 to 5 years to ‘get your house in order’ – whatever than means.  And then if another referendum passes – a big assumption – orders for buses can be placed, planning for rail begun, consultation undertaken and plans revised.  In other words, a decade is realistically required before we begin to get back to where we are today.

In that time, the population in Metro grows – roughly 330,000 more people.  With them, about 200,000 vehicles (a straight line of parked cars from here to Saskatchewan), especially since the message will be pretty clear: there will be no increase in transit; buy a car.

As well, decisions must be made with respect to ongoing urban growth: commercial and residential developments, zoning changes, parking requirements, road expansions.  They cannot be deferred for a decade.  Not even a month.

The No vote does, however, confirm that transit service will continue to decline, as it has already started to do.

From the TransLinkBase Plan:

The number of people using transit is expected to continue to grow; however, current funding levels cannot keep pace with the targets set out in the Regional Transportation Strategy. For example, increases in transit services since 2009 have been overtaken by population growth, and per capita service levels* have begun to decline and will continue to do so without new funding.


Though the Base Plan is fully funded to maintain total service hours, that still means declining service levels for customers as competition for seats and standing space increases, as do pass-ups.  Without any expansion, limited bus hours will have to be reallocated away from lower demand corridors – and the competition gets more brutal.

Here’s the takeaway: in ten years – about what it would take (assuming the passage of another referendum) to significantly expand transit delivery – service levels would be where they were in about 2003.  A decade of expansion in the 2000s would have been lost and an increasingly densely populated region would have fewer options.

There is no status quo.  There is, however, “Default.”



*Service Hours per Capita: This is the total number of service hours in the region divided by the total population in the region; this is not the number of people using transit, which is increasing.

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  1. It is astonishing that the 99 B-Line situation alone has been allowed to continue for so long, let alone the fiasco now taking shape. Politicians at all levels (local, provincial, federal) need to be held accountable for this. However the federal politicians (who steadfastly refuse to consider a dedicated transit funding strategy in an urban century) and provincial politicians (who are busy trying to offload tough decisions to local governments, and really funding only roads) who hold the most responsibility for this situation.

    This should be rectified in the next election cycle.

  2. One major remedy is the City’s Policy Statement for the Jericho lands, expected early 2016, well before the next election cycle (Oct 2018). There (the same land area as South East False Creek), the City can establish footing for the creation of student housing at Jericho (a pleasant walk to campus), which will remove HALF of the current student commute, much of which daily ships students across the sub-region from cheap housing in the east to campus (20-30km total daily commute), an enormous waste of their time, and of transit capacity.

    Or, throw billions at a people pipeline, with what would otherwise be your money.

    1. You are eliminating a 6 km urban corridor that takes the majority of transit destinations in your comment on the UBC campus. Building student housing at Jericho – if even financially viable to the public and First Nation land owners – may only nip off a tiny slice of the 77% of students who take transit. Many students have free room and meals at home and prefer the inconvenience of longer commutes by transit to spending money they don’t have on rent.

      You are also forgetting the significant investments UBC and SFU (which will become very close to being directly connected via an extension of the Millennium Line) are putting into the VGH health sciences and the Great Northern Way campus.

      If you can’t tolerate people pipelines then you shouldn’t travel to London or Paris or Madrid or New York City …

    2. We mustn’t either forget that hundreds of UBC employees take transit too. The campus is of the top employers in the province.

    3. I live at UBC. No one will walk from Jericho .. and little, if any, student housing will happen on Jericho land as UBC has a lock on it on their own land. Also, it is uphill, at least 30 minutes away. Jericho will liekly be a mix of medium to high density housing, manily at market, and some subsidized. No subway, of course. Why not ?

      UBC is building out the campus to the tune of 15,000+ residents (I am one of them, one of 8000 or so right now) plus 15,0000-20,000 student residences (now roughly at 11,000) .. a UBCity really .. more at how the residents manage their municipal-like affairs in a democratically constrained fashion, or loads of info here: on plans, incl. the high-density South-Campus south of 16th

      Like Port Moody or PoCo they build high rises first, then complain, 10-20 years later: too much traffic, we need transit. At least there is decent pedestrian oriented walkways, roughly 50% or more rather than a car oriented campus. Nice to walk about. Check it out if you haven’t been there since you graduated !

      50,000+ students, 15,000+ residents, 10,000+ employees .. and NO rapid transit to Vancouver. Only wobbly buses, stuck in traffic. What gives ?

  3. The entire “Plan B” meme is yet another red herring thrown in by the NO side. There is a Plan B, but it was already dismissed by the Minister of Transportation. As brilliantly pointed out by Brad Cavanagh over at

    “Plan A would have been “province properly funds transit in Metro Vancouver.” Plan B was “Mayors’ Council proposes carbon tax increase and mobility pricing”, which they did, but that was rejected by the province. So now we’re with Plan C.”

    The simple political reality of the situation is that if this goes down to a NO, it is very unlikely that anyone’s political capital will be spent re-launching this plan until after the next Provincial election in 2017, which will cause the discussion to be delayed until after the 2018 Muni elections, and the cycle repeats. In the meantime, the Province will dust off it’s hands with tacit disappointment, the Mayors will throw this back at the Province (and probably turn on each other again, having been taught a lesson of how the Province reacts when they actually work together for the betterment of the region) and the $7.5Billion of taxpayer’s money will instead be invested in an oversized replacement for the tunnel, and other “upgrades” of motordom that you won’t get to vote on and Jordan Bateman will be strangely silent about. Assuming he isn’t elected as a Conservative MP, in which case he will be there to cut the ribbon, suddenly all smiles.

  4. A small quibble. Assuming cars, SUVs and light duty trucks average 5.5 metres in length, including a little bit of space in front and back, 200,000 cars parked dead still on the mountainous Trans Canada Highway would stretch 1,100 km, pretty well from downtown Vancouver to downtown Calgary.

    But as the crow flies, 1,100 km would indeed stretch to within 5 km of Elrose Sask., pop.450.

    Still, the point’s been made.

  5. And there it is again in black and white, the one assumption that is driving me towards the No side: “In that time, the population in Metro grows – roughly 330,000 more people’

    Why are we supposed to lie down and take this as a given? That increase, if it comes to pass, is almost completely the result of one level of government. It is not interprovincial migration or mass babymaking. We know it will degrade the environment as all those newcomers are going to take transit no matter how great it is. And yet time and time again it’s thrown out there as an absolute.

    1. Do you seriously think there’s any way to stop the world from emigrating to Canada and that the Conservative Party of Canada (or any other party) would actually do such a thing?

      1. is there a way to stop it? Of course, reduce the quotas then enforce them. Do I think any current political party will do it? No.

        Serious environmentalists need to eliminate contradictions in their message. If you moan that we’re no longer capable of growing enough food in the Lower Mainland to feed its residents, don’t try and defend importing more residents into the area.

        I’m of the theory that nature tries to stay in balance. As societies become more affluent and educated they produce less children and the population falls to sustainable levels. Currently we’re shortcircuiting that process with the flawed thesis that we need to keep bringing people is to support future pension payments, and we steal the educated from societies that need to keep them most.

        1. I would not use the term “steal”. I would use the term: “we offer them better opportunities”.

          However, the question has to be asked what is “optimal immigration” and then “what is optimal taxation of them”.

          Many, perhaps too many, affluent folks from non-democracies come here to seek a second, third, fourth or fifth passport and as many homes to hide their cash or just park it in a low investment return and volatile stock market world. Perhaps they are under-taxed as they cherry pick from the healthcare and education curricula worldwide. That is why I have argued that we need to tax income less but properties and land transfer far far more, to the tune of 1% per $1M up to 15%. There are many large homes, especially in W-Van, N-Van, Richmond and Vancouver worth millions with nary an income tax payer in them, or one or two tax payers and 4 grand-parents 2-3 great-gran parents and 2-4 children all taking (too much) healthcare and education services for the (too little) income taxes paid !