Cover of McElhanney transit study
At the Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities on January 30, 2019 (Wed), Vancouver city staff will present a report to City Council entitled “Rapid Transit from Arbutus Street to UBC.”
The report was just made public on January 25. Senior city staff are recommending that the Mayor and Council “endorse a SkyTrain extension from Arbutus Street to UBC.”
This is a multi-billion dollar decision with huge implications for Vancouver decades ahead, highly premature, and based on questionable numbers.
The 11-member City Council of whom nine are there for the first time, would be very smart NOT TO ACCEPT the staff recommendations, and instead only to RECEIVE the report for information purposes. Many of the assertions made by the consultant and staff deserve further review. Any member of the public who feels this is an important topic is encouraged to share their views with Council by speaking or writing. See meeting agenda for details.
The Vancouver Coalition of Neighbourhoods (CVN) wrote to Council on January 25 asking Council to accept the report for information only, not to endorse it or accept its recommendations (see the link CVN’s letter, 10-point excerpt also provided below) .
In the staff report, General Manager of Engineering Services (Gerry Dobrovolny) and General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability (Gil Kelly) recommend:
A. THAT Council endorse a SkyTrain extension from Arbutus Street to UBC.
B. THAT Council direct staff to work with partners to advance the design development including public consultation to determine station locations, vertical and horizontal alignment.
C. THAT staff write a letter to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation (“Mayors’ Council”) to inform them of Council’s support for the selection of SkyTrain and further design and consultation on alignment.
Two related documents are available online for this meeting.
“Rapid Transit from Arbutus Street to UBC” (staff report, Jan 15, 2019) https://council.vancouver.ca/20190130/documents/pspc1.pdf
Appendix C (“Rail to UBC Rapid Transit Study: Alternatives Analysis Summary and Update” (McElhanney Consulting Services) Jan 2019 ): https://council.vancouver.ca/20190130/documents/pspc1-AppendixC.pdf
There are many problems with the consultant report and staff recommendations. Many of the numbers, statements, technical details, and assumptions used to justify the staff’s conclusions are questionable and could collapse under close review. They deserve independent review and verification.
The Broadway Subway plan was a pillar of Vision Vancouver policy, though public support was never explicitly provided. But Vision was obliterated from City Council in the October 2018 civic election after ten years of absolute majority, which could also be seen in part as a rejection of the Broadway Subway idea. But notably, Vision did some high-profile firings of staff during its years in power and installed staff who were compliant with their policies. Those staff are now trying to implement Vision policies though their former masters are gone.
If Council approves the staff recommendation to endorse a SkyTrain extension from Arbutus Street to UBC, it will predetermine the planning outcomes and make a citywide plan (just now beginning) moot.
Council should be receiving this report for information only and not be implementing it as policy. Expect the City staff to fight any delays.
But our elected Mayor and Council are responsible to taxpayers and the public and would be well-advised to take their time to have the facts properly tested and validated.
The consultant report should not be used as the sole basis for approving a major policy direction in advance of public consultation on a citywide plan.
Here is an excerpt of the CVN letter: Continue reading