At Moving the Future conference, mayors and experts envision transportation-friendly city
We don't just work in the city. We play in the city. We hope, dream, laugh, love, and cry in the city. How Metro Vancouver develops has to take this into account.
Goldberg placed us between Hong Kong and Bangkok when it comes to transit integration. He mentioned a recent trip to Hong Kong, during which he had 13 meetings in one day. He relied on the transit system and its many redundancies, and was therefore “always on time, never stressed.” Bangkok was pretty much was the opposite of that: it's a sprawled city where transit hasn’t caught up or innovated. Hong Kong managed transit growth well; Bangkok has not. “Unfortunately, we’re looking more and more like a Bangkok... unless we get transit investment right," warned Goldberg. Otherwise, “Bangkok is our future.”
Robertson had mentioned the potential for Vancouver to attract great minds from around the world, but we face the flip side if we can't scale up in a commuter-friendly way: brain drain.
Goldberg champions a “highly-focused, compact region” focused on transit nodes, which will also reduce pollution, since we'd be living close to the arteries through which we travel. “When I look ahead, I see an economy that’s very robust... we need a transit and land-use system that’s equally robust.” Achieving this, he said, requires a “significant rethinking” of how we move people and goods. TransLink has huge responsibility, but no authority. It's just the service provider and occasional public-opinion punching bag.
He turned to Commercial and Broadway, Ground Zero of the Grandview-Woodlands showdown.
Goldberg described the area as “Safeway and a parking lot, and a whole lot of junk retail”, adding that building high-rises there makes sense> He said that the locals opposing the Emerging Directions plan were “uninformed” and making decisions “based on fear”. Was he considering who would live in those high rises? If they're unaffordable to workaday East Van residents, they'd end up moving further east, and therefore towers would not be solving the density problem at all. The argument that density equals affordability is just too simplistic, and is not really borne out by our city's experience.
(Peñalosa's keynote speech hit on that point again and again: we are not army ants who only go to and from our places of employment. We live in the city, which means we play in the city. We hope and dream and laugh and love and cry in the city. How we develop has to take this into account, or conferences like Moving the Future are a colossal waste of time.)
Goldberg said that transit has to “go where people live.” At the moment, it doesn't, he noted, saying that Vancouver comes second only to Los Angeles in terms of traffic congestion, second only to Hong Kong in terms of housing costs. Not a great combination. “Our affordability problem can be helped enormously,” he said, by integrating our transit and land-use policies.
Andrew Ramlo, Executive Director of Urban Futures, told the audience that 2.7 million of us live in Lower Mainland as of 2013. The projection for 2046: 4.3 million. That's a 56% population growth; and 1.6 million more people will be moving around the region. Going forward, Ramlo said, seniors make up the largest growing demographic. Aging into retirement will of course affect where they go and how they get there. Also, speaking to the notion that we do more than just work here, two-thirds of transit journeys are for purposes other than work.
Ramlo noted that not everyone wants to be stuffed into a 600-square-foot condo on Kingsway. What about single-family homes, he wondered. What about ditching RS-1 zoning and allowing duplexes?
The podium tower is not Vancouver's only option: Paris-style medium-density development is also possible, and can lead to healthy, street-life-friendly communities without blocking out the sun. To this end, Goldberg mentioned Europe's track record of developing first around the bicycle, then around transit.