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More Broadway tunnel station speculation

May 29, 2016
The developing hole at 988 West Broadway and the city-owned Scotiabank property on the other side of Oak.

The developing hole at 988 West Broadway and the city-owned Scotiabank property on the other side of Oak.

This is a followup to my May 28 post regarding the possible placement of stations for the Broadway SkyTrain tunnel and, like the increased buying and selling of real estate along the proposed tunnel route, it’s little more than pure speculation.

To recap what we know. A November 2015 article on the Georgia Straight website explains that the City of Vancouver wants one station at Cambie Street and for this purpose has chosen the Crossroads building at 525 West Broadway (kitty-corner from the City Hall Canada Line Station on the southeast corner of West Broadway and Cambie Street).

Indeed, the city appears to have chosen this location eight or nine years ago, when the Crossroads building was on the drawing boards. It’s been said, by a self-confessed former employee of the below-ground Whole Foods location at Crossroads, that the store boasts a gargantuan, underground concrete storage room, which staff refer to as the “Subway Room”.

The same article informs us that the city originally made arrangements with Bosa Properties, the company redeveloping the former strip mall at 988 West Broadway, to locate a similar subway station space underneath the new 10-storey office/retail tower planned for the site. However, three months later, another report, in February of 2016, quoted a Bosa executive as saying that those plans had been cancelled.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be a “Broadway Line” station at West Broadway and Oak Street.

In January of 2014, the single-storey Bank of Nova Scotia building on the southwest corner of the intersection, at 1004 West Broadway, sold for an undisclosed amount. The online VanMap shows that it’s the City of Vancouver that now owns the 1920-built property, which is currently assessed at $5.8 nillion. (see the May 28 post for instructions on using VanMap to see city-owned properties.)

The Georgia Straight article further lists a third location identified by the city as a site for a future Broadway subway station–the Pinnacle Living (on Broadway) condo, located at 2080 West Broadway.

This condo was finished in 2012 but already in early 2010 it was a discussion point among savvy followers of the Vancouver development scene, on the Skyscraper.com forum, that the plans included a possible SkyTrain station:

“Pinnacle’s “Broadway” development at Maple/Broadway has a provision for a skytrain/rapid transit station on the western part of the site (next to the CPR tracks). The remaining land between the tracks at Arbutus could become any number of things.”

Going the distance from Cambie to Arbutus

Four possible Broadway stations.—Google Maps

Four possible Broadway stations.—Google Maps

So, ignoring any aspects of the Broadway tunnel plans farther east, we have proposed stations along West Broadway at Cambie, Oak and Arbutus. The distances are as follows:

The stations at Cambie and Oak are six blocks, or 848.77 metres apart, while the distance from Oak to the station at Arbutus is over twice as far, at 11 blocks, or 1.9 kilometres.

One might think that the city would like to split that 1.9 km distance and have four stations at predictable, even intervals. One might also expect a station near the intersection with South Granville Street—a major transit corridor on a par with Cambie Street.

From left to right: 1441 and 1431 West Broadway Avenue, both owned by the ciity.

From left to right: 1441 and 1431 West Broadway Avenue, both city-owned.

Happily, both conditions could be more-or-less satisfied in the 1400 block of West Broadway, where I am typing this post in a McDonald’s on the south side of the block and where, from my window seat, I can see both 1441 and 1431 West Broadway. These are two one-story retail buildings on the north side of the block that, according to VanMap, happen to both be owned by the City of Vancouver.

This Broadway tunnel business is anything but boring

Though I can only ever hope to scratch the surface, the more that I dig, the more it seems that the real planning and decision-making behind this Broadway SkyTrain extension has been conducted in a deliberately stealthy, almost  sub-rosa, manner—quietly buried (like the tunnel itself) out of sight and hopefully out of mind of the voting public.

And speaking of Metro Vancouver voters—they resoundingly said no in 2015 to a new 0.5 percent regional sales tax to help fund  the 10-year, $7.5 billion transit plan, which includes light rail for Surrey and the Millennium SkyTrain extension down Broadway Avenue.

Provincial and municipal leaders warned that rejection of the new tax meant cuts to transit and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was widely quoted as declaring there was “no plan B” for funding projects such as the Broadway tunnel.

But was that ever true where the Broadway tunnel was concerned? What alphabetical designation covered the degree of anticipatory physical construction that appears to have taken place over the last eight years?

Is it not the case that the politicians and technocrats have tried to carry their plans forward in a thoroughly anti-democratic spirit that says that they alone know best and wants of no public input beyond the rubber-stamping of funding demands?

It really seems as though the Broadway tunnel is a done deal and has been for years—that one way or the other, by hook or by crook—barring major electoral shakeups—it will get built. Too many political legacies hang on it, not to mention a lot of valuable real estate transactions. Click the images to enlarge them.

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