January 24 2013

Riding Towards Sustainability: Vancouver, British Columbia’s Canada Line and the Growing Pains of the Cambie Corridor

Broadway-City Hall Canada Line Station at the major Cambie Street intersectionJust months prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver authorities proudly announced the opening of “The Canada Line,” Canada’s only fixed link between a major city and its international airport. The rapid transit train, which runs primarily underground between Vancouver’s city center and the outlying suburb city of Richmond, takes only 25 minutes to move an average daily ridership of 90,000 between the Vancouver International Airport and downtown. The $2.1 billion project is also a key element in Vancouver’s Greenest City Initiative as the train line minimizes the ever-increasing car traffic problems of the city.

Despite the incredible success of the Canada Line during its first three years, the road to its inaugural ride was not an easy one. The line runs beneath Vancouver’s historic Cambie Street, where business owners and residents were forced to endure four cumbersome years of construction. Original engineering plans for construction included a bored tunnel, which would have minimized the impact on Cambie Street merchants. However, a last-minute switch to cut-and-cover construction meant huge savings for the project at the expense of small businesses in the area, many of which failed after the line was completed.

A section of Cambie Street merchants that survived the four years of constructionDespite the losses suffered by many in the area, the construction of the transit line has also created opportunities for the district to become a sustainable community with access to transit, entertainment, and amenities. The transit line arguably brings in more business for merchants who have weathered the storm, while fostering Vancouver’s Greenest City goals including: Green Transportation, a Lighter Footprint, and Climate Leadership.

Several questions linger: What growing pains are acceptable in the pursuit of increasingly sustainable cities? Who is expected to make sacrifices for the benefit of the community? And what is the real value of $2.1 billion?

As an avid user of the incredibly efficient Canada Line, my opinion is that the project was worth every penny. But I would imagine that those who lost their livelihood during its construction sing a very different tune.

Credits: Photos by Shannon McDonald. Data linked to sources.

Courtney McLaughlin

Courtney McLaughlin holds an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. An avid traveler, her interests are public space modification in Canadian cities and sustainable urban planning. As an aspiring landscape architect, Courtney is particularly fascinated by the interplay of landscape architecture, public space, and urban power structures. During her time writing for The Grid, Courtney reported on urban developments in Vancouver, a city frequently named one of the world’s “most liveable” urban locations. Her blog posts explored how this title has been maintained through sustainable and accessible urban design decisions that pride themselves on community engagement.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013 at 9:30 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Engineering, Infrastructure, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “Riding Towards Sustainability: Vancouver, British Columbia’s Canada Line and the Growing Pains of the Cambie Corridor”

  1. Unleashing Economic Potential with Public Transit: The Future of Vancouver, British Columbia’s Broadway Corridor | The GRID | Global Site Plans Says:

    [...] only sustainable future for the Broadway Corridor is to create a rapid transit line, similar to the Canada Line built for the 2010 Olympic Games, but this comes at a cost to taxpayers and small business owners [...]

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