A conference on transportation in downtown Vancouver heard repeated calls today for expanded transit investment and leadership from the province to ensure it happens.
Nearly 500 academics, engineers, economists, politicians and others are at the event titled Moving the Future.
Speakers underscored how the future of the economy and the livability of Metro Vancouver is tied to the effectiveness of the transportation network.
Urban Futures demographer Andrew Ramlo noted the Lower Mainland’s population, from Squamish to Chilliwack, is set to grow 56 per cent to 4.3 million by 2046.
If the region doesn’t build more transit and make better use of the infrastructure it already has, he said, “we’re going to end up in a pretty gridlocked predicament.”
High real estate prices are already deterring people and businesses from locating in the Vancouver area, delegates heard, and a failed transportation system will worsen the situation.
The conference came against the backdrop of a looming referendum on transit investment in Vancouver that Metro mayors say risks a disastrous failure that would set the cause back years.
A show of hands in the room revealed the vast majority don’t think the referendum will pass.
The question has not yet been determined by the provincial government, but others in the room saw the gathering as a chance to build an alliance of leaders to campaign in support of the expected vote to raise taxes to build new transit lines.
“This is going to take leadership from the province,” said Michael Goldberg of the Sauder School of Business at UBC.
Goldberg argued the TransLink region should logically be extended east to cover Abbotsford and Chilliwack.
He also said the region has largely failed to densify areas as much as it should near transit lines and elected leaders must not allow decisions to be swayed by “short-sighted” neighbhourhood opponents.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts also both spoke, calling transit investment critical to the region’s future.
More to come