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Under new provincial legislation and embedded in the proposed new Metro Regional Growth Strategy, Translink is planning to take on the role of real estate developer as a purported means of financing public transit. Aside from the scandal that a governmental entity with a commercial development arm AND new powers over municipal zoning is a clear conflict of interest, where does this leave our cities when development cost levies and community amenities from higher residential density go entirely to fund transit, leaving nothing for parks, community centres, recreation, or arts? How does this support Complete Communities, let alone municipal budgets? Are indoor retail malls sustainable forms in the public realm?
The attached PDF containing two Vancouver local media articles, the first from the free daily The Metro in its 28 January 2010 issue and the second from the Vancouver Sun over 4 years earlier on 27 October 2005, discusses a new proposed pathway for transit funding and ridership promotion: transit stations co-located with retail malls and residential tower development.

Does such a vision support our region’s liveability and sustainability goals and commitments? Is this area beginning to look too much like Hong Kong, the 39th most liveable city on the planet, according to The Economist? (In 2010, Vancouver was still listed as Number One.) Can you build community and sustainable local commerce within a mall? Are glass and concrete towers ecological design forms? Are they “ecoDense,” let alone support an energy descent strategy? Is this necessarily a poor prospect for our future? Is there an adaptive reuse for this new mall space and its adjoining towers?

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In Rethinking Green: Don't Take Transit, some transportation experts argue that transit energy efficiency per passenger kilometre may sometimes be less than a private car, and diesel busses in particular purportedly have a higher observed carbon footprint per passenger kilometre. While private cars are getting "greener" by the year as hybrid and soon fully-electric plug-in options begin to flood the market, transit usage as a percentage of the commuting population has been dropping across Canada over the past 30 years, and its energy intensity has increased.

Scandalous as it sounds, the public subsidy for transit could look as questionable as that for roads and highways. Read the enclosed documents, first the National Post news article "Rethinking Green" and then the larger study on the CO2 emissions of rail transit. Consider the source of these studies. Are they persuasive?

Then read UBC Design Centre for Sustainability Professor Patrick Condon and Masters Student Kari Dow's response. Knowledge is power, and facts should inform policy. What do you think now?

How should transit advocates react to such attacks? Is Vancouver different because of its trolley busses and "green" Hydro power? If so, why is Translink cutting trolley service? Should this be reversed? Are there also important social justice reasons to support transit?


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