Did you ever wonder if those people who routinely rank Vancouver as the number one city in the world have ever been here?
And if they have, do they have to drive to work in the morning?
I found myself wondering about that as I “drove” to work recently, negotiating pylons, barriers, and those uniquely infuriating people with hard hats, cigarettes and stop signs who seem to be in charge of the streets these days. I’m sure my route, which currently takes in no fewer than five lane-closing, street-squeezing mega-projects, is hardly unique. Everywhere across the Lower Mainland, millions of people suffer through various traffic outrages in the name of … what? The 2010 Olympics? Yet another luxury highrise condo development? The latest scheme to make traffic “flow” more “freely?” Another act of God (What have we done to offend Thee)?
It’s hard to believe, but when I moved to Vancouver in 1989, none of this had happened. I could drive around as if I was in a normal city. Then, there was an ample supply of street surface parking lots. Now we’re a World Class City and all those parking lots have evolved into luxury highrise condos, and parking is only available at a few select locations featuring tiny stalls at world-class hourly rates.
You can be excused for thinking the entire southwest coast of B.C. is one big construction project, because even with the economy in the tank, that’s exactly what it is. Did you know that there are currently $62.5 billion in capital projects under construction in B.C. and if you add the cost of those projects still on the drawing board, it comes to 863 projects worth $174.7 billion? That adds up to a lot of pylons.
Much of this activity is stimulated by the 2010 Winter Olympics, but hardly all of it. The most expensive of these mega-speed bumps, at $2 billion, is the so-called Canada Line, even though it really only goes from the SeaBus terminal to the airport. But the next biggest project, the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the widening of the Trans-Canada Highway, really has nothing to do with the Olympics and it’s worth $1.6 billion. These two are No. 7 and 8 respectively on the list of Canada’s top 10 infrastructure projects; in all, B.C. is the site of 22 of the top 100 infrastructure projects in Canada.
No wonder the traffic trolls have taken over. Sometimes I think it will never be done and we’ll never get back to 1989. Other times, I get really depressed and think it will. What are we going to do with all those pylons?