Monday, July 11, 2016

Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard draws questionable conclusions about transportation and land-use

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade recently released its Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2016. Their scorecard evaluates Metro Vancouver to other world-class regions based on various economic and social indicators. It is well worth exploring this scorecard as it provides some meaningful insights into the strengths of our region, and where we can improve.

Overall, our region was in the middle of the pack. The biggest takeaway from the scorecard was that there needs to be “greater regional co-ordination among the municipalities that make up Greater Vancouver.” I would tend to agree with that. The scorecard highlights some of the challenges currently facing our region, but some of the challenges as articulated in the scorecard have some questionable content.

The scorecard outlines seven challenges our region faces. The first three identified in the summary report of the scorecard are: lack of investment in public transit and roads, housing affordability, and land scarcity for enabling trade.

The authors of the scorecard suggest that our region build more transit and more roads. While I agree with building more transit, building things like the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge (which the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade supports) shouldn’t be a priority.

Singapore received the top overall score in the scorecard. The city-state also had a higher score than Metro Vancouver when it came to average travel time to work.

Singapore is currently investing in public transit to move from its current 63% peak-hour public transit mode share to 75% in 2030. At the same time, they are investing in active transportation like cycling. To drive in Singapore, you have to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement and are subject to road pricing.

Infographic about Singapore's Certificate of Entitlement. Select graphic to enlarge.

Another conclusion that the authors of the scorecard draw is that a “lack of available land for new residential development is another key factor behind rising home prices.” They further concluded that “vacant land suitable for trade and goods movement could be exhausted within 10 years.”

Land spectators, and even the provincial government, have been chipping away at the agricultural land reserve for years. Housing affordability, and to some extent the call for more industrial land, is now being used as a way to try and pave over even more farmland.

Map of protected land in Singapore. Select map to enlarge.

Again, let's look at top-rated Singapore in the scorecard. It is an island city-state that is 719 square kilometres. Metro Vancouver is 2877 square kilometres. Singapore significantly beats Metro Vancouver in the Economic Scorecard when it comes to affordable housing. Both our region and Singapore have large ports and protected areas. Paving over farmland is not the solution.

While the Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2016 is a great document, I have to question some of the conclusions it draws.


Steveston said...

I'm not sure that Vancouver and Singapore are comparable. Apparently some 22% of Singapore's land mass is reclaimed land. Aside from False Creek Flats, I don't think that there is much reclaimed land in Metro Van. (Unless you stretch the definition and say that the construction of dikes around Richmond classify it as such.) Also, I don't know if many of the leafy neighbourhoods in Metro Van would take kindly to the same levels of density that exist in Singapore.

I don't advocate removal of lands from the ALR, but like the oceans, mountains and border, it must be acknowledged as "something which we hold dear", that has an impact on the amount of land that we have available for urban uses.

Nathan Pachal said...

For sure. Even with our current RGS, there is a good amount of greenfield left in the region including in Surrey and Langley.