Just 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.
Despite 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.