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Can Transit Revitalize the Economy?

November 15, 2011

I (heart) visualizations.  I have always found them inspiring, like glancing into the future that I want to see.  So when I saw this visualization from the Transportation Transformation document, I was understandably excited.  Not only was I presented with the vision of a better future, but the better future was right here in Burnaby.

Look closely, the photo at the bottom is really Kingsway near Edmonds, and the top photo is a ‘complete community’ built on to the real photo.  Imagine, changing Kingsway from 6 lanes (and I think sometimes 8 lanes) of vehicle traffic to 2 lanes of vehicle traffic, two lanes of streetcar traffic, and room for the bicycles and people on foot that I would love to see more of in our city!

Now imagine what that could do for local business along the Kingsway corridor.  Imagine hopping off Skytrain at Edmonds, cycling or walking up to Kingsway and having easy access to the entire corridor through the streetcar, or bikepaths, or wide open sidewalks.

Its not hard to imagine the effect this could have on our local businesses.  But if you need help, lets look at a case study in Portland.  The Brewery Blocks was a transit friendly community built with money from a 3P (Public-Private Partnership) developed in 2001.  Part of the development is serviced by the Portland Streetcar, a 4.7 mile loop of at-grade transit infrastructure that has driven over $1.4 billion in development around the streetcar, including a mix of office, retail and residential spaces.  The redevelopment, built around streetcar, has been a huge success, and there is no reason the same can’t happen in our city.

Local business stands to gain from better transit, and better planning around active (cycling and walking) transportation.  Imagine if we had a streetcar on Kingsway, or down the Hastings corridor.  We could easily bring people to these ‘mainstreets’ by rapid bus, then transport them along the business district with streetcar, or have them meander along the wide sidewalks, visiting our local cafes, bookstores, theatres, retsaurants, and on and on.

I wonder what response would be to funding streetcar redevelopment by developer-pay, or possibly business-pay share models with different levels of government.  Certainly something I would like to explore.  I was really excited seeing Surrey council and council candidates excited about town-centre light rail, and the idea of developer-pay / business-pay share systems.

I wonder if the willingness level would be the same in Burnaby.  What are your thoughts?

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