Arbutus Corridor 2016

There’s finally been a breakthrough in the negotiations between the City of Vancouver and Canadian Pacific Rail (CP Rail) over the 9-kilometre long unused rail line. It has sat dormant since the 1990’s. It has been a collection of unused train tracks, overgrown bushes, and community gardens over the years. The City is finally taking it over and changes will be afoot.

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As reported by the Georgia Straight:

Today (March 7), the city announced it will purchase the land from CP Rail for a price of $55 million.

It plans to remove the railway tracks that have remained unused since the early 1990s and create a transportation corridor designed for public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians.

The unused corridor has been a defacto linear park on the west side of Vancouver for about 2 decades. Well worn dirt paths run parallel to the old railroad tracks. I work near the railroad tracks in Kitsilano and I always see folks walking their dogs alongside the unused tracks.

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In previous plans, the Arbutus corridor was seriously considered as the alignment for the current Canada Line. It was known as the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) Line in its planning phase. The Arbutus alignment never came to fruition partially due to the creme-de-la-creme comments of one uppity Kerrisdale resident, Pamela Sauder.

“We are the people that live in your neighbourhood. We are dentists, doctors, lawyers, professionals, CEOs of companies. We are the creme de la creme in Vancouver. We live in a very expensive neighbourhood and we’re well educated and well informed. And that’s what we intend to be.”

arbutuslinemap2_160307The Canada Line ended up being built underground along the busier Cambie Street corridor and the Arbutus rail line continued to become more and more overgrown with bushes. The one saving grace was all the spontaneous community garden plots that popped along many points of the unused railway.

It remains to be seen how the Arbutus corridor will turn out. The mayor promises a 4-year public consultation process.

The call for accommodating biking, walking and public transit will be very interesting, especially since parts of the Arbutus Corridor are very narrow. Over the past two decades, apartments have gone up on either side of the rail line between Broadway and 16th Avenues. There doesn’t even seem to be enough space to fit two rail lines next to each other. Where would cycle and walking paths end up then?

There will also be the community garden stakeholders. They will want a bigger portion of the line than what they already have. In 2015, CP Rail had gone in a demolished a good deal of the community gardens that they felt were in violation of their property.

For those who are read my blog regularly know I am a huge transit pusher. I would love to see a streetcar run along Arbutus. Ideally the streetcar would be integrated with a False Creek streetcar that would run from Science World to Granville Island. Then hopefully a streetcar could continue west from Granville Island and then south along the Arbutus Corridor to Marpole. Unfortunately, there’s a Starbucks that sits right where those 2 lines would connect.

What will really become of the Arbutus Corridor will probably be different than what I envision. But hey, one can dream.

Extra reading:

 

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