The well-intentioned Mayor, councillors and administrators at the City of North Vancouver, and for that matter, in each and every City or District throughout the Lower Mainland, have been grappling with a series of challenges, none of which have easy or simple solutions. These challenges have been lumped into headings like;
- Environmental Sustainability
- Administrative Efficiency
The City’s track record on each of these challenges has not yielded much cause for applause. Taken together as a measurement of the City’s effect upon our “Quality of Life”, it is my opinion that the City and Metro Vancouver together have both failed miserably. The Mercer Quality of Living Survey which ranks cities around the world asked the question; “What is livability, and where in the world are the most livable cities, and why?” A brief summary of their opinion is set out below:
“The Economist Intelligence Units (EIU) most recent livability ranking shows cities in Australia, Canada, Austria, Finland and New Zealand as the ideal destinations, thanks to a widespread availability of goods and services, low personal risk, and an effective infrastructure. It does not take into account the cost of living as a factor in ‘livability.”
Some of the principle factors which go in to assessing livability, as defined in the Mercer survey explain that by;
“…comparing 221 cities based on 39 criteria. New York City is given a baseline score of 100 and other cities are rated in comparison. Important criteria are safety, education, hygiene, health care, culture, environment, recreation, political-economic stability and public transportation. The list helps multi-national companies decide where to open offices or plants, and how much to pay employees.”
The study ranked Vancouver 5th globally in 2012, but improved Vancouver’s ranking to 3rd globally in 2013. Some argue that we’re not actually improving in any of the comparative categories, rather the survey results disclose that competing cities are declining at a faster rate than us, thus we have improved our competitive standing, but truly not our livability. There are arguments to be made on both sides of this opinion.
One of the most significant issues for City residents not getting much consideration by council or City staff is the impact densification is having on infrastructure beyond the influence of the City, like hospital waiting room line-ups. Currently, it can take upwards of 6-8 hours at certain periods of the day and year, before accessing a doctor in the Lions Gate emergency room facilities, and there is no plan on the horizon which will significantly alter these wait times. I know this because as both a patient and as a father, I have attended Lions Gate Hospital with family members and waited in these lineups. In my own circumstances, after 6 hours I gave up and left, returning home where I began a regiment of T3’s until I could get in to see my family doctor the following Tuesday. MRI’s, which are the current hi-tech diagnostic tool for various types of injuries, are all the rage in the medical community. At Lions Gate it can take up to 7 months to get an MRI’s, and unless you can afford to pay upwards of $700.00 to a private facility, you wait in the cue. I raised this issue with City council on March 10, 2014.
Traffic and automobile transportation issues are a central theme in any neighbourhood conversation these days, and everyone appears genuinely frustrated by the lack of a solution. With no third crossing anywhere on the horizon, the growth of our population has maxed out the capacity of all existing bridge crossings to the North Shore. This is a fact admitted by both Mayors during the annual Mayors lunch sponsored by the Chamber.
Current Transit plans for the North Shore do not include increased bus capacity, due principally to financial issues and the far greater needs of Surrey and elsewhere. It is even possible that bus and other forms of transportation may actually suffer service frequency reductions due to funding shortfalls. The only possible version of rapid transit service enjoyed by North Shore residents is the Sea-Bus, and this mode is constipated by the volume and frequency of buses arriving and departing the bus-barn at Lonsdale Quay.
IT IS MY POSITION THAT as part of the OCP process, the City should commission a study on the impact that densification is having on the North Shore’s automobile and public transportation infrastructure and systems, including both those within and beyond the City’s direct management and control. In particular:
- I will support the inclusion of a public health care study component within the OCP to determine the specific impacts of densification on the deliverability of health care services to North Shore residents, by age category and demographic; and
- I will support a transportation study within the OCP process to examine the impact that densification is having on bridge and highway networks providing access to, from and within the North Shore, and I will further support a study to determine the need, best method and location for a third crossing to improve long term access to and from the North Shore; and
- I will support a review of public transit mechanisms and policies to examine current and future public transportation requirements specific to the City and the North Shore as a whole; and
- I will support a study of the current road systems used for private automobile and commercial traffic within the City, and the best means available for improving and maximizing use of those systems at the lowest cost and least inconvenience to North Shore residents; and
- I will support slowing the pace of City densification and growth until such time as we are able to satisfactorily confirm that the necessary infrastructure is in place to provide the health care and transportation systems needed to service all existing City residents without compromising their quality of life; and
- I will support a study of the long term cost implications of sewer, and water system replacement, and refuse disposal programs resulting from densification; and
- I will support a study to determine the effects of densification on both Police and Fire Department service levels, and the anticipated effects on cost of operations for both these services; and
- I will support imbedding these principles into the new OCP to ensure that current and future councils do not allow development for developers sake; and
When I find myself in a position to effect these changes, the policies and principals setout above will guide my decision-making.