Electric Cars Expose Major Flaws in Vancouver’s Regional Plans

The RGS and the Livable Regions Strategic Plan plan to reduce GHGs by 66% by 2040. Instead they have triggered a housing crisis lifting prices 12-times above median household incomes. Anything above 3x is considered unaffordable.


New electric cars with the 300-mile range batteries and a global super charing network have precipitated an unexpected result here on the far western shores of Canada. They have turned the tables on the Regional Plans calling into question their base assumptions and putting a laser-like focus on what has been delivered. The Regional Growth Strategy (and the Livable Regions Strategic Plan before it) have triggered a Housing Crisis with price increases of 1,167% (or a 12-times increase over the past 32 years, adjusted for inflation). On closer inspection, the regional planning sounds like so much greenwash were it not that it is the Law of the Land.

Kiss My Kyoto Agreement. Below our estimates show how to eliminate 94% of atmospheric pollution by 2050.

In other words, the Metro Vancouver regional plans have lifted land prices 12-times over median household incomes delivering the un-affordable urbanism of skytrians-and-towers that nobody but a wealthy lobby supporting the politicians, and the politicians themselves want. Affordability tops out at a price-income ratio of 3.0. The desire of families to live crammed into tiny apartments and forced by the prices of gasoline to ride a half-baked transit system is about to be extinguished.

Over the same 32-year period inflation rose 2-times or 203%. Of course, a big part of that increase can be attributed to the unprecedented rise in land valuations.


1 | The Planning Fiasco

The Livable Region Strategic Plan (1996) and its update the Regional Growth Strategy (2011—with subsequent updates extending it to 2040) sought to produce just two outcomes:

 (1) Curb sprawl, and

(2) Lure drivers out of their cars

The reason to end sprawl and ‘encourage’ people out of their cars was to clean the air. That in and of itself is a necessary outcome for North American urbanism: put an end to pollution. However, the method by which the regional strategies would achieve it was completely out of synch with reality. The plans aim to build skytrain-and-towers.

The Regional Plans also kept the land ban introduced in 1978 on 25% of the urban footprint. Thus, in a place gloriously hemmed in by sea and mountains, and in the name of ending sprawl, the regional planners have kept one quarter of the land mass locked out in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Today it is difficult to imagine more cockamamie objectives. We established that there is no such thing as s-p-r-a-w-l, just ‘bad’ urbanism—with Skytrain being responsible for raining most of that into our region. Instead of cleaning the air—which the electric cars will achieve—the Regional Plans have landed us in a Housing Crisis of unprecedented proportions. Furthermore, we have shown how Skytrain is not shifting trips from private cars to public transit. Paradoxically, congestion levels rise as new transit lines get built.

Thus, we can only conclude that the RGS and the Livable Regions Strategic Plan have been colossal failures—Greenwash—which must be corrected immediately as we tty to clean up the mess they have thrown us into.


2 | The Flawed Regional Plans

Is it any wonder we are in a Regional Housing Crisis? If this analysis is in fact correct, then supporters of the Regional Plans have some explaining to do:

(A) Did the crafters of the Regional Plans fail to foresee land price inflation?

(B) Or, did they know it would happen, but opted to keep quiet about it?

Among the major flaws in the regional plans we find:

(1) Boosting density to towering hieghts

(2) Attempts to price driving out of reach of the middle and working classes

(3) Restricting the land supply

(4) Building a lethal and inefficient rail technology.

(5) Pricing home ownership our of reach of the middle and working classes.

These ‘planning principles‘ expose massive failures of our political and planning systems for the following reasons:

(1′) People don’t want to live in towers or apartments.

(2′) Folks rather not ride the Skytrain and most everyone hates taking a bus. They want to drive a car—a clean electric car in a region that has hydro to spare.

(3′) The Land Commission was not formed for the express purpose of overseeing the agricultural land reserve. Provisions for urban and industrial land banks next to farmlands were removed three years after the Land Commission Act was passed. The amended legislation distorted the vision and mission of the Land Commission. These tools are desperately needed toady to end the Housing Crisis.

(4′) Skytrain blights the places it crosses. On grade it must run between barbed wire and chain link fences. This is either because the LIM (Linear Induction Technology) is lethal—Skytrain rails are hot—or, because the driverless technology of 1980-vintage cannot tell the difference between a human being and a cardboard box and will run them both over. This much touted characteristic—being an automated or a ‘driver-less’ system—also means that transit authorities have crippled its carrying capacity to just 15,000 people per hour in one direction (pphpd). Subways systems the world over achieve 10-times more capacity. Modern trams riding on the street can triple Skytrain’s passenger levels of service at 10-times cheaper price.

(5′) Families prefer to live in houses they can afford to own and adapt to their own needs.


3 | Where We Went Wrong

Our response to the Regional Plans and the towers-and-skytrain urbanism is straight forward:

• The Density Fallacy: You Don’t Need Towers to Achieve High Density

• The ‘Sprawl’ Fallacy: Density Kills

• The Revitalization of the Land Commission

• The Transit Paradox: Building Transit Adds More Cars

• The Great Vancouver Housing Crisis: house prices up 12-times over 30 years

• Four Proposals for Reversing the Housing Crisis

• The Transit Pyramid

• TNN: The Regional Transit Network

• Skytrain ‘bad’ Urbanism

TCTC: The Charter Towns Charrette

We see the regional plans as the tool used by the provincial governments to force the hand of local municipalities, espousing a brand of planning where the ends justify the means. There is little or no understanding for the plight of the common in any of this fanciful planning ideology as housing affordability tops 12-times median household incomes.


5 | A Prescription to Lead Us Out of the Housing Crisis

Our prescription to reverse the damage is simple—switch from the Skytrain-and-Towers to build the Transit Pyramid and CharterTowns. Build human-scale urbanism from renewable, value-added forestry products and use it to revitalize—rather than blight—the places we call home. 

Of course, the regional plans were sold without nary a mention of ‘lifting’ the price of land. Its time our governments faced that mistake head-on. We call for returning a house on a lot to be at par with the median household income. In 1986 in Vancouver that meant a price tag of $98,000 for a fixer-upper.



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