MAX is Coming

According to an article in The Columbian on April 21st, the commission for the new bridge has selected light rail as the mass transit option for the project. The article suggests that MAX will be extended into Vancouver as part of the new bridge project. It seems that Mayor Anne, C-Tran, and of course the big winner Tri-Met all agreed. I have mentioned that I have no issue with light rail in Vancouver so long as it stays in the urban core where the high density development supports it.

This is still early and there is time for the City Council and Mayor to grow some spine and stand up for us by negotiating a deal where all trains bound for Clark County are run by C-TRAN rules rather than the Tri-Met criminal wonderland express rules they use in Portland. We shall see.

I have a page dedicated to light rail, here. I think a stop as close to the waterfront as possible is needed since that district will almost certainly be Vancouver’s most dense residential neighborhood even before it is built out. They expect 3300 residential units at build-out and seem to be on pace for that number. The project covers just 32 acres and and with a likely population of nearly 10,000 that is serious big city levels of density. The math works out to 312 people per acre. That kind of density allows light rail to thrive. Another stop near Esther Short Park is also important as densities in that area exceed 100 residents per acre. The park also serves as the defacto ‘center of town’ with events, concerts, businesses, conventions, etc all immediately nearby.

I do hope the council thinks long and hard about what light rail IS and IS NOT. Light rail is inflexible. Once it is built it is essentially PERMANENT. You can’t just get all giddy and happy about it and all the money it represents. Remember, politicians love spending OUR money more than any other career group, yes, even more than Wall Street Bankers 😉 Light rail is not cheap and mistakes can set a city or county back decades. Busses are flexible as the demographics change bus routes can easily and inexpensively be changed to compensate. Rail is fixed in place and is catastrophically expensive to move.

One of my suggested routes for MAX Vancouver

I feel like I need take a new assessment on a light rail route from the simple one I had on the light rail page mentioned above. Based on both current residential density and projected future density the route and stops shown here could work. I originally suggested running a loop up C street to McLoughlin then down Washington Street and back on I-5. It seems the commission wants a stop along I5 near McLoughlin so perhaps a freeway Park and Ride so I modified it to comply with that. I am also presuming that Vancouver will have one way rail traffic once across the bridge. Honestly I am kind of hoping for it so only a single set of tracks is required on the city streets. It is also why I thought running the train up C and down Washington was a good idea before this latest decision by the bridge committee.

The stops need to be close to high density housing to make the train as convenient as possible. All of the stops on this illustration meet that accept the McLoughlin at I5 stop which again is likely intended to serve Clark College and a future Park and Ride facility. According to data complied by the Federal Highway Administration most people are willing to walk five to ten minutes to transit. That said, 85% of people will walk five minutes but it does drop to 40% as it passes beyond ten minutes. Here is a list of stations I am suggesting although many things beyond just density go into these matters so keep that in mind. Also this is my brainstorm and is not in any way shape or form ‘official’.

Evergreen Station: Evergreen Blvd at I-5. This station could serve the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the Academy as well as a surprising number of nearby units either built or under construction. There are currently close to 400 units built or nearly complete within a five minute walk of this station. Another 200 units is already proposed and I project a total of nearly 1000 units by 2030. The large Library Square development would certainly add a couple hundred all by itself.

Clark College: McLoughlin and I-5. This station could also be a Park and Ride station. There is not a lot of residential nearby here I would estimate less than 200 units in that five minute walk window, but the Park and Ride plus Clark College angle probably makes up for that. 2030 could see another 200 units in future high density development but none is proposed at this time in the immediate area.

Uptown Station: McLoughlin and Main. This would draw from several high density projects in Uptown and Midtown with 168 units in the Uptown apartment building alone. The total number of current units either built or under construction within a five minute walk of this station is around 400. I would project a 2030 total of 700 units. This stop would also benefit the Uptown Village merchants bringing in some outside visitors.

Midtown Station: Mill Plain and Columbia. This stop is situated among several existing high density projects serving a wide variety of residents including senior citizens and income restricted units for lower income earners. There are currently well over 700 units within a five minute walk and proposals for at least 200 more in the pipeline. I project close to 1200 units by 2030. The station would also serve the nearby County Government center.

Esther Short Park Station: West 6th and Columbia. This station obviously serves the Park and all the events associated with it including the Farmer’s Market. It serves the Vancouver Convention Center and a large number of retail and commercial businesses nearby. This is also a very high density residential area with over 1000 units already built or nearing completion within a five minute walk. I would project another 300-400 units by 2030 to boost the total up towards 1400 units. A stop here could also help reduce traffic and parking demands for events in the area as those often attract Portland residents who currently drive to get here.

Waterfront Station: Columbia Street at Columbia Way. This station sits right in front of the location of Zoom Info’s proposed HQ and some 2500 jobs. It also serves the new Terminal One businesses and future open air pier and market. It would serve the Waterfront as well but the Grant Street pier is pushing the five minute walk window a bit at closer to 7 minutes. The west end of the Waterfront would need closer to twelve minutes to reach the station. The waterfront will be Vancouver’s highest density neighborhood by far, and one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the entire metro area. Terminal One, the Waterfront, Kirkland’s new Waterfront East, and parts of the new Waterfront Gateway District would provide this station with at least 700 units inside that five minute walk by 2030 and well over 3000 units within ten minutes walk by 2030.

So I was really heavy on the importance of density to support rail. No honest broker will say otherwise, density is critical to the success of a rail transit system. With the sole exception of the NYC subway every single rail transit system in the United States operates at a deficit and requires subsidies to survive. NYC by the way is one of the world’s mostly densely populated cities sporting a city wide population density 14 times greater than our Vancouver USA. So once this thing is built and serving Downtown it will be only a few years before the greedy politicians start pushing for it to go to Orchards, or Cascade Park, or Salmon Creek. Just say no to suburban rail. Busses are the answer in the burbs 🙂

On the condo front, urban condos last week had just one transaction; a new pending sale. Wow after a flurry of activity the week prior last week was very quiet.

One thought on “MAX is Coming

  1. Pingback: MAX will come to Vancouver | The 'Couv' Life

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