Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vancouver's Capital Plan 2012-2014: A Love Story

photo by GoodnCrazy from Flickr (cc)
Ok, so it's not really a love story, but I figured no one would read this if I didn't grab their interest somehow. A Vancouver civic election looms, which also means that, yeehaw!, it's capital budget time! Over the summer Vancouver City Council consulted with Vancouverites on the upcoming capital budget plan, which coincides with civic elections so you can vote on whether to approve borrowing for the stated projects.

As boring as something called the Capital Plan might sound, it's mighty important in setting the agenda for the next three years of, well, building stuff. Important stuff. Like water mains and sewers and community centres.

So, here's the skinny on the final plan (the whole of which you can find here). This is the stuff you'll be voting on when you head to the polls on November 19th to elect a new city government.
Total costs are pegged at $702 million, with $391 million that of coming from borrowing and capital from revenue, and $311 million of that coming from other sources of funding like development cost levies (the money the city gets from developers when they build), community amenity charges (the money the city gets from developers in exchange for rezonings), user fees, and a bunch of others that, if you are so inclined, you can look up in the report. It's worth noting that the City is decreasing the amount of money they are relying on in borrowing, and increasing the amount coming from these other funding sources.

Part of doing the capital plan involves looking at all the City's current capital assets. Basically, things they own. It's a pretty geeky and interesting read. For example, did you know Vancouver has 3,600km of underground pipes or 4,700km of sidewalks? Well, now you do.

OK, now onto some of the most notable plans:

$24 million for libraries, including construction of a new Downtown Eastside-Stratchona library on Hastings Street. Above this library will be low-income housing for single mothers with children (that part will be built with external funding).

$7 million is going toward acquiring more park land, with $1.9 million of that going toward more street-to-park conversions (think Parallel Park).

$1.5 million for new street trees (double the last capital plan), which will see 5,000 trees replaced and 4,200 new trees planted.

Only $650,000 for public art, although they note that most of the money for public art comes through Community Amenity Charges ($7.5 million in the last 12 months). Basically, developers can provide the art or provide cash to purchase art as a condition for getting a rezoning by the City.

Vision says it's big thing is affordable housing, so this capital plan has $60 million for that. $18 million of which goes to upgrades to existing stock, and $42 million of which goes to the creation of new affordable housing. The details of how this will be carried out are not spelled out in the capital plan, however. So I would want to look up more information on that one.

$154 million is set aside for transportation, but they note that spending will be figured out more concretely after the consultation on the Transportation Plan draws to a close, so go and tell them what you want them to spend the money on.

The money spent on cycling infrastructure has obviously been a sore point to some, so they might want to take a close look at the capital plan. $16 million is set to go towards new walking and cycling assets. It's also worth noting that the City says it will be shifting its focus on cycling infrastructure towards making cycling safer and "exploring options that involve lower cost changes to the road system." This might be in response to the separated lanes and some of the opposition stirred up by them. Looks like the City will be laying off high-profile cycling infrastructure for a little while. This is something I'll be particularly watchful for, as the city continues with its Comox Greenway. I think It would be a shame to stop the forward momentum on cycling infrastructure. This council has shown they can take bold steps. Obviously others have their own opinions on this.

Say goodbye to some of the free parking around town, as the plan calls for the installation of pay parking in commercial districts out of the downtown where it's currently free. A total of 1,650 new pay parking spots over the next three years are planned. This will obviously act as a future source of revenue as well, but I'm unsure of how much they're expecting it to bring in.

So, there you have a few highlights from the plan. Obviously, I didn't go into every single expenditure plan. For example, I left out the $228 million in utilities and public works. If you're interested in how those are going to be spent then I encourage you to check out the report yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the write up. It gave me some the insights I was looking for.