Friday, May 7, 2010

Demand Value

I had a haircut yesterday.

In a conversation about the price of haircuts, my barber, who charges me $14, told me that in the coming few years we will see no barbershops on the west side of town.

Can't afford the rent.

At 14 bucks, it's plain and simple.

The beauty shops/salons/stylists charge $40 or $50 for the same haircut, with a bit more fuss and bother. Maybe a shampoo and a bit of a head tickle, thank you very much.

Rents for small shops on West 10th Avenue are astronomical.

There is no help from City Hall.

All of which leads to the article below, focusing on the future of the Broadway corridor.

The only reasonable plan is above ground Light Rail Transit, already proven around the world.

But as we seem to be married and attached at the hip to Bombastier and its cement pylon loving partners, we can probably expect a Cambie Street repeat destroying one Mom 'n Pop Shop after another through the Greek neighbourhood and up the hill to the UBC gates.

Read the following and weep.

And then bombard your city councillors and Transclunk with demanding emails.

Demanding above ground LRT and protections for ongoing businesses.

Were City of Vancouver employees asleep during the construction of the Canada Line megaproject?

They say lessons learned from the Canada Line are important as they start working with TransLink on plans for the transit line along the Broadway corridor from Commercial Drive to the University of B.C.

But the principles put together by city staff for this process, recently approved by council, show that the main lesson to be learned has escaped them.

Construction of the Canada Line destroyed many established small businesses and gutted others. It was an unprecedented fiasco. Shockingly, only one of the city's 10 draft principles speaks to the issues that most concern small businesses.

It is vaguely and weakly worded as "minimize and mitigate construction and operation impacts." Wasn't this the same promise made to merchants along the Canada Line? We are not off to a good start.

If Vancouver wants to have the trust of its businesses, it is going to have to do much better than that.

The construction-related noise, dust, lane closures and traffic rerouting along the Canada Line were far more severe and lasted much longer than promised. Many customers avoided the area completely.

As a result, small-business owners along the construction corridor suffered sales losses averaging more than $100,000.

Efforts to stay in business went far beyond the ordinary and included taking out second mortgages, using retirement savings, laying off long-term staff and relocating.

The emotional stress defied quantification. As one longtime owner, who renewed her lease under the assurance that construction-related disruption would be minimal, put it: "This [my business] was supposed to be my legacy for my daughter. It was supposed to be my retirement. They are taking everything."

Did all of this hardship escape the notice of city staff? We know it didn't escape the notice of Vancouver's current mayor. He was an MLA at the time the Canada Line was being built and the most vocal politician championing the cause of affected businesses.

Where is he now?

The Broadway corridor project could affect hundreds of businesses as well as their families, staff and communities. Protecting the viability of businesses along Broadway corridor should be among the city's highest priorities and principles for the project.

The hardworking individuals who support families and communities in Vancouver deserve nothing less.

The way small businesses were treated around Canada Line construction remains a black mark on the reputations of all governments involved in the project, including Vancouver.

Broadway is an opportunity to do things differently. This starts by acknowledging that the costs to businesses along the Canada Line were unacceptably high.

TransLink is now starting its consultation around the Broadway Line. Any hope they will hear small business? If past experience is any indication, we better get ready to shout.

Laura Jones can be reached at


Laura Jones, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, makes her debut today as a regular columnist for The Province. Jones's column on issues affecting small businesses in B.C. will run in the Money section every second Thursday.

© Copyright (c) The Province

1 comment:

Evil Eye said...

The blog trolls, SkyTrain crew, and those who live in a fiscal never never land, still want a subway under Broadway. This poses some tough questions:

1) How much will it cost, as estimates range from $2 billion to $4 billion?

2) How will it be funded?
3) As subways tend to negatively impact adjacent businesses, how will a subway affect adjacent businesses profitability?
4) Subways do not attract motorists, then will Broadway become more congested than ever with a SkyTrain subway?
5) Will taxes Skyrocket for those living and doing business along Broadway?
6) Will the valley taxpayer stand for another Vancouver centric mega projects, while transit projects in their neck of the woods go begging?
7) Will Translink be split into two transportation authorities, one for those with SkyTrain/subway and those who don't?
8) How many schools and hospitals will be closed to fund a subway?