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UBC anxiety ramps up at talk of a two-phase approach to building Broadway rapid-transit line

November 27th, 2012 · 159 Comments

Council heard an update today from its engineers on plans for the line which answers some of these questions. I’ll be posting that story later. In the meantime, here’s what I had today

And, for keen readers, here is belatedly the story that came out of council on the city’s position re the Broadway line.


Direct light-rail line to campus the way to go, UBC says


University maintains the mayor’s proposed two-phase project “is just not a solution’

UBC is urging the city to advocate for a rapid-transit line all the way out to the university right away.

Officials say the two-phase system for the Broadway line, which Mayor Gregor Robertson has been pitching, is not workable for them.

UBC has 140,000 people a day coming and going from the campus by transit, with nothing but increases on the horizon. The Broadway B-Line bus service, which currently connects the campus on the western tip of the city peninsula with a Commercial Drive station in east Vancouver, frequently has to pass up people waiting at bus stops during peak hours.

A two-phase rapid-transit line “is just not a solution,” said Pascal Spothelfer, the university’s vice-president of community partnerships. “Over 50 per cent of our passenger volume coming to UBC is by transit. That’s despite the fact that a large number of people are being passed up.”

Having a line all the way out to the university will spark even more of a transformation at UBC in how people get there and how the university develops, he said.

“It is a real game-changer, a generational shift.”

Mr. Robertson said recently the city is advocating to regional transportation authority TransLink for a first phase along Broadway with a tunnelled SkyTrain to Arbutus – an option everyone knows is going to be expensive.

From there, he said, rapid buses could take people the rest of the way to UBC, and a SkyTrain could be extended to the campus at some undefined point in the future.

The extension was supposed to have come quickly after the Millennium Line was built from Coquitlam to Vancouver in 2001.

But it was moved down the queue after the province pushed for the Canada Line to be built in time for the Olympics.

TransLink is currently reviewing plans for the Broadway extension, along with plans for a light-rail extension for Surrey.

But UBC is saying that it might be better to build one cheaper light-rail line in order to get the whole route covered within TransLink’s budget, instead of one expensive SkyTrain for half and then buses for the other half.

“I’d rather see whatever the solution is to be a complete solution,” said Mr. Spothelfer.

Mr. Spothelfer said the two-phase solution just moves the problem down the line for the passengers trying to get across town.

“So if a train is full, do we have 20 buses waiting to take them?”

A two-phase approach also guarantees that UBC wouldn’t get rapid transit until some long-distant new round of funding, because TransLink typically only takes on a big transit expansion once a decade.

“If we miss this opportunity, it’s not like this will come back in the next two years. If a line gets built to Arbutus with no continuation to UBC now, only my grandchildren will get it.”

University officials are hoping that they hear a new message from the city as soon as Tuesday, with Vancouver’s two top engineers scheduled to give an update on the Broadway-line plans.

The university and city have been in a “very active dialogue” since the mayor made his remarks about a two-phase approach 10 days ago, said Mr. Spothelfer.

UBC has seen its students, staff and faculty shift their commuting patterns dramatically in the past 14 years, going from 77 per cent private-vehicle use to 43 per cent.

About 138,900 transit trips are now made to and from the university on an average weekday.

Mr. Spothelfer pointed out that the university is the province’s third-largest employer, with a huge number of commuters. It also has a large number of its medical students and faculty travelling regularly to the growing hospital-and-research precinct near Broadway and Oak, which is about 10 kilometres east of the university.

The mayor’s reference to a two-phase solution with buses came as news to the university.

“I was a bit surprised by him bringing up the buses again,” said Mr. Spothelfer.

He said he understands the city’s priority is serving the density it has along Broadway.

“They’re pretty set in what serves their immediate purpose.”

But he and others at the university are anxious to prove that serving UBC with good transit sooner rather than later is also in the city’s interest.



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  • MB

    I should mention that 22 km of the 118 km Crossrail project (currently under construction) will be tunneled under Central London and will link with the Underground in 11 locations, as well as with several historic train stations where one can connect with the rest of the UK and EC by rail.

    The majority of the line and its branches will share surface rail corridors with other rail lines. Both Transport for London (the local authority) and the national government’s Dept. for Transport signed on as guarantors, therein savings of about one billion pounds will be realized in the project financing due to the public sector’s presence.

    All this information can be found on Wikipedia.

  • MB

    @ Lewis 89:

    No. Langley city is a thing all onto itself. It has a municipal boundary all its own, like City of North Van. But the footprint is many times greater.

    I believe you may be confusing Langley City with Langley Township.

    The City is indeed surrounded by the ALR, as is the immediately adjacent Township suburbs. It’s hard to tell the difference between the two where the City is located. But the ALR boundary is unmistakable.

    The land within the larger Township is 75% ALR, so they are unique.

  • Voony @ #94

    Thanqxz for your comments. Essentially I see the future of Vancouver, if we have the wit to respond to inevitable circumstance, as incremental, historically based, urban villages.

    Clearly that puts me at odds to conventional thinquing.

    A brief history . . .

    The city accreted, with no particular plan in mind, other than opportunities for land speculators, because such people dominated most councils since WWll: i.e. Vancouver (to say nothing of Metro) is ticky-tacky sprawl writ large.

    TEAM was responsible, in the early 70’s, for decimating the local industrial base. TEAM shoo-ed thousands of jobs out of the city (in so far as it had the limited power to do so) while replacing them with offshore real estate speculation and money laundering: i.e. the Executive City!. I notice there is a movement afoot to erase all memory of their dastardly reign.

    My obsession . . .

    Incrementally, historically based, semi-autonomous, semi-self contained urban villages with light connecting trams and vehicular connection enough to facilitate movement of goods and emergency: i.e. enjoy a walkable community with most everyday facilities close at hand. If proponents of GREEN CITY have any integrity there are few other options!

    Not only are grade separated vehicles an affront to the tranquility of neighbourhoods and budgets, with resource extraction, manufacture, transportation to their specific location and on-site engineering they mock the environmental meaning of the word GREEN: trams are too but to a much, much lesser extent.

    To conclude . . .

    The Cambie Line is already obsolete. Don’t repeat the mistake by wasting billions on ever-inadequate grade separated shiny trinkets: elevated they ruin established neighbourhoods, tunneled they are a miss-appropriation of money better spent on improved health facilities and affordable accommodation.

    Creatively, never in my sixty years living in the city has it ever lived up to its cultural pretensions. Now is the time. Blocks 51 and 61 are my focus of Vancouver’s cultural Renaissance. To pretend, by way of Robson as the only connection of the West End to Sky train, is frantic hyperbole.

    Never underestimate the disastrous impact of young, compliant, complacent, pusillanimous, badly educated arrogant corporate yes-men, design and planning professionals of which the city and province abound.

    That is my truncated reasoning Voony. In future I will attend your blog more often!

  • DW

    I don’t know why I’ve come back to this discussion because it sounds like a broken record. However, I think this discussion could use a more youthful (and perhaps more naïve) perspective.

    I am 30 years old and I belong to the generation of people whom the media and many of those nearing retirement age like to chastise: Generation Y. While many generalizations are made about our lifestyles and our hopes and dreams, I will provide some insight into what a typical educated, and upwardly mobile Generation Y person actually wants.

    1. We still like cars. I like the open road and I drive a proper car (powered by the rear wheels with a manaul gearbox and an inline-six cylinder engine; no GPS or Bluetooth, thank you very much). In particular, men my age still lust after cars because we need to chauffeur our women (or that hot date for single guys) around. We may not drive them everyday, but we enjoy the perks of having a car.

    2. We also like fast and frequent public transit because all of us have travelled overseas and understand good public transit. I take the Skytrain because it’s convenient and gets me to work within a reasonable time. Most of my upwardly-mobile friends take public transit also. What matters for us is speed and cost.

    Thus, what we need is transportation infrastructure that supports our attachments to both the private auto and to public transit. It’s not an either/or proposition.

    Guess which option for the Broadway corridor fits the best?

    Bring on the dismissals of this opinion!

  • In particular, men my age still lust after cars because we need to chauffeur our women (or that hot date for single guys) around. We may not drive them everyday, but we enjoy the perks of having a car.

    Not to mention iPhones and sexting make poor substitutes for late night booty calls for those not fortunate enough to be in close enough proximity to make the walk of shame.

  • Mira

    Bravo, DW #148 for speaking out!
    Today’s City Hall morons and the so called ‘progressive’ politicians, the good ol’ hipsters , they think we all need to go back to walking, cycling, pushing a cart, horseback riding, I don’t know, whatever makes their bourgeois lifestyle going.
    We need some of everything. That’s the conclusion.

  • boohoo

    “We need some of everything. That’s the conclusion.”

    Which is exactly what they are proposing. Your cart pushing bullshit is so ignorant it’s remarkable.

  • gman

    200000 a day…….I understand this isn’t Broadway and the trams are 54 meters but I’m sick of hearing “you cant,it will never work,that’s ridiculous” And the only argument is that it will save 9 minutes…really?
    Even their own numbers show a tram would move 119000 a day,plus it would loop to main street covering more area at half the cost.
    Sean Nelson #149
    Perhaps you don’t understand the argument I’m making as far as technology is concerned.Its very simple,common gauge rail gives the ability to expand or adjust our transit system with more versatility.Modern trams have the ability to run either on existing sky train tracks at speed or at street level at slow speeds where as sky train cars cant.And that combined with track sharing with existing commercial rail lines would seem to be a much more versatile and cost effective system.—worlds-longest-trams-on-worlds-busiest-tram-lines.cfm

    Its the difference between a city growing and density increasing in an organic way along its main thorough fares and tubes connecting nodes of faceless towers where no neighborhood even existed before and in the mean time blighting those in between stations that have been here since the city was born.

  • rico

    Gman, do you deliberately misunderstand the various points people on this blog are making?
    First point, in North America trams are considered a local service usually running in mixed traffic without signal priority. LRT is generally considered a regional service usually with exclusive lanes, signal priority ect. No one is proposing a tram. If you cherry pick half of the combo one option (LRT to Main) without the other half (Skytrain on Broadway) you miss the largest destination. UBC is secondary to central Broadway so yes you would have a cheaper line going further you would also miss more than half the riders. Your point about the flexibility for trams to run grade seperated or slowly in traffic is not that relavent to a Broadway/UBC line because it is a regional line and should not have any of the slow bits. If you wish to put a tram in a subway or elevated you can….of course it will cost you the same or more as Skytrain… In Broadways situation I don’t see why you would. The only options worth considering are Combo 1 (LRT Main to UBC Skytrain to Arbutus) and straight Skytrain to UBC. As to time 9 minutes each way is 18 minutes per day, throw in a time savings for no transfer to the Millenium line and lets say 20 minutes per day. At minimum wage $10\hr that is give or take $3\day/rider. Assuming 60,000 riders (not Boardings) that is $180,000 per day not exactly chump change.