The City of Vancouver continued its push today for a rapid transit line to UBC, with the release of a new study that suggests the economic potential of the Broadway corridor could be hampered without a subway connecting the route.
At a news conference today at the Busson Spinal Cord Centre, Mayor Gregor Robertson and UBC president Stephen Toope released a KPMG report that calls for rail-based rapid transit from the Commercial Broadway hub to UBC.
“Capital, talent and jobs are literally pouring into the corridor, stretching from Commercial Drive right to UBC, and these jobs are growing at twice the rate of the B.C. economy,” said Robertson. “They are the future of B.C.’s economic success, and unfortunately that success is at risk, due to increasing gridlock and over-stretched transit, and a system that was built for yesterday’s economy. Only a rapid transit system–a subway extending from Commercial Drive to UBC–can meet the massive growth that we’re expecting in the coming years.”
The study shows the UBC-Broadway corridor is the second largest business centre after downtown Vancouver, with central Broadway and UBC representing 27 percent of employment in the city. That includes 40 percent of the city’s health-care and social-assistance businesses, and 25 percent of high-technology businesses. About 200,000 people live or work along the corridor, with numbers expected to grow by 150,000 by 2040.
According to Robertson and Toope, the report’s findings show that without rapid transit to connect the corridor, the city risks losing investment to other major hubs such as Toronto, New York, and London. The KPMG report indicates that the length of the commute to UBC is seen as impacting faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and that lack of efficient daytime access between the corridor and business or academic locations in the region is seen as a “major barrier” in the growth of sectors including technology.
“This is a much broader issue in terms of the province’s economy,” said Robertson. “This study identifies that by not having rapid transit through this corridor to UBC, what is currently a powerhouse of jobs will actually suffer and be choked off from the opportunity.”
Both Robertson and Toope insisted a subway rapid transit line to UBC is a regional need, and that it doesn’t need to come at the expense of the light-rail rapid transit that Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is advocating for.
“This is not about this versus other opportunities,” said Toope. “UBC has a campus in Surrey…we actually have connectivity that stretches right across the region…But we’re not investing well enough to make sure that we will continue to be competitive with other great world cities that are making fundamental investments right now to ensure commercial connectivity.”
The underground subway line from Commercial Drive to UBC is expected to cost $2.8 billion to build—an amount Robertson said will need to come from the provincial and federal governments.
“We’ve yet to hear a commitment from the B.C. government to take next steps on building a Broadway subway,” he said. “I think everyone in the province recognizes there’s a big need here, right across the region—from Broadway to Surrey, and many points in between. But we don’t have the funding tools in Metro Vancouver to address further investment in transit.”
The KPMG report also identifies two other priority actions for developing the Broadway corridor’s economic potential: providing affordable commercial and residential space along the corridor, and developing a strategy for a “strong, vibrant and resilient” technology sector.
City of Vancouver staff have previously stated that an underground rapid transit line connecting Commercial-Broadway to the UBC campus is the most effective mode of transit to accommodate the anticipated volume along the corridor.
Broadway buses currently carry more than 100,000 passengers a day. UBC estimates that the combined east and west bound pass-ups for the 99 B-Line route total about 500,000 per year.
Regional transit authority TransLink is in the process of conducting a study to evaluate rapid transit options for the corridor.