Activist Mel Lehan says SkyTrain bad for Broadway corridor

One of Kitsilano’s best-known community activists believes that any transit expansion planned for the Broadway corridor should be “safe, friendly, and affordable”.

“One of the ways to get people out of their cars”¦is to have a system that’s affordable,” Mel Lehan, a member of Business and Residents for Sustainable Transit Alternatives, told the Straight by phone. “One of the biggest problems and one of the biggest concerns we have is rapid transit—so SkyTrain technology.”

The provincial government and TransLink are funding the multi-year UBC Line Rapid Transit Study to look at options for building rapid transit along Broadway between Commercial Drive and UBC. The City of Vancouver, UBC, the University Endowment Lands, and Metro Vancouver are all partners in the study. No deadline has been set for the selection of a plan, but this year the two government sponsors will evaluate options and seek public input.

Last September, UBC Design Centre for Sustainability senior researcher Patrick Condon told the Straight that the $2.8 billion the province pencilled into its 2008 Transportation Plan for a 12-kilometre rapid-transit line from Broadway Station to UBC would make it “the most expensive system we’ve had to date”.

Lehan said he’s hoping the province “is backing off now”.

“Now that they’ve made all the phony promises and reality sets in, they don’t have the money to build this,” he said. “It’s such a waste, because if Patrick Condon is right, we could have trams throughout the entire Lower Mainland at the same cost it would be for a 12-kilometre Broadway line.”

At its transportation and traffic committee meeting on January 19, Vancouver city council received a 23-page report containing basic guiding principles for the Broadway corridor planning. Council has scheduled a special meeting of its planning and environment committee for Friday (January 22) at 9:30 a.m. to hear from speakers, including Lehan.

COPE councillor David Cadman told the Straight he was not upset with Vision Vancouver councillors for bringing forward the report with little notice.

“We need to begin looking at this,” Cadman, who personally favours a fast-bus system with a dedicated bus lane, said via cellphone.

Regarding Lehan’s funding concerns, Cadman stated, “Certainly what it [a lack of provincial funds] will give is a lot more time to figure out how to do this thing right. I think, hopefully, there has been the learning that the way that it was done along Cambie was not right.”




Jan 21, 2010 at 6:46am

Is Mel Lehan suggesting that we replace our local service trolleybus system with a local service tram? What would be the purpose of that?

I understand the potential neighbourhood amenity of a slow tram, but it doesn't make sense for a regional destination like UBC and Central Broadway..

If Mel Lehan is prepared to densify and upzone Point Grey to accomidate new students and staff, then a tram may make sense. I think this is a shade of NIMBYism, though.


Jan 21, 2010 at 8:27am

If people want to avoid what happened on Cambie St. with cut-and-cover, why would you want to build LRT on the street? There are going to be the same kinds of closures to install tracks and overhead wires and to reconstruct the entire street to accommodate platforms! I don't think anti-Skytrain activists realize how much street space will be given up in the end. You are probably going to lose on-street parking down Broadway to allow more than one through land of traffic which I think is going to upset businesses the most.

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Evil Eye

Jan 21, 2010 at 8:39am

Cadman is a media maven and has Little understanding of public transport, except for 10 second sound bites.

It is not technology that is the problem, it is mode - LRT or metro.

Rapid transit is in fact metro and not LRT thus already the planning has a bias favouring metro. It is metro that is driving up costs as it is both expensive to build and expensive to operate, and only to be built on routes with extremely high passenger loads - 15,000 pphpd or more.

Buses will fail because buses do not attract ridership, both the Essen and Adelaide guided (super BRT) bus systems have proven this in spades.

Before anyone seriously wants to debate transit on Broadway, I would strongly suggest reading Prof. of Urban Transportation, Carmen Haas-Klau's sis of international transit studies starting with: "Bus or Light Rail, making the Right Decision."

Though the original study is now 10 years old, it has been the handbook of modern public transport design, and is light years ahead of any study in North America.

Be informed, learn, then debate.


Jan 21, 2010 at 8:45am

It seems absurd to build a skytrain type system to UBC along the Broadway corridor and the absurding lies not in the possibility of building the system but in land use thinking at the beginning of the 20th Century to the mid 1960's when leaders in their great wisdom decided to place the two major post secondary institutions UBC and SFU in the far reaches of the region's core.

The Great Trek of 1922 saw UBC move from Fairview, VGH location, to Point Grey. At this time, 4th Avenue and Alma was a swamp with a bulldozer trail running through it and CPR was desperately trying to sell lots for residential dwellings. People still had summer camps at the northern end of Waterloo at this time.

SFU's location was decided by one person who had more than one choice. To Gordon Shrum, the top of Burnaby Mountain seemed a great place to situate this campus of the cloud gods. Lofting over the general population the campus of SFU would be a literal translation of 'higher' learning. Moving students up the hill has become a very expensive endeavour and has shifted public dollars from education to transportation. Can you say raise the tuition?

Both these land use decisions have been very expensive in terms of transportation costs. And I won't go into the details but building train lines and stations and freeways etc have taxed the public purse over the decades and it appears to continue to do so if we let the RedInk folks carry on with this absurd expensive Broadway-UBC study. (Is this study adding to the burden of RedInk's revenue woes...why are fares to increase yet again?)

So what are the solutions. UBC and SFU, as well as BCIT and VCC all have downtown campuses which I think have been positive moves. These locations were already well served by all modes of transit services: bus, boat and trains.

So is it time to have another Great Trek for UBC? I think so.
Is there a better way to utilize billions of dollars of taxpayers incomes?

A vision to move and build a new UBC general campus, not research labs, to another part of the city, which is already well served by bus and trains, would cost less than building yet another transit devastating SkyTrain project.

Surely we could have a new high rise campus at the underutilized lands where the old CN rail yards and commercial lands situated north and south of Terminal Avenue and east of Main exist. This area is already well served by both the Expo and Millenium Lines as well as several bus routes that pass through and around this corridor. The new Canada Line coupled with the streetcar system on southeast False Creek is another major transit infrastructure system that lends itself to servicing a new UBC campus at Main and Terminal. The flotilla of buses cruising down Broadway would no longer exist and Main and Terminal would be a significant new passenger transit hub in the region which wouldn't add to the liabilities of RedInk and our wallets and purses.

This initiative, the Great Trek of the 21st Century, would save RedInk hundreds of thousands of hours of service and millions of dollars that could be diverted to other areas of the region currently under-serviced.

Construction jobs, increased investment in rebuilding the area and a savings to the public. UBC could help finance the new campus by selling off more land for housing and retail businesses which would truly create a community in the far reaches of Point Grey.

Rather than waste more of our money on a study to build yet another RedInk SkyTrain lets look at the other option: The Great Trek of 2012!

Why funnel or tunnel more of the region's most valuable resources, our tax dollars, to mitigate a very poor outdated and gentry initiated land use decision made at the beginning of the 20th Century?

Let's start planning smart for the 21st Century. And let's end this current absurd Broadway-UBC plan.

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Jan 21, 2010 at 9:52am

You'll never get yuppies out of their cars. They rely on them too much as 'status symbols'. Mind you if you ask anyone that has taken buses down that specific corridor, you'll quickly find out that a skytrain there would be appreciated by the riders, (but not by the whiny low-life yuppies)

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Evil Eye

Jan 21, 2010 at 11:18am

The 'Eye' wrote to a Nottingham councilor on the question of the LRT system construction causing problems with local merchants and the question of compensation.

In Nottingham, the construction contract stipulated that no merchant business was to have construction in from of his store or shop for more than two weeks or compensation would be paid on as scale determined by the estimated loss of business.

Compare this Susan Heyes, where she had a great big ditch in front of her store for about 4 years!

Also the 'Eye' contacted a firm with a good reputation building LRT tracks. The answer was interesting, depending on the type of track to be laid, construction could progress at a pace of 50 metres to 100 metres a day. the straighter the route, the faster the progress.

It seems to the 'Eye' that we should first consult with the experts, then tell the politicians what to do, who in turn order the bureaucrats to make it happen, instead of the politicians telling the taxpayer: "You are going to get SkyTrain whether you like it or not."

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Jan 21, 2010 at 12:57pm

Toronto's new St. Clair LRT line took 6 years to build and doubled in price.

I think these problems are not unique to either LRT or skytrain.

"When city council approved the 6.8-kilometre St. Clair line in September, 2004, it predicted the project would cost $48-million.

Now, six years later, the final cost is expected to be $106-million and the last 300 metres of the line won't open until June. "

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Jan 21, 2010 at 1:04pm

Evil Eye:

Cadman is a media maven and has Little understanding of public transport, except for 10 second sound bites.

That was his job with the GVRD, "communications", or PR for short.

He's usually presented to the public as an ex-GVRD official who was involved in developing the LRSP, and naive readers mistakenly take that to mean that he has some kind of urban planning background, or that he may be an engineer of some kind. That's the mistake they're intended to make!

Rod Smelser

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Work Together

Jan 21, 2010 at 3:12pm

The province has plenty of money. The problem is they are wasting on roads. As well, we spend over $10 billion a year on automobiles. It is time we start taking transit seriously. We need a SkyTrain on Broadway and trams throughout the region. Instead of always arguing, we all need to work together to make sure both happen.

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