Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart says new report helps his efforts to extend SkyTrain to UBC

This line could end up costing twice as much per kilometre as a proposed SkyTrain line down the Fraser Highway to Langley

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      The TransLink Mayors' Council's 10-Year Vision did not define which form of rapid transit should eventually connect the Millennium Line to UBC's Point Grey campus.

      However, a TransLink staff report going to the mayors' council on Thursday (January 24) indicates that management "will recommend SkyTrain as the preferred technology".

      According to Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart, this is a "very important step" toward achieving his goal of linking the UBC campus to the rapid-transit system.

      In a briefing with reporters today, Stewart said that there "seems to be a lot of enthusiasm among the other mayors for this project".

      "We're getting a lot closer to seeing rapid transit all the way to UBC," he said. 

      Funding is already in place to extend the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus Street and West Broadway.

      Stewart said that this leg is expected to be completed in 2025.

      It's expected to cost $2.83 billion and will have six stations.

      "What we’re trying to do is develop a parallel planning process so we can maximize the efficiency of building that line," Stewart said. "That’s why approving the technology from Arbutus to UBC is so important."

      The report going to the mayors' council doesn't recommend a preferred technology. This is notwithstanding management's statement in the text that it's going to propose that SkyTrain be chosen over the less expensive street-level light rail.

      The report indicates that a Millennium Line extension from Arbutus Street to UBC would cost between $3.3 billion and $3.8 billion in 2018 dollars.

      This "preliminary estimate" assumes a partially tunnelled and partially elevated line.

      It's 8.6 kilometres to travel by car from the Shell gas station at 2103 Arbutus Street to the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre on the UBC campus.

      If the SkyTrain line were to cover the same distance, it would cost between $383.7 million and $441.9 million per kilometre in 2018 dollars.

      A SkyTrain line down Fraser Highway from King George Station to Langley Centre, on the other hand, would cost approximately $180 million per kilometre—assuming TransLink's estimated cost of $2.9 billion is correct.

      At today's news conference, the Straight asked Stewart about the per-kilometre price tag of SkyTrain from Arbutus Street to the Point Grey campus.

      He replied that he's "not sure" about the cost yet, suggesting it could vary, depending on the business case.

      For example, he noted, officials at UBC seem receptive to running SkyTrain at ground-level, which would be less expensive than an underground line.

      "You have to approve the technology and then you have to do the business case, and then we could see what it would cost per kilometre," Stewart said.

      If the feds and province pony up billions of dollars, the SkyTrain may eventually reach the Point Grey campus.
      City of Vancouver

      UBC president wants SkyTrain

      According to the report to the mayors' council, at-grade light-rail transit from Arbutus to UBC would cost $1.7 billion to $2 billion in 2018 dollars.

      At-grade LRT from Main Street–Science World to UBC would be $2.88 billion to $3.2 billion in 2018 dollars.

      According to the report, preliminary work "demonstrated that a SkyTrain extension to UBC is the only technology that would accommodate the forecast ridership on the Broadway corridor and allow for future expansion in the longer term (beyond 2045)".

      "The option of an LRT from Main Street Science World Station (with a connection to the SkyTrain at Arbutus) would be at maximum capacity by 2045, which is anticipated to be approximately 15 years from when a line could be expected to be operational if it were to proceed."

      Stewart said that the president of UBC, Santa Ono, is very supportive of SkyTrain. The mayor added that the two of them will be working together to make it happen.

      "But equally important is the Musqueam First Nation," Stewart added. "I have had face-to-face meetings with Chief [Wayne] Sparrow. They are very supportive."

      He added that the Indigenous-owned MST Development Corp. is also onside. The company—owned by the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish nations—is in partnership with Canada Lands Company to develop the 21-hectare Jericho Lands.

      "So we are looking at forming a working group and perhaps having a memorandum of understanding about how everybody can contribute to make this happen," Stewart said. "But the key is to approve the technology to reduce the confusion at the senior level."

      On Tuesday (January 22), Stewart has a meeting scheduled with Premier John Horgan to discuss housing and transit.

      Next Monday (January 28), Stewart will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when Stewart is at a big-city mayors conference.

      "We'll be talking exclusively about transit," Stewart said.

      Moments later, he added: "Moving towards the decision to have SkyTrain as our chosen technology, it really gives me a very focused pitch to our national government."