New study calls for rapid transit along Vancouver’s Broadway corridor

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      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.



      David Papa

      Feb 28, 2013 at 5:27pm

      I think this is a bad idea on a few levels... The tax burden in the lower mainland is already extremely high and hitting the public heavily at a depressed economic time. Secondly, the uniqueness of neighborhoods in Kits and West Broadway and 4th have developed because they are separated from "skytrained" areas of the city, the loss of many of these small businesses would result and would add to the increasing gentrification and "condoization" of Vancouver... UBC is also a nicer campus because it is somewhat isolated. The B-line is efficient and finally, areas with skytrain/more transit access have seemingly higher crime rates.

      Daniel Blair-Johns

      Feb 28, 2013 at 5:38pm

      I'd vote for street cars that have a dedicated lane at peak volume periods. It probably wouldn't sit well with drivers, but it would be cheaper to implement and still be effective. Then again where would you put the yards? And would street car wires require more power than the current bus wire grid provides? Would they be compatible?

      Rick in Port Moody

      Feb 28, 2013 at 5:40pm

      Duh, that road has been a parking lot full of jam packed buses since I last lived there 20 years ago

      SPY vs SPY

      Feb 28, 2013 at 8:33pm

      This proposal is IDIOCY and completely ECO - ILLOGICAL.

      Take the $2.8 Billion and build student and staff housing right at UBC. 75,000 people commute to UBC every day.

      Build 40,000 - 50,000 units of housing for students and staff right at UBC and this could reduce fuel consumption by millions of barrels of oil every year.

      This Broadway Skytrain Proposal was authored by Bankers, Foreign and Canadian Investors who live by the motto, the cost of everything must always go up.

      To reduce the cost of housing for UBC folks, is the very last thing on their minds. When the cost of living goes down, it is called DEFLATION and this is considered DEATH to investors.

      This proposal is a Big Fat Lie!


      Feb 28, 2013 at 9:06pm

      Underground subway is the most expensive option. Elevated lines seem to be adequate for everyone else. Gee, I wonder why the special treatment for Point Grey?


      Feb 28, 2013 at 9:19pm

      David Papa: The B-Line may be efficient under ideal circumstances, but with a half-million pass-ups a year it's wholly inadequate.

      SPY vs. SPY: First off, I don't know how or where one would build 40–50,000 new units of housing at UBC. More importantly, doing so completely ignores the fact that many families have two wage earners and possibly kids attending school or working elsewhere as well. With roughly 30,000 people living in the UEL or at BUC, SOV traffic heading off-campus each day is already comparable to that coming on. Building more housing on campus, while laudable, will not remove the need for greatly improved transit connections between UBC and the city.


      Feb 28, 2013 at 10:50pm

      Wishing the City of Vancouver would wake up the to fact that they are part of a region, one with many municipalities other than their own. Let's talk about Surrey, soon to eclipse Vancouver in population, and with a total of 4 skytrain stops.

      Daryl at Better Surrey Rapid Transit

      Feb 28, 2013 at 11:14pm

      At SPY vs SPY
      You have to remember that a Broadway rapid transit line is more than about just serving UBC. It will also service Central Broadway, the second largest employment centre not only in this region but in British Columbia, and with potential to grow further through rapid transit.

      Gene Logan

      Mar 1, 2013 at 12:51am

      Vancouver is the only "world class" city I have ever been in where rapid transit was built to serve it's suburbs first. It is ridiculous that the lines that provide the folks of Vancouver with a minimum of service have as their primary purpose suburban commuting and allowing tourist access to world fairs and olympic games. What a way to plan your transit system.

      As another line is set to be pushed out to Coquitlam we are told by the mayors of these very well-served suburbs (shame on you, Corrigan and Watts) that Vancouver is asking for a Cadillac system because the Broadway line would have to be underground. Get serious! The logistics of building an above ground line would be nightmarish - expensive and a death knell for the small businesses along Broadway. In most parts of the world underground is the norm.

      The B-Line, while a good idea at one time, is now a crowded, antiquated joke. I suggest some of the critics of this proposal try using it on a daily basis before being so quick to condemn us that support the underground line. Maybe a cheaper technology than Sky train could be used to help curb costs.

      I also suggest the city talk to Christie before she's toast about a UBC bid for the 2020 summer olympics. Or another expo. That would get it built.


      Mar 1, 2013 at 12:53am