As Vancouver hurtles toward a civic election in November, Mayor Gregor Robertson is on record as supporting a proposed $3-billion subway line in the Broadway corridor.
“He’s wrong on probably four or five fronts,” Adam Fitch, a planning technician for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, told the Straight by phone from Kamloops.
Fitch, a former Vancouver resident, has a cheaper, off-Broadway solution to the overcrowding on the 99 B-Line buses. First of all, he suggests extending the Millennium SkyTrain line to the Great Northern Way Campus. From there, a new light-rail line would carry passengers to the University of British Columbia, using existing rail corridors and road medians for 80 percent of the way and tunnels for the rest.
On Saturday and Sunday (May 3 and 4), Fitch will give free bike tours of the proposed route as part of Jane’s Walk, an annual event inspired by the legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs. He envisions the light-rail line meeting up with the Canada Line at Olympic Village Station, using the Olympic streetcar route and Canadian Pacific Railway corridor, and taking West 16th Avenue to the Point Grey campus.
According to Fitch, compared to a tunnelled SkyTrain line, light rail would involve one-quarter the cost and half the construction time, while also not taking away any traffic lanes. With double-decker trains and gated crossings, he believes this solution could offer the same capacity and speed as SkyTrain.
“I think the reason that the B-Line is so congested is because of people going out to UBC,” Fitch said. “They just want to get to UBC as fast and efficiently and pleasantly as possible. They don’t care whether they’re on Broadway or on 16th. And, if you did what I’m talking about, then you could keep the B-Line on Broadway—maybe even improve it.”
Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs told the Straight the B-Line is at capacity, as predicted by a 1999 study of the Broadway corridor.
“This proposal doesn’t offer any benefit to the second-largest business district in the province,” Meggs said by phone from City Hall.