A recommendation from Vancouver city staff for a tunnelled SkyTrain as the best mode of rapid transit along the Broadway corridor is drawing criticism from one municipal leader in the region.
Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan asserts Vancouver city hall is “dreaming in technicolour” with regard to the $2.8-billion proposal. He said he “cannot imagine” the rest of Metro Vancouver’s municipalities identifying the subway as a priority.
“It’s just not on the radar at all in order to try and accomplish that,” Corrigan told the Straight by phone. “TransLink is in massive debt with huge operating deficits, and Vancouver continues to talk about spending more money on massive infrastructure.”
Vancouver council heard a presentation from city transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny on November 27. Dobrovolny said an underground rapid-transit line to UBC is the best approach to accommodate the transit needs along Broadway and avoid “tremendous” impacts anticipated with a street-level light-rail line, including turn restrictions and the removal of over 90 percent of parking spaces.
City staff stressed that about half of the over 100,000 commuters travelling the street daily come from outside Vancouver—a fact that Vision councillor Geoff Meggs says indicates that citizens in every municipality in the region would benefit from a subway line in the corridor.
Corrigan noted he recognizes that Vancouver needs to have a good internal transportation system, but argued it has to be “reasonable” about its place within the broader picture.
“Vancouver has to recognize that they’re part of a region, and the region is bigger than their needs, and that there isn’t a way in which, well, not only does Vancouver get what it wants, but it gets it in a Cadillac form,” he said. “You know, while the rest of the region is in a Ford Focus.”
Patrick Condon, a professor with UBC’s School of Landscape Architecture, also questioned the likelihood of Vancouver securing the funding for the nearly $3-billion subway line.
“I think if the province was going to hand the City of Vancouver $3 billion tomorrow, sure, go for it. But I don’t think that’s at all even remotely likely, is my sense,” he said in a phone interview.
Condon added that lower-cost surface light-rail systems have succeeded in some European cities, and in U.S. locations such as Minneapolis and Minnesota.
In Dobrovolny’s presentation to city council, he maintained that a street-level light-rail system would not have sufficient capacity to meet transit needs along the Broadway corridor, which is expected to see a higher than projected growth in passengers.
TransLink is currently in the midst of conducting a study that will identify potential options for rapid transit on the corridor, which will be followed by a "regional dialogue" with local municipalities on the issue.