UBC Millennium Line Extension (TransLink)

TransLink, UBC and City of Vancouver engineers and planners have told us what they think about the technology for the Broadway to UBC rapid transit line.  There’s no room for more busses on this monster corridor, and LRT has too-low capacity.

This information came out at the July 28 Town Hall meeting mentioned recently in Price Tags along with significant background.

When you dive into the numbers, the answer looks obvious.  Thanks to Kenneth Chan at the Hive.

The obvious choice for the remaining future rail rapid transit span between Arbutus Street and UBC is a continuous underground extension of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line, according to the region’s top planners.

A public town hall event held over the weekend to discuss the future extension west of Arbutus Street consisted of presentations by panellists, including TransLink Vice-President of Infrastructure Management and Engineering Sany Zein, City of Vancouver Chief Engineer and General Manager of Engineering Services Jerry Dobrovolny, and UBC Associate Vice-President of Campus Planning Michael White. . . .

Furthermore, a fully tunnelled SkyTrain extension to UBC is expected to see an opening day ridership of at least 250,000 people – about two-and-a-half times the opening ridership of the Canada Line about a decade ago . . .

“There is no urban LRT system in the world carrying the volume of people we need to carry on this corridor. There are systems in the world that carry many more than 5,000 pphpd. But that’s a train that is essentially a city block, we don’t want to go longer than that,” added Dobrovolny.

A poll on Mr. Chan’s article in the Hive is running 94.6% in favour of “Tunneled Skytrain from Arbutus to UBC” with vote count at 2,800 and rising at time of writing.


  1. So why not run it at grade from Blanca into UBC? Just like the situation for YVR. This would greatly cut the cost of the last couple km.

  2. If their case is so strong, why do they need to exaggerate and deceive?

    At least 250,000 passengers on opening day? Just a few short months ago they projected 200,000 for both the subway to Arbutus and Surrey LRT *combined* on opening day. Now they infer that demand beyond Arbutus alone will be 250,000 on opening day. We’re already getting a subway along Central Broadway where demand is double that beyond Arbutus. They are using (most likely exaggerated)* projections for one extension as justification for another.

    So when is opening day anyway?

    Well, I guess when demand beyond Arbutus is projected to be 250,000 per day. Obviously. In about 50 years. So, yeah, lets wait on building that for a few decades.

    LRT would clearly be inadequate for 250,000 per day. So if you don’t want LRT you must ensure the numbers can’t possibly work. The truth isn’t actually all that important.

    Furthermore, they use the anticipated growth in student housing on/near the campus as proof of further demand. Nice job! More students living on campus would reduce demand, not increase it.

    And how many will live on the Jericho Lands in thirty years and the UBC Golf Course in forty? Cut those numbers by 2/3 to represent their transit demand in some distant future. And which way will they be going? Both ways? So cut it by another half or so to represent peak load per direction – unlike most of our system that is heavily loaded in one direction at a time.

    * They underestimated demand on the Canada Line you say? Uh-huh. So let’s panic then shall we? Because they also over-estimated demand on the Millennium Line.

    1. “Just a few short months ago they projected 200,000 for both the subway to Arbutus and Surrey LRT *combined* on opening day. Now they infer that demand beyond Arbutus alone will be 250,000 on opening day. ”

      I agree that the number is suspect. Rather than fitting it to your biases, consider for a moment which is more likely: that the City and Translink are lying through their teeth, that they misspoke, or that the article is in error.

      Many times I have started writing on the Internet about something I was 99% certain of, but gone looking for a source just be sure: and found that I was dreadfully, terribly wrong due to some small misunderstanding about constraints. (E.g. video games make more money than movie *ticket sales*, not movie *lifetime* sales – though maybe this has changed since I last checked.)

      You are relying on one journalist’s choice of words. Journalists word things poorly all the time. Here’s the passage in question: “a fully tunnelled SkyTrain extension to UBC is expected to see an opening day ridership of at least 250,000 people.” Try this on for size: “with a fully tunneled SkyTrain extension to UBC, the Millennium Line extension is expected to see an opening day ridership of at least 250,000 people.” An edit to make a clunky passage more concise could easily have resulted in a huge change in meaning.

      Someone’s response to your comment on the original article says exactly this:

      “I was at this meeting at well, and I don’t think that figure was meant to refer to just the segment from Arbutus to UBC; although, it might have come out that way. I think that this was meant to refer to the whole Millennium Line extension.”

      1. But that still doesn’t change the issue. The 99 B-Line carries somewhere over 55,000 passengers a day [Wikipedia 2016]. It is growing by about 1,000 passengers a year. So the 250,000 number isn’t just suspect. It’s off the map.

        If we were to generously assume a subway would immediately triple current demand and growth by offering a better service it would still take between 25 and 30 years to meet the 250,000 figure. Fair enough for Central Broadway – that’s why they’re building a subway. Beyond Arbutus, knowing ridership drops by half, it would take 60 years – by which time the Central Broadway section will be stretched beyond capacity . As UBC and the west side grows, so will central Broadway. While these are 100 year investments it still shouldn’t take more than half it’s life to meet the ridership projections thrown out there to justify its construction. There will be further investments in transit in future when it becomes necessary. LRT could provide a great service beyond Arbutus for forty or fifty years and then, if growth plays out as some assume, you could still extend the subway to UBC.

        Do I think the City and TransLink are lying through their teeth? I would phrase the question slightly differently but, yes.

        I stood in a council meeting regarding reallocating MV lanes for bicycles on the Burrard Bridge way back in the day. I watched and listened as the city’s traffic engineers predicted absolute chaos and mayhem. The entire West End and parts of downtown would grind to gridlock during the afternoon rush. The council at the time was strongly opposed to the idea. They were being told what they wanted to hear.

        Some years later the very same engineers stood before a receptive city council and said that traffic would be only slightly affected. During the whole run of Vision’s majority, removing road lanes for cycling would, at worst, only lead to a slight inconvenience to motorists. And it’s true, of course. But the “truth” when the NPA dominated council was a different truth.

        Somebody up there really doesn’t want LRT.

        1. Most people on this page and the linked page have interpreted “a fully tunnelled SkyTrain extension to UBC” as the full Commercial-Broadway stretch, quoted from the 2012 Phase 2 study: https://broadwayextension.ca/Documents/UBC_Line_Rapid_Transit_Study_Phase_2_Alternatives_Evaluation_Executive_Summary.pdf

          Said study projected 254k passengers daily upon completion in 2020 and opening in ’21. And since the Central Broadway subway is now scheduled to open in 2026, ridership for the whole extension will likely be higher than 254k/day.
          One poorly-worded fragment (on such a reputable source as the former VanCity Buzz, no less) =/= TransLink or City Hall lying. That’s a very serious distortion.

          The study also predicts 2,500 pphpd demand on the Arbutus-UBC stretch with Combo 1. Opening-day LRT capacity is pegged at 3,800. Per induced demand, that’s going to fill up fast, so in a decade or less we’d need to upgrade the tram (negating the measly $300-400M of money saved from the RRT option). If there’s already “rapid” transit, then politics, finite resources and other regional demand also means that TransLink will have higher priorities than duplicating the Arbutus-UBC stretch (Hastings, North Shore, Willingdon, 41st, to name a few). Let’s get the route right the first time, rather than waste time and money building everything twice.

          City Hall, whether NPA or Vision, keeps exploring light rail through the Arbutus Greenway and parts of downtown (where it’d actually work fine). Assuming an “anti-LRT” bias is no different than drivers assuming a “war on cars.”
          Ironic, bringing up the anti-bike lane crowd- the ideology may differ, but the NIMBY logic remains the same – “What a waste of money! Nobody will use this thing! I can’t believe everybody’s okay with – oh, well, that turned out just fine. But the next one will really be a disaster!

          1. If 2016 ridership on the 99 B-Line was <56,000 and growth is 1,000 per year then in 2026 we can expect daily ridership to be 66,000. A jump to 250,000 on opening day would be approaching 4 times that. Over night. When has that ever occurred? Network effect or not. Why hasn't the Expo Line generated that ridership to this day? Downtown – Joyce – Metrotown – Edmonds – New Westminster – Surrey City Centre. Far more development, jobs and population than the proposed ML UBC extension.

            It's simply not a credible figure.

            I wasn't talking about entitled motorists standing before council and predicting mayhem with the Burrard Bridge. That is to be expected. I'm talking about the city's own traffic engineers. That is quite a different thing. They weren't credible. Why?

          2. “If people were going to move in those numbers, you would have seen them on the 98 B-Line. It didn’t happen.” – Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean

            Once again, realize that the 98 B-Line’s 18k riders jumped to 82k in 2009, once the Canada Line opened. By the end of the year, it was between 93-100k; almost ten years later, 140k. Not only credible, but incredible. Applying the same ratio from the 98 to the 99 does indeed get you 253.7k daily riders.
            And now you’re going to say “YVR” like you did last time. Nope, it only accounts for 7-8% of all entries and exits.

            And as you and Geof have said, the network effect is real. Closing the “box” between Commercial-Cambie opens up possibilities to people on either side of the gap for whom the existing status quo doesn’t work – many more Expo/Millennium riders will use the Canada, and vice versa, and others will switch from cars or buses. Transit users and converts like fast, frequent, convenient, and reliable. If yes to at least three, then they’ll switch, if not, they won’t – everything else is smoke and mirrors.

            All that, plus seven years of population growth, redevelopment and increased transit usage between construction and opening, makes 250k for Commercial-UBC a lowball prediction.

            If somebody up top hates light rail enough to make the engineers dance to their tune, then why is the downtown/Arbutus streetcar even being discussed? Perhaps it’s just not a good fit for most corridors, since we’ve already got trolleys, B-Lines and SkyTrain doing the same job?

        2. “The 99 B-Line carries somewhere over 55,000 passengers a day. It is growing by about 1,000 passengers a year. So the 250,000 number isn’t just suspect. It’s off the map.”

          I just realized what an absurd argument this is.

          Have you seen the line-ups for the 99? It routinely passes up scores of passengers. I’m not talking scores per day: I’m talking scores *per bus*, and the bus runs every few minutes. You are saying the route does not justify a train because the bus isn’t carrying enough people. Of *course* the bus isn’t carrying enough people: the bus is full!

          By your standard, regardless of demand, no route could *ever* justify a train!

        3. Justin’s comment regarding the increase in ridership from the 98 b line to the Canada line, I think, should put to bed any concerns that this magnitude of increase is not possible. A 4x increase (or more) in public transit use already took place when the Canada Line was built. However, to help visualize where those people will come from, I think this post from the Price Tags archive will help: https://pricetags.ca/2012/09/07/extraordinary-facts-five-metrotowns-on-broadway/

          In my opinion, a comparison of the density between the existing Expo line and the proposed Broadway line makes absolutely clear that high-frequency, high-capacity skytrain can resut in substantial increases in transit use in the Broadway corridor. The current 99 B line is already running at max capacity for much of the day, meaning demand is depressed by the poor quality of service, line-ups and pass-ups.

          Regarding your argument that staff are pushing Skytrain for political reasons, I would need to see some actual evidence of that. After all, many have argued that city staff are pushing bike lanes for political reasons, when the facts have proven that the current estimates are sound. Simply stating that once, in the 1990s, city of Vancouver staff made poor quality predictions, is hardly proof that Translink staff are now making poor quality predictions. The reverse arguement, that city staff recently made correct predictions regarding bike lanes hardly proves that Translink staff are making correct predictions now. These things have nothing to do with one another. What you’re saying is that your gut tells you that this doesn’t make sense. Such an increase in ridership is however neither without precedent nor without reason, and so I need a little more to go on to cast doubt on the current ridership predictions.

    2. The article clearly states the 250,000 ridership figure is for the subway all the way to UBC. The 200,000 figure announced earlier in the year is for both the subway up to Arbutus and Surrey LRT by 2025, with the subway up to Arbutus accounting for 140,000 of that figure: http://dailyhive.com/vancouver/broadway-subway-surrey-lrt-ridership-projections-2018

      There is no error.

      A 2001 study assuming a 2005/06 opening of the Millennium Line extension to UBC already estimated a ridership of 140,000 before Vancouver’s post-Olympic, pro-transit shift. And no, they did not overestimate demand on the Millennium Line, rather its projections were based on fully completed extensions to UBC and the Tri-Cities soon after the opening of the M-Line’s mainline. That of course did not happen.

      When you consider that the latest 250,000 estimate is based on an opening date at least a quarter century after that 2001 study’s 2005/06 opening, and with population and employment growth and a much stronger transit network (with a new Canada Line backbone for the transit network), that figure is incredibly realistic.

      These figures are only for the extension, not including the existing portions of the M-Line.

      There will be a phenomenal impact to regional transit when the M-Line extension connects to the Canada Line at Broadway-City Hall. This effect should not be underestimated. All of a sudden, the transit system becomes exponentially easier and more convenient to use for people in the Vancouver Eastside and Burnaby: it opens up the Canada Line as a feasible alternative to downtown, for trips down the Cambie Corridor, the airport, and Richmond. Whenever a new backbone line is added, it makes the entire system more easier to use, in the same way bike lanes have made it much easier to bike in the city.

      1. “There will be a phenomenal impact to regional transit when the M-Line extension connects to the Canada Line . . . All of a sudden, the transit system becomes exponentially easier and more convenient to use for people in the Vancouver Eastside and Burnaby.”

        Absolutely. My neighborhood, Brentwood, will be a major beneficiary, with a direct line to UBC. Just last night my wife asked about taking the train to Richmond: but would have had to go all the way downtown to transfer (I tried connecting by bus once – never again). She drove. From my point of view, Broadway is largely inaccessible: traffic is horrible and transit is inadequate. The same applies to pretty much everything south of False Creek. Downtown and Coquitlam are easy to get to – so I do.

        With Evergreen, Millennium is a clear success. My subjective impression is that ridership is way up, especially on Evegreen, compared with Translink’s latest published ridership numbers (which were from last year).

        1. Metcalfe’s Law in action. The value and usage of a network increases exponentially with each user added.

  3. (1 )No room for more buses on broadway ????????? ( but enough of room for S O V s . ) ====== This speaks volumes about their priorities. (2) Lots of funds for a gold plated subway at 3 times skytrain cost . but no money to extend skytrain in the suburbs–(3) a new EXPO line station next to VCC Clarke & Non Stop bus to UBC would as fast & still leave room for those important S O V s on broadway—-(4) skytrain has the same capacity as a subway (& have its capacity increased for much less)

    1. 1) Go to UBC or Commercial-Broadway sometime. As soon as one bus takes off, another pulls into the stop a minute later. 2-3 minute headways are the maximum before the artics start bunching up enough to seriously disrupt the street.

      2) If the core doesn’t have sufficient capacity when you build that line to the ‘burbs, we get a bottleneck. We don’t want a bottleneck.

      3) It’s called the 84, and it’s also packed. So’s the 4, 9, 14, 25, 41, 43, 44, and 49. Enough buses – time for a SkyTrain extension.

      4) Then find somewhere to fit the stations that doesn’t involve a Tetris-type reworking of Broadway or >2m platforms, and let TransLink know at an open house.

  4. (1) Non stop UBC buses leaving from a new VCC Clarke EXPO line station would not disrupt the S O V traffic on broadway because they would not travel on broadway. They would not bunch up at bus stops because a NON stop bus has no bus stops. The pass up problem is a result of Translink choosing not to provide enough buses . ( 2) No need to find elevated station locations. Developers & their shills would be at every public event & political fundraiser to lobby for a 2nd floor station in their project like.

    1. 1) – No room for an Expo station at VCC-Clarke. No demand either, being literally fifty seconds away from Commercial.
      – Exactly what is the point of a bus that has no stops? TransLink is in the business of running public transit, not shuttles or taxis; people still need to get on and off at all the places in-between.
      – The pass-up problem results from all possible buses already running, and how they’re all full. The Phase 2 study shows that the Best Bus option (making existing routes more frequent) only delays overcapacity by a few years. All you’re suggesting is that we choke up 4th instead of Broadway.

      2) Go out and literally look at the size of Marine Gateway or River Rock-type stations, then look at Broadway; you’ll end up with at least two-thirds station and one-third building, and neither developers nor “shills” want that. Let’s not even start on all the holdouts blocking either side of the track.
      Come on, there’s a fine line between helpful/constructive criticism and just making sh*t up.

      1. (1)A non stop bus from VCC clarke wuld get its pasengers to UBC as fast as a $ 2 billion UBC skytrain or a $5 billion UBC subway. Thats the point of a non stop bus. The existing B line could continue serve those passengers who want to get on & off. on broadway .(2) Translink is in the business of getting people to where they want or need to go (2) An elevated skytrain would need about 2,000 sq ft 2% of a large development not two thirds

        1. (1) assumes that the 99 B-Line pass-ups are 100% caused by UBC commuters at Commercial – no VGH commuters, Expo/Millennium-Canada transfers, or any other riders at all – and that Clarke-UBC isn’t already served by the #84. (2) assumes that there’s a 100,000 sq ft lot at every station (biggest lot is 12,000), and that every neighbouring owner is willing to redevelop to accomodate a guideway… or that half the road can be taken up by a platform and concourse. Neither is true.

          1. (1) assumes a quarter of B line peak time capacity is occupied by people going to UBC from commercial (2) assumes stations be part of 100,000 sq ft development with a 10,000 sq ft footprint & skytrain above both curb lanes

          2. Justin you must be well aware that route 84 is slow & has 17 stops which is why a non stop bus & a new Expo line station is needed

          3. (1) I take the 84 regularly – it’s actually slightly faster than the 99. And you’re going to need a whole lot more than a shuttle service for 14,000 people a day, which just spreads the bus highway from Broadway to 4th. Don’t just treat the symptoms. Solve the problem.

            (2) Again, the average SkyTrain station is 20-ish metres wide. A lot on Broadway is 30 metres deep. Neither I nor the developers care how high the development is, you’re asking them and their neighbours to let the guideway/station cut into two-thirds of the first, second and third floors, which isn’t happening.

  5. I think the real question is a simple one. Is Arbutus to UBC the next highest transit priority in the region? It will be deserving at some point, but the extension to Arbutus will take care of the most burning issues on that corridor.

    Arguably the bigger more expensive and difficult to solve file for the region is connectivity to the North Shore. This will take a lot of money and if the solution is rail transit then whatever is built must be designed well enough to induce significant mode shift if it’s going to make a dent in traffic problems.

    Of course one could argue other problems are a greater priority. The point is that the argument and discussion should be about that. I don’t think Arbutus to UBC stacks up as the greatest priority to utilize the next many billions to come along to fix something.

    1. I agree. It’s not clear to me what the highest priority should be. I don’t think that is an easy thing to determine. It’s not just a matter of looking at the greatest demand. There are other factors, e..g.:

      1) Cost savings. Is it cheaper to build to UBC all in one go? How much is saved by extending to Langley before land values increase? Is there an opportunity to be seized (e.g. money for the Canada Line) that justifies jumping the queue?

      2. Time is value. If project A completes ten years before project B, that ten years of service could justify doing A first even if the need for B is greater.

      3) Shaping development. How does one balance satisfying demand in existing transit neighbourhoods vs preventing the spread of auto-dependence elsewhere?

      4) Political will. Vancouver might have the highest demand, but the benefits must be spread widely to sustain public and political support. This is often decried as inefficient and irrational. I think it’s democracy. This is why I think Evergreen was justified despite lower demand: a promise made long ago, then deferred, had to be honoured.

      I have no idea how different potential projects compare. I think #4 is probably the most important of all. Witness the huge costs we are paying for years of delay (or the situation in Toronto). There’s no objective formula for political will. I suspect the best we can do is to prevent the perfect from being the enemy of the good. If a project is worth doing and the political will exists, do it.

      1. You make some good points. I’ve had discussions with others about the shortcomings of the Canada Line and how it was not sufficiently future proofed. He then made the point that if it had, it would have been more expensive and likely not built. Best to take what you can get vs not getting anything at all.

        So I could agree that if the political and financial climate were such that the stars aligned for this project, that it indeed should be built because the stars don’t align too often. Of course, we may be under estimating what it does take to get the stars to align. Funding for Phase 2 of the Mayor’s Vision came through by the skin of its teeth. No word on where funding for Phase 3 will come from. My guess is that Mobility Pricing was envisioned to take care of that. Now that the report from the Mobility Pricing Commission came down with a big thud in terms of public opinion the whole notion ob Mobility Pricing is now viewed as the political equivalent of nuclear waste.

        That’s to fund Phase 3….so Arbutus to UBC would be either a new Phase 4 or likely part of the next 10 year vision. Who knows what awaits us in the future for funding? If Federal and Provincial governments take an eventual right turn as they tend to do, do we go back to 1/3rd all around? Is 40/40/20 here to stay? If we don’t have reliable ways to keep coming up with even our 20 though….no matter how much sense it may make to do a project, it doesn’t happen unless the funds are there. I would guess the drop dead on funding would have to happen by 2022-23 if we are going to have a hope of leveraging mobilization efficiencies by keeping going after the extension to Arbutus is built. That’s 4-5 years to figure out funding commitments for Phase 3 of the Mayor’s Vision plus adding the UBC extension on to a level of funding certainty we only got to in the last few months on the Arbutus extension. That is a very tight time frame to get those stars to align. No guarantee that a new crop of municipal politicians coming on stream this Fall will play nice and make it easy for Vancouver either. There are a lot of needs out there and each newly elected Council is going to want to make sure the needs of their community are looked after first. Tall order if you ask me. But yes, if those stars do indeed align, it should be done.

        1. Keep in mind that transit done right is a positive feedback loop. At least 54k new trips/day over the next fifteen years (assuming $4.2 for a two-zone) results in $82M+ more annual revenue for TransLink; even if the 33/33/33 model does come back, said revenue puts us in a much better position to save up for the next SkyTrain, which in turn will make even more revenue. With any luck, one day we might see a new line in the works every four to five years, instead of every seven.

  6. Say that a person works at VGH. They take a train to work (in the future, assuming there is a train). Maybe they take a train at lunch time to somewhere. After work, maybe they get off the train to run an errand on the way home.

    Why not? The train is there, and they have already paid for their transit pass. Now they have taken the train 5 times in one day, instead of the two times you might have expected.

    It is like an elevator in a tower. It induces its own demand. But do those five trips mean that the train was necessary in the first place? If it was not there, the rider might have been more sparing with their trips.

    1. It depends. Would it be better if said VGH employee did not complete that errand, or not have the kind of lunch they’d prefer?

  7. Absolutely. The all-you-can-eat buffet model turns people into hogs whether it’s transit passes; free parking; or drive-all-you-want after you’ve shelled out for insurance.
    In the dark days when we used to buy transit passes, there was an incentive to get our money’s worth – including unnecessary trips along the Expo Line just for the views.
    If passes were trip strips, passenger volume would be reduced by half. If motor vehicles were equipped with meters, usage would decrease dramatically.
    Re. the push to UBC – the model of fresh young minds seeking enlightenment at an institute is old school. The university model as a place to go to learn is old and broken. Most of those wasting time commuting (the dirtiest word in transportation after “goods” instead of “stuff”) to this end-of-the-line destination could use their time more profitably. It’s a great business model for the university – paying customers showing up – but necessary for learning? No. UBC should be dismantled. BCIT has logical sites. UBC is ridiculous.

    1. Universities are primarily about certification, not learning; messed up as that is, the demand isn’t about to go away. (And learning and other good things do happen too.)

      “The all-you-can-eat buffet model turns people into hogs”

      I think the ethical question of whether people become “hogs” is minor (and transit should be the last target) compared with the practical question of benefits and harms. The main problem with motordom is not that people drive too much per se. Nearly every trip has some utility, however small: if the marginal cost of a car trip were zero, each one would be a good thing. But the costs aren’t small: traffic deaths, greenhouse emissions, isolation and fragmentation of individuals and communities, polluted air (also the 70s crime wave, cancer deaths, etc.), exacerbation of inequality, poor land use, exclusion of groups (the young, the old, the poor), oil dependence (with consequent geopolitics) and the huge diversion of resources.

      Transit has much lower marginal costs, so we can accept dramatically lower trip utility before worrying about overuse. Such over-use in any case would promote transit investment, kick-starting a virtuous circle. I believe that transit also has some (small) inherent benefits. Whereas private automobiles isolate us from one another, transit rides mix people from diverse backgrounds; and whereas cars discourage physical exercise and deny us of experience of the neighbourhoods we zip past, transit induces walking and creates engagement with the world around us.

      In theory transit can encourage sprawl and waste, but as an alternative to the dominance of motordom it’s such a tiny problem I don’t think it should even be on the radar.

  8. Very good discussion.

    I’m coming in a bit late, but here is one comment I posted on the Daily Hive regarding UBC ridership and the questionable notion that UBC’s commuting dilemma can be resolved merely by building more student housing.


    UBC has 55,000 students. The vast minority live off campus in part due to an huge array of personal and financial reasons. To house that many students (the numbers are always increasing …) the build-out would have to be enormous, would take a very long time, and will be very hard to finance because it is costly and will not generate a good return on the investment. Moreover, the housing for singles will almost always be shared, a big turn-off in and of itself. Moreover, There is a very long waiting list for family accommodation. If one spouse works downtown or east of Boundary, campus living will not be for the majority of them unless there was decent transit and/or good on-campus kid care.

    During my four years schlepping to campus from Main x Broadway during the 80s I lived in a clean, affordable self-contained studio apartment, then switched to a one-bedroom in the same building. There is no way I’d have given up on that for a shared flat (kitchens and bathrooms) with strangers based on my prior experience in shared houses. During the same period my partner and I moved into the one bedroom together. That would not have been possible with a quad unit in the Gage towers.

    UBC employs 15,000 faculty and staff, perhaps 95% of whom do not live on campus. Nearly all commute from all over the Metro, and the majority currently commute by car, yet the demand for transit remains high. Add that to the 12,000 residents on the UEL who purchased condos. A decent connection to the very efficient regional rapid transit network will provide the catalyst to get a big chunk of them to get out of their cars.

    As debated on the Price Tags blog, one also needs to consider the future, and the planners have obviously run some recent numbers and evaluated them (at least on a preliminary basis) over the 100-year life of the Broadway Line. The Jericho Lands and a new policy for infill in Point Grey and West Kitsilano RS lots (an ocean of low density that has remained virtually unchanged over 80 years west of Arbutus), and eventually the 120+ acre UBC golf course land, will all come on board likely by mid-century with additional tens of thousands of residents and the associated services and businesses with commuting employees. We can only hope there is a rapid transit system that is built with additional capacity from Day One instead of looking at a change in mode under a separate contract in the 2030s …… after already spending a billion on LRT.

    1. UBC only needs to provide new housing at the pace of growth. That should be easy. LRT can more than handle a slow growth in demand at 1/3 the cost of a subway. If we foresee most people living in all the potential developments on the west side having to leave the west side to do their thing than we will have failed to build well.

      As long as we are of the mindset that travelling far and fast is the way to go we will never extricate ourselves from the increasing costs of transportation. There are many costs including the colossal waste of energy. The car is what began this ill-fated trip (pun intended). The promise of subways keep it alive.

      The region has struggled to get people out of their cars. Even with $tens of billions invested in a far-reaching, grade-separated metro system. The best success in getting people out of cars has been where there is mixed use, medium to high density – and poor transit. Encouraging people to whisk across the region does nothing to instill a sense of place, nor the desire to do more and more on foot within your neighbourhood.

      There is little benefit to higher density (perhaps non at all) if most people still have to travel far for most things. They will drive. The subway becomes a selling point to live farther away. Seldom used because its easier to drive when you live waaay out there. Always will be.

      The goal should not be to fill subways. The goal should be to avoid needing them until the region becomes dense enough to justify them. We’re nowhere near.

      1. Yet if you look at cities around the world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_share), the ones with 20%> transit usage and/or >70% car usage have a comprehensive metro and/or commuter rail network to do the heavy lifting for their LRVs, or they don’t need trams at all. Every city centred around light rail as their transit backbone is still wedded to driving much more than Vancouver.

  9. Another copied post from the Daily Hive, this one about the need for far greater federal involvement in transit as part of a national climate strategy, and he efficacy of large procurement contracts.


    The best option would be for the feds to join the provinces in a national transit plan, obtain low triple-A credit rates on trans-provincial projects, then go for major quantity discounts on tunnel boring machines, rolling stock, electrical and signalling, equipment and so forth on 10 or 15 projects in cities across the land. A half-dozen tunnel boring machines could be commissioned through a single agency representing multiple partners, and the costs likewise spread out after negotiating unit price discounts on volume.

    This will enable remarkable efficiencies to kick in, such as two TBMs working at the same time on the Broadway Line therein cutting the tunnelling contract schedule virtually in half. It took about 20 months to bore the two Canada Line tunnels north of Olympic Village using one machine, which was disassembled at the end of the first 10-month bore, repaired, then trucked back and reassembled in the launching pit for the second 10-month bore. With two machines working simultaneously on the Broadway Line, both machines would be disassembled and repaired once, then would move on to the next project in another city on the list. The original commission of the machines and all repairs between projects would be shared by all project budgets nationally, perhaps broken out on a per-km basis, with the overall per-km cost thus being a lot lower than for single, one-off projects.

    It is profoundly sad to this observer to see our federal government painfully confusing lowering our emissions with building pipelines, and not recognizing that making our cities more efficacious through powerful tools like transit on a national basis is truly a “national interest” project.

    1. No two rail transit systems are alike. It is a nice idea to try and commoditize the procurement of equipment, but this is pretty much impossible to do. Metrolinx had tried to do this by ordering standard LRVs for all Provincial LRT projects. Unfortunately wedding yourself to a single supplier has its disadvantages as well.

      There are so many differences in all the legacy systems around the country that getting common specs on anything to multiply your buying power is near impossible. Every rail transit system tends to be a bespoke solution due to differences in need, geography, geology, technology that locals have comfort with, climate…and a whole host of other factors.

      As for financing I think most government agencies already have access to cheap money. If they don’t its because their books are a mess and I’m not sure spreading the risk to others is a wise thing.

      The Federal government can help by providing consistent infrastructure funding that is not constantly bound by certain “build by” dates that are driven by the political need to cut ribbons. Simple, consistent stable funding would do a world of good. If you want to put time limit controls on it, simply limit it by project. You don’t get funds to do the next project until the previous one you started is completed.

      Reliable funding that allows projects to be built for what is realistic from a planning, construction and engineering perspective rather than the whims of the shifting winds of politics would be the big game changer in my opinion….and to know what funds you can count on five, ten, fifteen or even 20 years out. That would be a huge game changer. Unfortunately that means the Politicians who give the money won’t be the ones to get the political gain for that….kind of violates the laws of political physics…so I doubt it will ever happen.

      1. There are many project elements that could and should be standardized, such as tunnel diameter (which governs one of the most basic the TBM specs), platform heights assigned to inter-provincial high-speed rail, metropolitan rapid transit, commuter rail and tram decks irrespective of make , metallurgical specs for rails in a cold climate, electrical switching equipment, etc. etc. The best public tenders specify the materials, system and performance standards and invite private consortiums to fit their products and expertise to the tender, not the other way around.

        I really don’t understand why a premier would reject federal input or even outright control of the tendering process if it would benefit the province with large-scale savings and relieve the costs of managing the tender and possibly contract management. This is how governments and corporations already purchase vehicle fleets, copper wire for transmission lines and so on. The key is to minimize political interference, and that is probably the most important sticking point. But creating national standards is necessary in national healthcare and potentially with pharmacare and daycare. Why shouldn’t it be explored for transit infrastructure across jurisdictions?

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