Vancouver’s Broadway Corridor — a Jobs Centre

Vancouver, in 2025, should be home to a new mostly-tunneled Skytrain route through BC’s second-largest jobs centre. It’s rapid transit where it’s definitely needed.

HERE‘s Kenneth Chan at the Daily Hive diving into every armchair engineer’s favourite bare-knuckle debate — tunneled vs. elevated.

His review is based on the Strategic Options Analysis (44-page PDF) from BC’s MoTI. It seems there’s a lot to think about — road space changes, parking reduction (or not), loss of left turn opportunities, local street traffic impact, project cost, property acquisition, ongoing development on the corridor.

An elevated concrete guideway, similar to the Canada Line on No. 3 Road in Richmond, would likely result in lower overall construction costs, but would decimate Broadway’s function as one of the largest east-west road arterial routes in the city.

“Typically, an elevated guideway alignment offers a more economical solution in terms of construction costs, however, impacts of an elevated guideway within a corridor must be considered and weighed against potential construction cost savings when determining an optimal solution,” reads the report.


  1. I don’t see it as an either or. I believe the central Broadway portion needs to be tunneled, but can be above ground on the western end. As to where the tunnel surfaces is up for debate.

    1. City of Vancouver & UBC should have the option of skytrain or subway by paying the additional billion $$ plus for a tunnel, like Berkley did when BART was built. Other parts of METRO also have rapid transit needs .

  2. Above ground is a community killer.

    Putting the line above ground along blocks of Broadway where people currently live, shop, and dine, will hollow out those blocks. The road is narrow. Commuters will literally be staring into the windows of the condos along the route. Pillars and tracks will shade the street, making the whole corridor cave like. Noise from the Skytrain will make living along the corridor unbearable, and will make shopping and dining along the corridor unpleasant. I thought the idea was to improve our communities, not destroy them so we can save a buck when blasting through them.

    1. I would like to hear the case for spending more money on the West Side so that residents there don’t face the same issues as those of use east of Quebec St. Having lived near VCC Station and within earshot of Joyce-Collingwood, I am happy to report that above ground transit did not make my life unbearable.

      1. And if Broadway had 40+ metres of space between buildings, then hey, no problem. Alas, the typical corridor width is 20-30m all the way from Fraser to Alma, which is much more of a squeeze than VCC or Joyce.

        OTOH, Alma-UBC is fairly open. The only real question should be the alignment – Broadway to College Highroad or to 4th/Chancellor, or straight down 10th all the way?

        1. Above ground transit is the way to go if we want people to ride it when there are other alternatives. All those shining sci-fi cities show how the popular imagination sees public transportation in the future. Above ground, as if the quality of travel experience for non-motorists actually matters.

          1. Above-ground where possible; no doubt it’s nicer for riders (if you don’t mind buildings in the way), but not so much for pedestrians/cyclists/bus passengers on Broadway. Too damn narrow.

            So long as SkyTrain remains consistently fast and frequent, people will always want to ride it. Views from UBC and Point Grey are just icing on the cake.

          2. How dystopian. I’d argue the livability of communities matters more than the potential entertainment value of staring into peoples living spaces as you zip by on transit. There are far too many negative impacts on local communities when rapid transit is elevated on narrow corridors like Broadway. Keep it underground – all the way.

          3. Who looks into people’s windows when there are mountains and ocean vistas to enjoy? We sell this city on the views and then deny them to people who make a good choice and take transit. It’s a too-telling insight into where we place strap-hangers on the social scale.

          4. What views? All the new buildings springing up along Broadway are at least five stories. Are you suggesting tracks elevated higher than that?

          5. When I’m on the train I look many places and enjoy what I see. When I’m in a tunnel it’s loud and not a pleasant experience. You all are free to pooh-pooh these facts, but they are real and should be considered, as should the long term utility of the structure past its service life. As we see in so many arenas, short-term thinking hobbles possibilities for real change. If we simply wish to pay lip service to addressing these issues, then a subway will do just fine. Treating transit users as more than unwelcome guests in our neighbourhoods will not get more people out of their cars.

          6. For me, as a transit user, speed and comfort are the critical issues. I want to get where I’m going, I want to get there fast, and I want to be virtually guaranteed of a seat so I can comfortably read or study or stare lovingly into my phone. And, I want trains every five minutes. If I have a long wait on a platform just to suffer through a standing-room-only experience, then it’s not pleasant or user-friendly, is it. The The morning B-line out to UBC is above ground and provides virtually the same view you’re advocating, and no one is claiming that sardine-can provides a tour quality experience. If you want people to use transit, make it comfortable, uncrowded, and fast. If you want community buy-in, put it underground – all the way out to UBC.

          7. I think for many potential transit adoptees safety is another important factor you didn’t mention in your own list. My understanding is that aboveground stations are considered safer than underground by the public.

          8. Peter—- I share your opinion that transit should be uncrowded comfortable & fast.—–Both underground & elevated do that.—- The difference is that underground builds fewer k ms for the limited bucks——- Underground would deprive another community of of THEIR uncrowded ,comfortable & fast Skytrain

          9. Bob – Above ground may be cheaper, but it comes at the expense of depreciating the living environment at grade. Above ground should be for housing, parks, pedestrian areas, bike zones. A peaceful living environment designed to receive the maximum amount of sunlight possible at grade, and be protected from the noise and shadows and other jarring and negative impacts of cars, trucks, and high-impact large-footprint transportation like skytrain. Keeping mass transit underground everywhere, not just along Broadway, makes for a less stressful living environment at grade. Quality of living environment at grade needs to be the priority.

          10. Keam – “My understanding is that aboveground stations are considered safer than underground by the public.”

            Considered safer? Maybe while standing at the station, but on route during an earthquake, I’d rather be on a subway far from collapsing buildings than on a skytrain bumping along over shaking supports. And speaking of the big one, what’s the risk of pillars collapsing in heavy pedestrian areas, like Broadway, as people rush out of condos, offices, and stores.

          11. Bob – “underground builds fewer k ms for the limited bucks——- Underground would deprive another community of of THEIR uncrowded ,comfortable & fast Skytrain”

            I think “deprive” is too strong a word. There are a finite number of rapid transit routes needed for Vancouver (geographically, we are in a confined area), so the dollars that need to be spent over time creating them are also relatively finite. Every route that needs to be created will eventually be created; It’s a matter of budgeting and prioritizing. I would argue that implementing the best possible rapid transit solutions is far more important than rushing into cheaper less-desirable solutions.

          12. “Considered safer?”

            I think the concerns are more around the everyday reality of crime rather than the maybe in my lifetime danger of earthquakes, esp. for vulnerable people.

      1. I don’t think that’s true, and even if it were true, both cars and skytrain are too loud. Put the line underground and there are far fewer noises issues from both cars and transit – a clear benefit for the community.

        1. If its a clear benefit for the community then C O V should pay the extra cost. ( If they think its worth it. ) The billion + saved could provide skytrain to another METRO community

  3. A big benefit of elevated is the dry space created beneath it like along CVG from Renfrew St to pretty much Gilmore, or the Expo between Rupert and Joyce. Tons of people walk/cycle here – staying dry during the rains. (Side note: the intersection of Hebb, 12th, and the CVG, by Rotten Ronnie’s, is an accident waiting to happen. Rupert at CVG, accross from Skytrain, is also treacherous).

    The playground space under the Cambie Bridge is excellent – a real asset.

    From the perspective of transit users, subways are boring. Compare the Expo to Canada Line. The Expo is like a tourist trip. The Canada is blech.

  4. All over the world cities like Boston and Seattle have been spending billions to drop elevated trains and roads under ground because they have decimated the neighbourhoods they fly over. Number 3 Road is an exception because it was extremely wide and “pre-decimated” by decades of bad commercial strip mall development so the elevated guideway tends to look like a zero impact addition. The argument for elevated guideways is always short term cost, and the thinking is almost always misguided and short term.

    1. It might be argued that building underground when the likely scenario is rising sea levels in our region is evidence of short term thinking. Who is the thinking 100, 200, or 500 years into the future, when transit will be irrelevant? Above ground structures can be repurposed… tunnels will be useless.

      1. Elevated structures sure don’t have a service life of 500 years.

        Practically no engineer is going to sign off on something as a service life of greater than 75 years. Tunnels maybe, but even then it doesn’t mean much.

        It’s basically a moot point.

        1. Note that I said they could be repurposed, not used for their original intent. The question is how we might repurpose concrete guideways vs a tunnel a few centres from now. Long-term thinking.

          Highline Park is a great example of repurposed infrstructure. What would we do with an unused tunnel?

        2. How many hundreds or thousands of building are there around the world still standing after 500 years? I must say, the paucity of imagination and confidence that we have for our structures is depressing. We needn’t understand how something might be used a long time from now to build it in such a fashion that there’s something there for our progeny to repurpose.

          I will go a step further. Look at our metaphors and stories. Nobody goes underground for a good time. If you want transit to be well-travelled, make it pleasanter than a subway trip underground. Look at our movies and pop culture. All the cool kids travel above ground. What we are fighting is not an engineering battle. It’s a mind-war and as long as we look at transit as something to hide, it will suffer a P.R. problem. Putting transit above-ground addresses that.

    2. No.3 is more of an rule than an exception though. Most North American e-rail corridors (Miami, Honolulu, Calgary, Ottawa, us) share similarly wide roads and low density; since there’s not much neighbourhood there for an viaduct to decimate, we can build it now, then watch the city urbanize around it.

      Things are obviously different for existing urban/demi-urban segments like Broadway, which are narrow, already dense/walkable/etc, and much harder to build through. Those should definitely be tunnelled.

      1. (1) I find it interesting that the report states that the the cost savings are not enough to justify the elevated option but fails to quantify those potential cost savings. A judgement call to be made by WHO —— Why are they hiding that the tunnel option doubles + the cost of elevated ????——-(2) Report does not consider the elevated option above both north & south Broadway parking lanes, when it refers to loss of parking & bus stops ——(3) Report refers to EXPO line tunnel being worth the extra cost——- It was already there !!!! That downtown underground section was cheaper to build than elevated—– (4) Refers to problem with elevated turns ( ALL 2 of them )—(5) Writing a report compatible with what the bosses have already decided is how to keep a job

        1. 1) Because such quantification will undoubtedly include the land value along Broadway, likely the main reason for cost creep (the last subway estimate was $263 million/km). The last thing we need is property owners reading the report, figuring out how to game the system, and making the line even more expensive.
          2) As you can see in the graphic, a SkyTrain in the parking lanes would practically kiss the 2nd through 4th floors, to say nothing of the stations. If it doesn’t work in Cities Skylines, it sure won’t work here.
          3) Doesn’t change the fact that it was worth the cost. Would you have preferred Chinatown-Waterfront as an elevated route?
          4) Two turns is bad enough; it means buying out every building on the curve and demolishing it. Funding for that would come entirely out of TransLink’s pocket, and by extension, the taxpayer’s.
          5) You’re thinking of the Surrey report. TransLink (and most of Metro Vancouver) has always expressed their preference for SkyTrain.

          1. (5) Which metro councils( other than the C O V) have expressed support for a tunnel instead of a skytrain ???? ——-((3) Using the existing downtown tunnel for the expo line was a smart cost saving move– ( compared to elevated) by Bill Vander Zalms team ——-(1) Estimated cost of subway is $263 a km So what is the estimated cost of elevated per km

          2. Regardless of which of ( elevated or tunnel ) is chosen—— One station should be called Vander Zalm ——- He should be recognised for pushing that (not) crazy proposal thru cabinet

          3. – The people that voted for the metro councils most definitely want a SkyTrain. Aside from a very vocal internet minority, they either understand the reasons for a Central Broadway tunnel or just don’t care so long as it’s built.
            – The Evergreen Line was $163M/km. The cost of even an IHOP on Broadway is around $46M. Since there’s no room to get onto Broadway from GNW or to build large-enough elevated stations, most of the savings will be used up on buying and demo-ing buildings.
            – Station names are for navigation. If you really want to, commission a statue of him… right behind the statue of Gregor Robertson, who got the subway built in the first place (/s).

  5. (1) If the IHOP property is worth 46 million without a skytrain station The resale value of the density above a station is more. —– No NET land cost—– (2) Separate Evergreen costs costs of 9 k of elevated and 2 k of bored tunnel have not been made public so 163M /km blended cost is not relevant

    1. 1) They don’t get to resell a station; what they can do is lease it. That profit’s going to be a drop in the bucket compared to all the other roadspace and buildings they’d tear down to build the track in/out of the station, and to get the viaduct from GNW to Main & Broadway.

      2) The Langley SkyTrain’s priced at $182M/km ($172M when adjusted for inflation). Feel free to find your own numbers, rather than getting other people to find them for you.

      1. (1) A station platform above a sidewalk – creates no need to move the track away from above the curb lane . IF the density above the rest of the station is leased instead of being sold, the revenue would be more than the stations capital cost— (2) If the authors of the report had been upfront about the costs of of all options there would be no need for anyone to look for those hidden numbers to be able to form an objective opinion

        1. 1) Which will create stations even more cramped than the Canada Line’s. Where do the elevators and escalators go? The faregates? Underground on Broadway allows for as much space as necessary; elevated requires swerving the track into a city block and having the station built there.
          2) Or “anyone” could just take their word for it like the rest of us, instead of assuming conspiracies and corruption at every turn. The CTF’s idea that one pays too much and gets too little for TransLink is completely unfounded.

          1. (1) Half of the platform above the sidewalk & the other half inside the the rest of the station which could host the escalators & fare gates ‘( as well as the development above)——–(2) i do not share any of the( so called ) C T F s opinions. —– On this issue I think the extra billion+ cost of building it underground should be spent on Skytrain expansion in other parts of metro Vancouver (3) The elevated sections of the Canada line are not to crowded & can be enlarged if when needed. IT is the underground stations that are the problem

          2. 1) Again, that means TransLink would need to buy out, demolish, build track on, then resell at least ten blocks on Broadway. Every property on said block would need to consent both to being redeveloped, and to losing both their sunlight and a significant chunk of their first 4 storeys… or in the case of the Main Street tunnel exit, to being replaced with undevelopable viaduct.
            2) $90M x 5.7km gets you $513M in savings (which is enough for a BRT line), and destroying much of Central Broadway reduces that to $150M or less (which isn’t enough for anything). Penny wise, pound foolish.
            3) Which is why instead of building small now and big later, the current plan is to build big now and bigger later. Broadway has room for high-capacity subway stations. It does not have room for a Metrotown-sized station or rebuild.

          3. Estimate for subway phase one is 2.83 billion That is about 500 M per k m . The spread betwen 172 and 500 per k is not 90 pr k m

          4. 2015 estimate was $347-400M/km. All that’s changed is the price of Broadway real estate.

            The elevated option would now cost $226-260M/km. To be fair, that’s as much as a $174M difference, not $90M, so now you’ve got $630M or less to work with. Still destroying Central Broadway, still no extra SkyTrain. But you do get a slightly-bigger BRT line

  6. Subway is the only way to avoid deleterious impacts of above grade guideways on the public realm. A subway alignment need not actually be under Broadway, all that is necessary is for station entrances to pop up on Broadway. This development strategy is low impact and very sustainable compared to the massive impacts of above grade construction.

    Transit systems are designed for 100 years plus service, and paid for by tax dollars, so why build what future generations might come to see as ugly and worthy of demolition? Remember the viaducts? If it is underground, it is at least safe from the wasteful flavors of the times. It is out of sight!

  7. Here’s how I’d do it.

    Bored subway to Alma (or a block past). Single bore, side platforms. Same arrangement as the Evergreen Line tunnel.

    Elevated and trenched through the garrison lands to flatten the hill. Build the trench into the basement of the MST developments.

    Bored or precast boxes w/ cut and cover from Trimble Park through to Blanca. Construction method depends on the willingness to raise a stink w/ 3 blocks of rich people.

    Elevated guideway from Blanca to UBC. Plan the MST developments at the golf course around a guideway. Build noise walls or enclosures around any switches or crossovers.

  8. The Broadway Line will be designed and constructed through a city planning and civil engineering process that begins with data collection that ultimately produces a development proposal. One thing is for certain, it will not be the pipe dream of any one person, and it will not be a process that evaluates the wealth of individual property owners.

    1. Chances are that it will be engineered or re-engineered in detail by the Contractor. Once the job is brought up to a point where Translink knows roughly what they want, it will be put to bid and the Contractor will change a bunch of things to make their bid more competitive. That’s usually where things like single bores, or alternative means are proposed.

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