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Jeff Busby, manager of project planning, explains the goals of the UBC Line consultation

Jeff Busby, manager of project planning, explains the goals of the UBC Line consultation

Jeff Busby, manager of project planning at TransLink
Jeff Busby, manager of project planning at TransLink

Since last week, we’ve been listening to your thoughts on rapid transit to UBC. But judging by some responses, we’ve realized that we need to be clearer about what we’re looking for in this consultation.

(For example, many have asked for details we don’t have yet, or are just concentrating on picking a favourite!)

To help you out, there’s a new “What feedback are we looking for?” page to describe the consultation goals. Key points:

We haven’t yet created detailed designs for each alternative, and we want your feedback so we can consider your priorities as we develop the designs.

We want to know three things:

  • are these are the right six alternatives to begin more detailed design and evaluation with, or should other alternatives be considered
  • what should we consider in the actual design of the route
  • how we can make these alternatives be the best they can be

We don’t have detailed designs, so we can’t answer questions about cost, speed or other features. We won’t know this info until we make the designs!

Below, you’ll also find an interview with Jeff Busby, manager of project planning at TransLink. He explains more about where we are in the study process, what feedback we need, and where that feedback will go in the end.

So where are we in the consultation process? What kind of feedback are we looking for at this stage?

We had to start somewhere, so we did some work over the last year with stakeholders to ask, what’s the problem we’re trying to solve with rapid transit? How should we approach our evaluation of different rapid transit alternatives? What are people’s perspectives, and what are the challenges and opportunities on the corridor?

At the same time, we did a very high level screening of a whole host of different corridors and technologies. At a high level, we’ve arrived at six alternatives that we think are a good place to address the problems that we’ve identified over the past year.

So what we’re interested in for this consultation is to first, bring the public up to speed on all the work we’ve done on defining the problem we’re trying to solve with rapid transit. But most importantly, we are presenting these six alternatives, which are our recommendation to start more detailed design and evaluation on. And so, we’d like to know collectively are these six the right place to start.

Because we have a relatively narrow window over the summer to do the design work, we’d also like early input on what the community would like in the design of all six. In the fall, we’ll come back and do additional consultation on the design and the early evaluation findings

So should people be picking a favourite now?

It’s difficult, because it’s human nature to want to pick a favourite. But it’s important for everyone to remember that the level of analysis done to arrive at the six alternatives has been very high level—we had to be efficient in our use of time and money in doing the analysis. We don’t think there’s sufficient information about the performance of these alternatives to pick a favourite. That information will come through the second phase of the study.

So it’s not about picking favourites: it’s about ensuring we’re at the right starting point, and for each alternative, what kind of design options would perform best to address the problems we’ve identified.

Can you talk about the analysis you did to come to these six alternatives?

We use Multiple Account Evaluation as the tool to do our assessment. A Multiple Account Evaluation looks at not just costs and benefits narrowly defined but a wide range of different impacts. It’s an international best practice about how to make decisions about large investments, not just for transit expenditure of public funds generally.

We have seven accounts we use in our evaluation – financial, transportation, environmental, urban development, economic development, social/community, and deliverability accounts – and underlying each are different criteria. As we narrow the number of options, we’ll be applying an increasing level of effort to understand how those alternatives perform. When we did the early assessment, we relied on that multiple account framework, but the criteria we used were very high level, which was commensurate with the level of design that was available. And when I say level of design, I really am just referring to lines on a map—that’s all we had.

So for example, we looked at activity centres that might be connected, catchment areas—how many people work or live adjacent to those alignments—and some basic sense checks on whether the alignment would perform better than the service today. And so, largely those alternatives that have emerged from this screening process were direct routes.

A direct route is helpful in two ways – it’s shorter, which means it’s usually faster, and in this case usually means less expensive. They served the major concentrations of activity both current and proposed. And we tried to make sure the experience of the people using the system today would not be degraded.

So what can we answer and what can’t we answer at this point?

It’s probably easiest to answer what we cannot say. We need to design each alternative further in order to tell specifically how much each would cost, how many people are likely to ride the line, the range of environmental impacts—good things like reducing greenhouse gases and pollutants, and negative impacts like vibration and noise.

Right now we haven’t identified specifics about vertical alignment, which refers where it is relative to street level. But also for the surface options, BRT and LRT, we can’t say specifically middle of the street, side of the street, one side or the other. And that’s not to say that those aren’t really important considerations, but that’s work that’s will happen once we’ve got a sense from public stakeholders and our partners that this is the right place to start all that more detailed design work.

What will we do with the feedback in the end?

So part of this early round of consultation is an education and confirmation exercise: making sure people are up to speed on the work done defining the problem and the evaluation criteria. Through the consultation, we’d like to confirm that these are the right options to move forward. If through the comments and the workshops other alternatives emerge that look promising and merit additional evaluation, that would be important input.

And then we’re starting the design process, and so the input from the community on the different design features that are important to them, will really help the design process be responsive to the needs of the community. And knowing that we’re not actually going to get to a final design, or the design will continue to evolve, it should help that evolution be more efficient and respond more appropriately to community desires.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Come out to the workshops, continue to stay involved, and join us in the fall workshops, when there will be a lot more information on the alternatives.

Also, a similar process is under way in Surrey, and we’ll be doing a similar level of engagement with Surrey this year as well. So if you have a regional interest in rapid transit, that’s another opportunity to participate in shaping the region.

Thanks Jeff!

Remember, you can visit to join the conversation on this stage of the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study. The consultation will be running until May 21!