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Broadway rapid transit: the view from TransLink

A lineup for the 99 B-Line.

As you may know, there’s been much discussion about rapid transit along Broadway to UBC in the news today!

That’s because the City of Vancouver staff made a presentation recommending endorsing a subway out to UBC along the Broadway corridor yesterday. There’s been an ensuing discussion about what the right technology is and what UBC would also like, and that’s triggered a great number of articles like the ones here: CKWX, Globe and Mail 1, Globe and Mail 2, Vancouver Courier, Metro, Vancouver Sun, Georgia Straight, and 24 Hours. (And blog posts: Stephen Rees, Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs.)

The view from TransLink

All this aside, from TransLink’s side, we’re well aware that rapid transit is needed on Broadway to meet their immense demand.

However, we’re also conscious that cities in Metro Vancouver are eager to make investments all across the region to help meet their transportation needs. In 2013, we’re planning to facilitate a regional dialogue to figure out those investment needs and tradeoffs. (The process will help develop the sequel to our Transport 2040 long range plan!)

And as well, we are in the process of finishing the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study, a study that identified and evaluated a range of options for rapid transit on Broadway. (We’re also finishing a simultaneous study in Surrey.)

When the studies are concluded by early 2013, we will have a better understanding of the benefits and tradeoffs of different solutions that have been evaluated and consulted on publicly. Please do look at the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study site, or the Buzzer’s past UBC Line study posts!

For those studies, both TransLink and the Province of BC have been jointly looking at the rapid transit options, in close partnership with agencies including the City of Vancouver and UBC, among others. And their perspectives will be valuable input into the coming regional dialogue about transportation investment needs.

I’ve also pasted the image below of all seven options that are being considered as part of the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study, for those interested:

The full range of options being considered for the UBC Line along the Broadway corridor.


  • By David, November 28, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

    It’s really very simple. Broadway isn’t the #1 priority now and is unlikely to ever be. If Vancouver insists that it’s a $3+ billion subway or nothing, then it’s quite clear the answer from the provincial government will be “nothing”.

    It would help if TransLink’s UBC study hadn’t given inflated cost estimates for plunking a bit of pre-fabricated track on top of an old streetcar line. 18 months of minimal disruption, a possible bit of land acquisition at Alma and suddenly LRT costs as much per km as Canada Line? Impossible.

    Unless we get some realistic thinking soon the current generation of civic politicians and planners will be in the ground before a train is.

  • By T, November 28, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

    David: “Broadway isn’t the #1 priority now and is unlikely to ever be.”

    Wow, I had no idea that the busiest bus route in North America is not a priority for rapid transit. I mean, seriously? I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but give me a break. The 99 sees approximately 100,000 riders every weekday. That’s equal to the number of people using the CANADA LINE on a weekday. If a bus route can somehow get more ridership than a rapid transit line, then it’s obviously warranted for an upgrade, so to speak.

    I honestly think that the Broadway corridor should be the next in line for rapid transit, ahead of Surrey. The Broadway corridor already has the high ridership levels there, unlike Surrey, where it’s expected to get high ridership in the future; ridership on the 321/502 currently pale in comparison to the number of people who take the 99. Not to mention that a broadway line will not just benefit locals, but anyone who commutes to Broadway. After all, central broadway is the second highest employment centre outside of Downtown.

    (Before anyone accuses me of being a narrow-minded thinker, unaware of places outside of Vancouver, I just want to put it out there that I’m a resident of Surrey)

  • By Sheba, November 28, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

    I’m hoping that the plan is to continue the Millennium Line (soon to be Evergreen Line) out to the Canada Line, and then people will transfer to the UBC Line. The reason – so that the line doesn’t come to a halt when there’s a problem on any of the other lines. Plus then each line can have it’s own start/end times.

    It’s going to be ages before we see Skytrain out to UBC (and I know it’s supposed to be a “bored tunnel” but trust me, it ain’t gonna happen any more than it did on Canada Line) but it’s possible to continue it out to meet up with Canada Line in the near distant future.

    This is why I wonder why the Millennium Line part of the Commercial-Broadway Skytrain Station needs to be expanded. Soon enough the crowds heading out towards UBC will move over to Broadway-City Hall Station (esp if the B-Line starts and ends there) until the full line is built out to UBC.

    Surrey is getting a B-Line on King George, which’ll predate any kind of rail by many years. I just hope it’s not as many years as the UBC Line has waited.

  • By SS, November 29, 2012 @ 2:07 am


    You only have to look at how much other Canadian cities are spending on their LRT.
    – Toronto’s Finch LRT is fully at-grade and was projected to be 95M/km before the fiasco. The same applies to Sheppard East LRT.
    – Edmonton’s SE to West LRT is low-floor at-grade and is 120M/km.
    – Calgary’s West LRT is 175M/km although there’s a lot of grade separations there.
    – The most recent cost estimate of Calgary’s SE LRT is now 100M/km and that line is predominantly at-grade.
    – Ottawa’s LRT is 170M/km built on existing Transit Way although there’s a 2.5km downtown tunnel

    Comparing to the list, TransLink’s LRT cost estimate is not high. In fact, if the cost holds, it would be the *cheapest* new LRT line currently on drawing board.

  • By Sparrow, November 29, 2012 @ 2:18 am

    If the Millennium Line gets extended to the Canada Line, it should meet with Olympic Village, NOT Broadway-CityHall.

    From there, UBC patrons would transfer to the streetcar/LRT that would run along existing track, through Granville Island, and all the way to Arbutus.

    After that, have the streetcars loop back to Commercial, or run one-way rush hour to UBC.

    Let’s give today’s freshwomen and freshmen a graduation present!

  • By AW, November 29, 2012 @ 9:19 am

    The more we wait to do this the more it is going to cost. Just look at the Evergreen Line. $700M estimate when it was supposed to be finished in 2007 and now the cost is $1.5B. No disrespect to Surrey but the ridership is not there. It does not need more Skytrain (yet), despite their grand growth plans. By all means start up 1 or 2 B-lines, they definitely need better transit, but as it’s been mentioned a number of times already, the Broadway corridor is the busiest bus route in North America. It NEEDS Skytrain and it needs it now (actually probably 5 years ago). Honestly I think the Evergreen Line should be pushed back and the money sent towards finishing the Millennium line to UBC. And proper RRT is the only way to go. LRT or Streetcar is a non-starter. Not only would it be at capacity from day one but it would make Broadway an absolute disaster for regular car and truck traffic. Read the City’s report. Restricted left turns, loss of 90% of parking and at least one traffic lane in each direction. That traffic wouldn’t disappear it would just shift to 8th, 10th and 12th. Obviously Translink is in a tough spot money-wise but together with Metro Vancouver they have to lobby the Province to help out here. We’ve spent billions on upgrading roads through the Gateway Project, let’s focus on transit now. The Broadway extension would serve the 2nd ard 3rd largest employment centres in Metro Vancouver as well as the fastest growing population (UBC is growing faster than Surrey or the tri-cities). This is a no-brainer. Yes $3B is a lot of money but let’s not wait 5 years only for it to increase to $4B.

  • By DRAE, November 29, 2012 @ 9:21 am

    I’m looking forward to TransLink’s recommendations. Either they confirm the city’s position that an underground SkyTrain line is the only solution that will meet all of the planning goals, or they show that other options can work. More information is certainly better than less.

    I think everyone agrees that a Skytrain is probably the best solution from Commercial to at least Arbutus. TransLink’s input will be most valuable on the section west of Arbutus where “what we build” is a reasonable question.

  • By peter b, November 29, 2012 @ 9:27 am

    I agree with the Olympic station connection idea — I think Broadway has enough transit users already!

    I sympathize with David… I think the “study” phase is taking way too long to deliver relief … seems to me the short term solution is to figure out ways to keep UBC bound people *off* broadway — #84 from VCC is a faster trip already — why not run express buses from VCC — maybe at a fare discount (for e.g. — no UPASS on #99 during rush hour. I think it would be a refreshing consideration to keep Broadway the way it is — and offer LRT lines along 4th and 41st or 49th instead. It will do almost as good a job at getting people to UBC, and it distributes development to other neighborhoods.

  • By Eugene Wong, November 29, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    Honestly, I think that we need to think about where the jobs are going to be, and not where they are. Is there projected job growth on Broadway? I don’t know. I can’t imagine it getting much bigger.

    If they do anything to the Arbutus Corridor, then I hope that it will be compatible with freight rail.

  • By Sheba, November 29, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    I know I suggested putting the UBC Line down 4th instead but TransLink seems hellbent on putting it down Broadway. I hope we all agree that extending the Millennium Line to Canada Line (either Broadway-City Hall or Olympic Village) is a good idea.

    TransLink has to talk about and plan all these thing waaay in advance. Surrey won’t be getting it’s own Skytrain line anytime soon, which is why they’re getting a B-Line (presumably next year based on the service optimization maps).

  • By Brian, November 29, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

    I personally think that the current Millenium line should expand from VCC-Clark to Olympic Village and then to UBC running practically express with just a few stops. Then they can have the 9 running broadway and the other routes from Granville to UBC. Personally I think it makes sense having a skytrain running either underground or tunneled but it needs to be an extension of the skytrain, They can take the evergreen line and run that all the way from Coquitlam to UBC as well as running the Millenium line trains to at least Olympic Village or even all the way to UBC. Maybe have every other train leave UBC as an Evergreen train.

    My thought is that the train could run from VCC-Clark and then be built direct to UBC and then in the future open a new station at a few points along the way but build it with less stations to start and then add more over time based on public consultations and them doing studies on the different options.

  • By Bobo, November 30, 2012 @ 2:09 pm


    It sounds like Broadway is where the jobs are going to be.

    From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail:

    “But Mr. Dobrovolny was insistent that a light-rail system just can’t handle the huge volumes anticipated in future years along Broadway, the province’s second-largest employment centre after downtown Vancouver.
    The corridor’s jobs and residential density are growing at double the rate anticipated, which will only bring more pressure to a transit route that already carries 80,000 riders a day. “

  • By Eugene Wong, December 1, 2012 @ 4:30 am


    Thanks for the info. If Mr. Dobrovolny is correct, then that might mean we need to build more rail transit out there. Jarrett Walker explained that the money that a city invests might need to be spend in another city, because that might be where people travel. For example, if people in Maple Ridge invest heavily in transit, then theoretically, they might get the best value with that money being invested in transit in Vancouver.

    Maybe the priority should be to build the Evergreen Line, and then extend it to the Canada Line. If all of what we have discussed is true, then I wouldn’t mind delaying rapid transit in Surrey.

    ;^) I reserve the right to take back what I said, though, in case some new information surfaces.

  • By Joe, December 1, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

    I like the idea of extending the Evergreen Line to Cambie St., then the 99 B-Line could be cut back to a Cambie Turnaround, shortening the length of the route further. Perhaps to make it for palpable for the taxpayers living and working on Broadway, the UBC extension could be done in stages, sort of like the Millennium Line except broken up a bit more. Start with VCC-Clark to Cambie, then a few years later extend it to Alma and then finally to UBC. The UBC section could even be done in advance as they would just be doing cut and cover down the centre of University Boulevard.

  • By Scott, December 1, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

    These comments about there not being ridership compared to the 99 for the 321/502 are hilarious.

    I took the 502 or I should say tried to Friday morning. 3 buses were withing 8 blocks of each other in Fleetwood which is usual around 8:15am. Had just missed them as my 320 turning onto Fraser Highway had just come after. Waited at 160th street. Next 502 came 12 minutes later and was full. Waited another 23 minutes before 2 502’s came and were both full.

    In the afternoons, the 502 lineup at Central can be way beyond the lineup for the 337. Ridership is growing and more and more people are living in Surrey. In 20 years, more people will live in Surrey than Vancouver and planning and building rapid transit for Surrey needs to begin NOW, not ten years later.

    That being said as Geoff Meggs has said, it’s not about Surrey over Vancouver. It’s about both. If we had a provincial government that gave a portion of carbon tax revenues to transit and built rapid transit instead of huge bridges, we’d be able to fund projects at a cheaper long term cost to the public.

  • By Jim, December 24, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

    When is Translink actually going to report on their findings regarding the UBC Rapid Transit Study? They finished Phase 2 in April 2011. They originally reported they would publish their findings in the Spring of 2012 on their website. They keep pushing back the date. Now it says “early” 2013. I’m not sure why they keep delaying things?

  • By Stefanie Lee - Buzzer Contributor, December 27, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    Hi Jim – I’m not sure when the report will be released, but I’ll try to find out for you. When everyone returns from the holidays we’ll get back to you. Thanks for your inquiry!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, January 7, 2013 @ 10:21 am

    Hi Jim: early 2013 is what we have pegged right now. So you’ll see something soon enough!

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