The provincial government wants a rapid-transit line to UBC.
Those along Broadway and West 10th don’t want a Canada Line-style shutdown of their neighbourhood.
It was with that backdrop that the Business and Residents Association for Sustainable Transportation Alternatives (BARSTA) held a meeting on June 22 to debate alternatives to a Skytrain line that would extend to UBC.
“In my view we have two alternative futures,” said Jan Pierce, Chair of the West Kitsilano Residents Association, to the crowd of about 150 people that filled the St. James Community Square.
“One looks to retain much of our existing housing, green space, heritage, and have change happen in a more gradual way that fits with our neighbourhoods.
“The alternative, a rapid-rail skytrain system, where our neighbourhood goals are transformed by the development goals of Translink, using the excuse of perceived need to increase ridership on their extremely expensive lines to justify the high costs.”
Mel Lehan, co-founder of BARSTA, began the meeting arguing that the speed of the line should not be Translink’s main consideration.
“We want to make some suggestions about transit alternatives that would be best for not only improving transit, but for respecting and enhancing our communities and local businesses,” said Lehan, who was the provincial NDP candidate for the Vancouver-Point Grey riding in 2005 and 2009.
After Lehan, a variety of merchants, academics, and city planners gave presentations to the crowd, each decrying the costs and effects of a Skytrain line. Patrick Condon, a Landscape Architecture Professor at UBC, told the crowd that based on his research, the $2.8 billion the provincial government has pledged for a UBC Line could instead be spent on a streetcar system that would span the entire city.
The majority of speakers spoke with the assumption that a Skytrain was the preferred option of Translink, which is currently studying the various options available for the 12 kilometre route from the university to Commercial and Broadway.
Ken Hardie, Translink’s Director of Communication, denied the charge. “I honestly don’t know where they got that idea that a SkyTrain is the front-runner,” he told The Province. “We are looking at a variety of options.”
But Susan Heyes, a Cambie Street merchant who was awarded $600,000 in damages by the BC Supreme Court last year—the case is being appealed by the government—argued that Translink and government are ignoring the lessons learned through the Canada Line construction.
“They’re holding open houses, which is not meaningful consultation,” she said, adding “what’s happening along here is exactly what happened on Cambie street.”
And while she granted that some UBC students would favour the fastest option, “If you’re talking about the difference between 15 and 20 minutes to get [to UBC]…it’s irrelevant. I think the larger concern is what consequences will happen as a result of the project,” said Heyes.
“We should care deeply about what happens to your environment, and stop thinking so small…it’s the long-term well being of neighbourhoods and cities at stake.”