At a presentation on Thursday, a panel from the Washington D.C.-based Urban Land Institute (ULI) said an underground rapid transit line should be built to improve transportation along the Broadway corridor, and that UBC should help pay for it.
“The existing transit along the Broadway corridor is essentially a failure — it barely works,” said Dick Reynolds, one of five panel members at the presentation.
The ULI read 1,100 pages of documentation on the subject and spent three days in Vancouver meeting with the city, TransLink and residents before making their recommendations.
“If the economic funding for this line is put aside, if we look at simple movement of people … the smartest thing to do would be to put the line underground,” said Alan Boniface, chair of ULI BC, in an interview. The panel was invited to do the study by ULI BC.
Building an underground line is predicted to cost up to $3 billion.
The panel also recommended that major employers along the line such as UBC and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority should help pay for the system. According to Boniface, UBC was invited to discussions with the ULI, but did not attend.
“I think we have made our position fairly clear so there was no real necessity for us to participate in the process,” said UBC’s VP communications and community partnership Pascal Spothelfer.
Spothelfer said that UBC’s position on the line is that it should be built, it should be a rail-based transit line that goes all the way to UBC and should be implemented across the entire corridor rather than in phases.
However, UBC does not take a position on whether the line should be above or below the ground. “We are not the experts on translink’s technologies,” Spothelfer said.
Spothelfer said that UBC is exploring options such as contributing the land for the end station but that financial contributions could not take away from the university’s core mandate of research and funding.
“As a publicly funded uni, our mandate is to invest the funds into teaching and research… and we plan our finances around that,” said Spothelfer.
The 13-kilometre stretch between UBC and Commercial Drive has been called the busiest bus route in North America, and many buses along it are over capacity at peak hours. This is without considering future growth, which is a predicted increase of 1,000,000 people and 600,000 jobs in Metro Vancouver by 2041.
The panel also recommended that the city not rezone areas because of the line. Residents in the West Side, for example, were opposed to increasing density in the area.
“You guys do high-rises very nicely, but you’re sort of drunk on high-rises,” Reynolds said at the presentation. “You don’t need towers everywhere.”
Finally, the ULI recommended better collaboration and communication between stakeholders in planning this line. Boniface said that while construction of the Canada Line was rushed for the Olympics, there is time for a Broadway line to be done right.
“It would be useful to take that time to have all the stakeholders come together,” said Boniface. “A sober second thought, if you will, that engages everyone.”
Boniface said that although this idea has been discussed for a few years, some groups have not been consulted to the degree they are happy with. “If you want to make this efficient, you need everybody in the same room,” Boniface said.
Boniface said the ULI will have donated $50,000 in consulting time by the time their full report is released in six weeks.
This article was updated at 3:15 on February 11 to include UBC’s response to the ULI’s recommendations.