Monday, August 29, 2016
Last updated: 11 months ago

American panel says transit along Broadway corridor a ‘failure,’ recommends subway line

A panel from the Washington D.C.-based Urban Land Institute believes rapid transit should be built along the Broadway corridor, where the 99 bus runs. File photo Stephanie Xu/The Ubyssey

A panel from the Washington D.C.-based Urban Land Institute believes rapid transit should be built along the Broadway corridor, where the 99 bus runs. File photo Stephanie Xu/The Ubyssey

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.

  • Loser

    I have never had a problem getting a bus, native Vancouverite—is it that the system has no capacity, or is it selfish 9-5ers who refuse to alter their lives and spread their usage out?

    • Martin Morlot

      An after thought to the 9-5ers who refuse to alteir their lives, I believe many of them don’t have a choice for different working hours or they would gladly change them…

      • Loser

        You always have a choice. You can stop working, sit in sack-cloth and ashes on the street. You can develop mental illness, collect BC’s fool’s-gold-plated disability pension. You can do all sorts of things rather than work 9-5. It is always a question of what one needs out of life. I would agree, tho, that given the deplorable condition of the welfare state in this province, that it is unethical to have children on welfare, given that it puts them in poverty. On the other hand, perhaps that is just my middle-class prejudice against poverty, disguised in an ethical veneer.

        Anyway, except for people who have kids (which is hardly any students these days) there is very little justification to the argument that people cannot change their lifestyles. And even if they have kids, my view on that may simply be class prejudice.

    • PsychoRecycled

      I commuted to UBC for eight months. I was passed by 99s during peak hours all the time, as well as 25s, 14s, and 33s. The issue is that the area in question is over capacity.

      Spreading usage out is a fine suggestion, but not a solution. Peak hours could only be spread out if a) people arrived earlier/stayed later at work or b) changed their hours. a) doesn’t make much sense for people do to, and b) isn’t (generally) dictated by individuals as much as it is companies, and normal business hours are normal because you want to be open at the same time people are shopping, or you want to be working at the same time as the people you’re working with. .

      • Loser

        So you’re saying that our real problem is immigration? Like, what if Vancouverites don’t -want- a subway along Broadway, they would prefer drastically reducing headcount or at least stemming the tide of immigration into our fair City? Like that’s on the table…

    • Kate

      Your experience is not typical. There are over 500,000 pass-ups per year by the 99 B-line ( The system is over capacity. You also present a false dichotomy. There are options other than “the system has no capacity” and “selfish 9-5ers who refuse to alter their lives”. What about “students whose class schedules dictate their usage”?

      • Loser

        Students pick their majors, class schedules—the worst case scenario is a Major where you get a standard timetable, set up by the 9-5ers who set the standard timetable. So, pick a different major. Live smarter.

        • PsychoRecycled

          Can you explain how picking a major based on what the timetable is constitutes ‘living smarter’, as opposed to selecting a major based on projected happiness/income, job opportunities, or the experiences of others in that major?

          ESPECIALLY when timetables vary widely from year to year?

        • A-rock

          You are so lost in your stubborn opinions that you are not making any sense. It starts with your personal experience of “always being able to catch a bus” which doesn’t count for anything against measurable data. I can always catch a bus too and have no personal complaints, but that doesn’t change the fact the system is over capacity and in need of this fix. Secondly you are completely delusional about the capacity of others to make rational alternative choices. As a society we should encourage people to make more sustainable choices like taking transit, whether forced or not, and then in turn properly fund that system they depend on. It’s highly counterproductive to suggest they “change their majors” or “not work 9-5 jobs.” Utterly ridiculous.

  • Brittanity

    Why do we care so much about what American consultants have to say about our city design? Our city is so far ahead of other North American cities in terms of sustainable transit usage and innovative street design. Not that there is anything in particular I disagree with, just strange that we are reporting and even placing weight on their comments. Anyone from Vancouver could have told you the same. Why don’t you guys also report on recent talks at UBC by Lon LaClaire, Tamim Raad and Scot Hein on this issue?

    • Kate

      I don’t think the identity of the consultants affects the strength of their argument or conclusion. I agree that this story is very preliminary, since the full report won’t be released for six weeks. It’s strange that any weight is being given to these comments *before* the journalists have had the opportunity to dig into the arguments behind them, but that has nothing to do with the consultants being American.