It would cost up to $3.2 billion to build an underground Canada Line-style rapid transit extension to UBC beneath the congested Broadway corridor.
That’s the priciest of several options TransLink has unveiled for public consultation.
Like the Surrey rapid transit study also underway, it lays out various configurations of SkyTrain-like rail rapid transit, street-level light rail or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for the 13-kilometre route to Point Grey.
Light rail is estimated at $1.1 to $1.4 billion, while BRT comes in at $350 to $450 million.
TransLink says costlier underground rail rapid transit would carry more people and deliver shorter travel times – as little as 20 minutes from Commercial Drive via underground SkyTrain compared to 26 minutes for light rail and 33 minutes for BRT.
Some route options connect via SkyTrain’s Broadway and VCC-Clark stations and Canada Line’s Broadway-City Hall station, while others add or substitute Main Street-Science World and Olympic Village.
There are also hybrid scenarios, like extending SkyTrain underground from VCC-Clark to Arbutus, where it would connect with a light rail line running from Main Street-Science World to UBC. Price: $2.4 billion.
The numbers come as TransLink hunts for a way to pay its promised $400-million share of the $1.4 billion Evergreen Line to Coquitlam – the region’s top priority.
“There isn’t any commitment to build anything, of course, because they haven’t got any money,” noted retired transportation economist Stephen Rees.
He predicts much will depend on what the provincial government wants built and what the outcome is of talks between Victoria and Metro Vancouver mayors on new funding sources for TransLink.
Rees said a costly Canada Line-style tunnel all the way to UBC would be the “worst of both worlds” if it wasn’t matched up with new high rise towers around stations, something he noted has been fiercely resisted in most Vancouver neighbourhoods outside downtown.
Street-level options like BRT or light rail would likely mean eliminating some parking along Broadway.
The Surrey expansion options could see lines run from the existing SkyTrain terminus to Langley City, potentially via Guildford, as well as south along King George Highway or 152 Street to White Rock.
TransLink hasn’t yet released cost estimates and detailed evaluations of the Surrey options, but spokesman Ken Hardie said that should happen by the end of the year, bringing both parallel studies to the same stage.
“It’s a matter of staff resources for these processes, which are quite intensive,” he said.
Metro Vancouver has made the Surrey expansion a higher priority than the Broadway line, because of its potential to beneficially shape land use as the population grows rapidly South of the Fraser.
TransLink hasn’t determined when or in which order the two projects should proceed.
Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender said he’s not concerned TransLink’s review of the UBC line is at a more advanced stage than the Surrey-area expansion study, which got underway first.
He said regional leaders have agreed the Evergreen Line comes first, followed by South of the Fraser and then UBC.
“We’re not pitting Vancouver against South of the Fraser,” Fassbender said.
“You can make an argument of which one should come first, but you have to have the business case for all of them and then make a decision based on that on where the funding is going to come from.”
The region needs to be ready to proceed with both projects because gas prices will likely rise in future years, driving up demand for transit, said North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton, who chairs the mayors’ council that controls TransLink funding.
“Ultimately, there’s going to be more people wanting to use the system,” he said.
Mayors hope to get a better idea of the province’s stance on financing when they meet behind closed doors Thursday with new transportation minister Blair Lekstrom.
For more on TransLink’s two rapid transit studies see: http://www.translink.ca/ubcline or http://www.translink.ca/en/Be-Part-of-the-Plan/Public-Consultation/Surrey-Rapid-Transit-Study.aspx.