Metro Vancouver mayors are scheduled to debate rail to the University of B.C. at their upcoming meeting this week.
The idea of extending the Millennium SkyTrain Line to UBC’s Point Grey campus has been discussed for more than a decade by the region’s leaders, but a new report to be reviewed at the Thursday meeting reveals three possible options for the line.
The cheapest option is a $1.7-billion-to-$2-billion ground-level light-rail line from the Broadway SkyTrain extension at Arbutus Street, which is scheduled to open in 2025, to UBC.
The second option would place a $2.8-billion-to-$3.2-billion ground-level light-rail line from the Main Street-Science World SkyTrain Station out to UBC.
The third option would extend the Millennium Line from Arbutus all the way to UBC at a cost of $3.3 billion to $3.8 billion.
There is no funding set aside to build the line itself yet, but $3 million was put forward last year to study possible routes.
UBC has offered to pay part of the cost, but could not immediately be reached for comment on this report.
Those costs are calculated in 2018 dollars, with about a 25-per-cent increase if converted to dollars in 2030 – the year TransLink believes the line could feasibly be completed.
The report said only the SkyTrain extension option would provide sufficient capacity over the long-term.
SkyTrain is projected to be able to carry 10,000 people, while both light-rail lines are expected to carry more than 6,000.
SkyTrain, the report noted, could also double its capacity by bringing in longer train cars and increasing frequency, while ground-level light rail could not.
— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) January 22, 2019
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, campaigned on a promise to bring SkyTrain to UBC, said he wasn’t surprised TransLink recommended it as the only solution.
“Because we’re building the SkyTrain to Arbutus it really just adds to the overwhelming case that the extension to UBC also needs to be SkyTrain,” Kennedy said.
“SkyTrain is the preferred technology because people are used to it and they know it works really well.”
Kennedy believes MetroVancouver’s other mayors will support the line as a “regional project” that will help their residents get to the university.
“It’s a real drag for them to get their with the buses being so full,” he said.
“Most mayors are saying this is an essential part of the regional plan.”
Kennedy doesn’t see McCallum’s South of the Fraser SkyTrain plans, which have dominated Mayors’ Council meetings of late, as interfering with funding a UBC line.
“We have seven per cent growth in the region this year… this region is embracing transit more than any other region in North America,” Stewart said.
“This is giving us the ability to move ahead faster with these project. We’re facing enormous public pressure to accelerate our [transit] builds.”
Both light-rail options would be either nearing or over capacity by 2025, just five years after a projected completion date.
The Broadway corridor to UBC is the busiest bus route in North America, with 100,000 daily passengers, and according to the business case, 2,000 people are left at bus stops by the 99 B-Line bus every day.