I have heard a lot of misunderstanding about the decision to terminate the skytrain extension from VCC-Clark at Arbutus. This decision was based on many years of study but can be boiled down to:
- The Broadway corridor is the second largest employment area in the province, but tapers off significantly west of Arbutus
- The housing densities west of Arbutus do not justify subway service.
- Balancing the needs of the rest of the region is a political tight rope between upgrading existing service and expanding the network south of the Fraser River. The subway could serve as a direct connection to UBC or service the main corridor only. They chose to compromise and choose the later.
This does not make this a good decision, only one made during anti-urban provincial government and financial uncertainty. This is also a dated decision. Much has changed:
- 10 years ago preparing for the Olympics was the focus of all infrastructure projects. The fight over the Canada Line and the deferment of the Evergreen Line preoccupied all the planners and politicians. Despite the issue of capacity and development at UBC accelerating, no strategic visions for the corridor was undertaken. When federal money was promised by the federal liberals, the old plans and studies were dusted off.
- The original studies in the 1990s did not anticipate the success of the U-Pass and the B-Line and recommended the west terminus to be at Arbutus. The amount of people taking transit past Arbutus has increased substantially during the off and on again planning for this corridor.
- The more recent studies focused on technology and showed routing to UBC, but still built in the option to stop at Arbutus. This in turn gave the policy makers a compromise option, which they took.
- UBC identified in the 1990s that a long-term solution for transit would be needed to address future growth in student and campus population.
- More recently, the Musquem have released a plan and currently are developing more housing on the eastern borders of campus.
- And then last year the out of the blue Jericho Lands sale of federal and provincial properties to local First Nations. The planned development of this site may take a decade to start, but the long-term impact is a massive increase of housing not anticipated in any transportation plan. The conservative estimates would put a huge increase of traffic on the westside without a stronger direct transit service. (The #4 is already full during the commute.)
I am optimistic that the line will go to UBC eventually just as the original Expo Line was built in stages. However this is a great opportunity to catch up service in the east of the corridor and have the service in place before the massive develop in the west. I would suggest:
- UBC and the Local First Nations come together and offer to pay for stations at Jericho, East UBC, and Central UBC. They can offset the cost with a transit levy or development just as YVR did.
- The senior levels of government fund the tunnelling. The Federal government has an obligation to provide the same services to First Nations as the rest of the population. First Nations rarely receive transit in any form. This would be a great opportunity. If the Province is serious about supporting students, ending the sardine service would not only provide better service, but would free up more buses to be redeployed.
The downside of not extending the line will be traffic in the westside of the City and the bottleneck at Arbutus for the bus transfers. I do agree the subway will make a huge difference but ending at Arbutus will appear short-sighted to all once in service.