The head of the University of British Columbia (UBC) is asserting that any future phase extension of rail rapid transit west of Arbutus Street to the university’s Point Grey campus needs to be a seamless SkyTrain extension.
Ground-level light rail transit (LRT), similar to what is planned for Surrey, is not a feasible option, according to UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono.
“People have asked whether LRT to UBC might be worth considering,” says Ono. “Frankly, the extreme high volume of users to UBC requires the speed and capacity of an underground or elevated SkyTrain. LRT would be suboptimal. When the extension to UBC is built, we must do it right from day 1.”
Ono continued that a permanent terminus of the Millennium Line at Arbutus Street would create a bottleneck when thousands of commuters leave the station to board buses. There would also be issues with the reliability and safety of a ground-level train system running through streets.
“A transition from SkyTrain to LRT would have the same issues due to dramatically different speed and capacity of the two modes of transportation,” he says, adding that “integrating LRT traffic with automobile and pedestrian traffic introduces safety issues and accidents and exposes the system to challenges during inclement weather.”
“British Columbians deserve the right solution to this transportation challenge. A Millennium Line Broadway Extension to UBC is the only solution that makes sense.”
While the planned Millennium Line extension to Arbutus Street will be designed to allow for a future continuation of the SkyTrain network to UBC, the mode and technology of such an extension has not been formalized. SkyTrain reaching UBC is not guaranteed.
During Friday’s Mayors’ Council meeting, Geoff Cross, TransLink’s Vice-President for Transportation Policy and Planning, said there are some options that will be presented for consideration. The only certain thing is that any extension will be rail.
“It’s just a matter of when and how we do that,” said Cross.
The current plan is to have the Millennium Line extended to Arbutus Street by 2025, with construction commencing sometime next year. For the remaining journey to UBC, a truncated 99 B-Line service will fill the gap from a new major bus exchange next to the subway station at Arbutus Street.
Within the Mayors’ Council’s current 10-year plan, the strategy only calls for preliminary planning for the future rail connection all the way to UBC.
But UBC wants that timeline significantly accelerated. Last week, UBC’s Board of Governors proposed a timeline of securing funding for the SkyTrain extension to campus by 2021 for an opening in 2028. Such a timeline would mean a major overlap in the construction processes of both phased extensions to Arbutus Street and UBC.
To support the endeavour, the university is also considering a financial contribution that could include land for stations, charges collected from developers, and other contributions from new revenues generated by rapid transit.
UBC wants two stations on its campus – one station located at the academic hub on University Boulevard near the existing bus exchange and Student Union Building and a second station, the Millennium Line’s new western terminus, serving the southern half of the campus at Wesbrook Village.