Vancouver City Council approves UBC SkyTrain route with Jericho Lands Station

Mar 30 2022, 12:56 am

For the second time during their term, Vancouver City Council has confirmed their support for the UBC SkyTrain Extension, while endorsing a potential route that allows for the creation of Jericho Lands Station.

In a 9-1 vote late Tuesday afternoon, city council endorsed the route recommended by city staff that would enable an on-site station near the core of the Jericho Lands neighbourhood development. TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick voted in opposition, while Mayor Kennedy Stewart was absent from the decision.

To fulfill Jericho Lands Station, replacing the long envisioned Sasamat Station, the extension of the Millennium Line from the 2025-built Arbutus Station would continue westward along West Broadway onto West 8th Avenue at Alma Street — through a local street and single-family neighbourhood — instead of transitioning to West 10th Avenue.

City council’s support does not finalize the route and alignment of the Millennium Line extension west of Arbutus Station to reach the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus. Rather, today’s decision is a recommendation to TransLink, which will then begin the process to weigh the varying benefits and costs of the UBC SkyTrain Extension route and alignment options.

ubc skytrain jericho lands sasamat station

UBC SkyTrain route options providing Jericho Lands Station (orange/yellow) or Sasamat Station (pink). (City of Vancouver)

During the exchanges and deliberations, some city councillors expressed a desire to city staff to consider the inclusion both Jericho Lands Station and Sasamat Station, which would directly serve and help revitalize the struggling West Point Grey retail village. The 99 B-Line currently has a bus stop at Sasamat Street.

During the debate, independent councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung suggested a comparative analysis should be performed between Sasamat Station and Jericho Lands instead, but the amendment failed to pass.

Kirby-Yung alluded to some of the previous criticism on the Canada Line’s lack of a 16th Avenue Station to serve the core of the Cambie Street retail village, and that the same scenario was now playing out for West Point Grey retail village without a Sasamat Statiion.

“I think we’ve all had some lessons learnt from the Canada Line with respect to the impact on commercial and other existing areas that are being applied now on the Broadway Extension,” said Kirby-Yung.

Independent councillor Rebecca Bligh also suggested that city council should keep all station options on the table, and attempt to pursue funding for both Jericho Lands and Sasamat stations.

“Let’s see if we can get more than just Jericho Lands Station funded, and ask what it’s going to take to justify Sasamat as well,” said Bligh. But Brown noted that TransLink is currently only supporting three stations within Vancouver’s borders based on what it deems to be the regional-level need.

Besides Jericho Lands Station, other stations within the municipal government’s jurisdiction are planned for Macdonald Street and Alma Street, which mirrors existing 99 B-Line stops.

bus

TransLink 99 B-Line articulated bus at Sasamat Street eastbound stop, serving West Point Grey Village. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

Steve Brown, manager of transit integration and projects branch for the City of Vancouver, explained during the meeting that both Jericho Lands and Sasamat stations would compete for the same pool of ridership in the catchment area, and add to construction costs considerably.

The placement of a station on the Jericho Lands would not only enable greater housing and employment density potential on the 90-acre former military base, but also improve regional accessibility to Jericho Beach, Locarno Beach, and Spanish Banks Beach.

In¬†October 2021, as part of the process of creating the¬†Jericho Lands Policy Statement, the development’s proponents and city staff unveiled a draft concept for the redevelopment of the former military base in West Point Grey. There could be up to 10 million sq ft of floor area, including 9,000 homes for up to 18,000 people, and about one million sq ft of office, retail, restaurant, and institution space.

Planners and proponents for the Jericho Lands have envisioned an on-site SkyTrain station, located within the northwest quadrant of the sloped site ‚ÄĒ where significant office and cultural spaces are currently proposed.

To ensure West Point Grey retail village benefits from the SkyTrain extension, it was suggested accessibility and connectivity could be optimized, such as escalators or elevators built by the Jericho Lands developments that overcome the very steep hill, given that the proposed station entrance location is proposed on a site downhill. Another possibility suggested by city council to city staff was the operation of a TransLink community shuttle bus service between Jericho Lands Station and West Point Grey retail village.

Brown highlighted that other benefits of a route through the Jericho Lands included the ability for the site to be used for construction staging, such as the pit for tunnel boring activities, as well as the additional space needed to accommodate crossover tracks.

jericho lands vancouver concept plan

Option 2 Weave concept for Jericho Lands. (MST Development Corporation/Canada Lands Company)

jericho lands vancouver concept plan

Option 2 Weave concept for Jericho Lands. (MST Development Corporation/Canada Lands Company)

When questioned by Hardwick over the need for the SkyTrain extension with public transit ridership currently still depressed, city staff suggested that by the time the extension is built, ridership will see a full recovery — returning public transit conditions to the same level of overcrowding experienced in 2019.

As of February 2022, ridership has recovered to 65% of pre-pandemic volumes across the region, and about 70% within Vancouver.

Brown also stated that the best case scenario for completing and opening the UBC SkyTrain is now beyond 2030 — at least five years after the Millennium Line extension reaching Arbutus Street opens in late 2025.

A truncated 99 B-Line service will run between the Arbutus Station bus exchange and the UBC bus exchange until the Millennium Line reaches UBC. TransLink previously indicated the 99 B-Line at Arbutus Station will reach and exceed capacity during peak hours upon the subway’s opening in 2025.

Daily ridership for the UBC SkyTrain Extension is forecast to grow from 110,000 boardings in 2035 to 130,000 in 2050. In contrast, the Broadway SkyTrain Extension to Arbutus Street currently under construction is expected to see its daily ridership grow from 141,000 in 2030 to about 170,000 in 2045, while the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Extension is forecast to see its daily ridership increase from 60,000 in 2035 to 70,000 in 2050.

skytrain ridership forecast

Ridership forecasts for various future SkyTrain extension projects. (City of Vancouver)

It was also reiterated that based on a detailed technical study in 2019, street-level light rail transit (LRT) options would not provide long-term capacity needs, even with trains stretching the length of a city block or longer. Overall, LRT would also not be cost effective, compared to a continuous extension of the Millennium Line.

In the same vote, city council also approved city staff’s recommendations to plan for station integration through immense transit-oriented development well in advance, as well as various amendments that adjust development cost expectation charges on the corridor, and requests for city staff to explore ways to limit land speculation, protect existing rental housing, and environmental considerations from the construction process.

It is currently assumed that the segment of the extension within Vancouver between Arbutus and Blanca streets will be at least largely underground, if not completely. TransLink is exploring options for an elevated guideway west of Blanca Street on University Boulevard within the University Endowment Lands, with a potential future station location serving future developments by the Musqueam First Nation, before arriving at UBC’s main campus station. A secondary station is also being considered by TransLink for south campus, near Wesbrook Village, as the new terminus of the Millennium Line.

ubc skytrain map march 2022 version

March 21, 2022 updated UBC SkyTrain Extension route and alignment planning map. (TransLink)

translink transport 2050 rapid transit expansion

Transport 2050 plan for additional grade-separated rapid transit (SkyTrain) and bus rapid transit (BRT). (TransLink)

City council’s approved recommendations will be used by TransLink for an upcoming regional public consultation, held between April and May 2022, on determining the new 10-year vision, which will outline which projects in Transport 2050 will be prioritized for implementation over the coming decade.

If UBC SkyTrain is included in the new 10-year vision by the Mayors’ Council in Summer 2022, another decision will be made soon after on freeing up funding to complete the business case and detailed technical planning for the project, which is estimated to cost about $30 million. In 2021, the federal and provincial governments each committed to covering 40% of the UBC SkyTrain business case planning cost, with TransLink expected to cover the remaining 20%.

Other major projects expected to be considered for inclusion by the Mayors’ Council in the new 10-year vision include the North Shore SkyTrain project and the Burnaby Mountain Gondola serving Simon Fraser University’s main campus.

 

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