Is it just me or does transit news only ever get released on Fridays?
On Friday, the papers were abuzz again about the UBC Broadway Rapid Transit corridor. A KPMG report prepared for the City of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia pushes for a fully underground rapid transit line connecting UBC to the Broadway-Commercial area. Outside of Downtown Vancouver, the Central Broadway Corridor is the second largest employment centre in the region. UBC is the largest transit destination outside of the downtown core. So in terms of need, the UBC-Broadway corridor should have top priority.
Of course, life is not so simple when politics and public funding are involved. The case for a UBC rapid transit line is convincing and I think few would argue against the need for rapid transit along West Broadway. Vancouver already benefits from the Expo, Millennium, and Canada Lines. The Tri-Cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody are about to get the Evergreen Line. The most neglected area for transit in general is South of the Fraser. Surrey currently is served by 4 stations along the Expo Line.
Surrey may not be the second largest employer in the region, but it is the fastest growing municipality in Metro Vancouver. It has a definite need for transit, but in a very different form. The City of Surrey is looking to create an light rail transit (LRT) line. The TransLink site has some possible design alternatives. The LRT 1 alternative probably covers the most ground with a rail option.
The need for both rapid transit projects is clear. The UBC-Broadway line would serve a pre-existing and heavily used transit corridor. The Surrey LRT would help the fastest growing city in Metro to grow in a more transit oriented fashion. Both are important to the health and sustainability of Metro Vancouver.
It comes back again to funding. Who is paying for these projects? TransLink is caught between the city and provincial level. The province doesn’t want to look like they are taking money from the rest of B.C. to pay for “Metro Vancouver” projects. The cities are adverse to raising property taxes any further to pay for expansion and operations of TransLink. Mayors like Delta’s Lois Jackson are ready to pull out of Metro because her area is under-served by transit.
There have been calls for a national strategy for cities. The US and many other nations have such strategies, but our federal government has not done much in terms of these overriding national strategies in urban issues, housing, and transportation. There is absolutely no national plan for any of those issues. Again, it’s the funding hot potato that keeps being bounced from government to government.
The likelihood of projects like the two aforementioned rapid transit projects are not very likely to get off the ground. Many people talk about the need for such projects, but governments and taxpayers alike are not very willing to put their money in these important projects. Until then, our infrastructure deficit will continue to grow and we’ll still be driving all around Surrey or crushed like sardines on the 99 B-Line along West Broadway. And that’s quite a shame.