Transportation and Transit Plan 15 – Broadway SkyTrain Extension

Next to the Surrey LRT project, this is the next largest of the planned transit projects in the Mayor’s Council plan. This is also the planned project with the most profound effect on how I personally travel in my daily life and it will have a huge effect on my workplace in Kitsilano.

Broadway SkyTrain Extension

broadway skytrain extension
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99 B Line Queuing Study

It looks like I was a part of a study and didn’t even realize it. Back in January, I had arrived at Broadway & Commercial as a part of my daily commute and was greeted with the bright yellow tape on the sidewalk leading up to the 99 B-Line stop. Signs were posted saying that it was part of queuing study for the B-Line. The B-Line has over 50,000 riders every day. It claims to be North America’s busiest bus route. I can believe that given the long lines that form every morning for the bus. The long lines persist even though the buses are as frequent as 2-5 minutes during rush hour.

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UBC-Broadway & Surrey Rapid Transit


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.

It’s not a very pretty map, but it illustrates how the Central Broadway area is home to the most jobs next to Downtown Vancouver.

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.

Scion commercial in Vancouver

I think I have way too much video and YouTube on my mind lately…

More of Vancouver has been featured in a recent Scion commercial.  I saw this one on the tele the other day.  It shows Granville Street in its new “great white way” look with all the bright white light standards lining the sides.  It also features the car being driven over a bridge (supposedly the Burrard Street Bridge) with the Central Broadway District’s skyline in the background.

It seems like Toyota, who also own the Lexus and Scion brands, decided to shoot a few of their recent 2012 commercials in the Rainy City.

Memories on Transit 2 – the 80’s Broadway milk run on #9

Before the SkyTrain ever plied the rails in Vancouver, life on transit was, well, slower.  If anyone had to travel along Broadway, there was only the #9.  The 99 B-Line didn’t start running until the late 90’s, so there was no quick way across town.

I was a kid back in the 80’s.  And my brother and I had to head out to UBC.  It was so long ago, I don’t remember why we were heading out that way.  We lived out in East Vancouver.  So East Vancouver to UBC was pretty fast by car.  Without a car, though, you’d have to take the #9 milk run across town.

It was a very hot summer day.  Vancouver buses don’t have air conditioning now and they definitely didn’t during the 80’s.  You just open the window and hope the bus keeps moving to create enough of a breeze.

We got on the bus at Rupert and Broadway.  I don’t remember much being at that intersection back in the day.  It was already noon from what I recall.  The bus was a now-decommissioned white trolley with the red and blue BC Transit trim.  The destination sign was the large yellow words on black.  That’s a classic now.

Photo credit: Tim Deakin

The interior of the bus are the classic bucket seats with vinyl red upholstery.  The vinyl was great for sliding around on, especially when buses made a sudden stop.  In the summer with shorts, though, the seats could be pretty sticky.

I’m sure the ride from Rupert Street all the way to UBC wasn’t over an hour long, but the ride felt like it took forever.  The midday sun was blazing.  The only seats left were the window seats on the sunny south side.  The heat definitely added to my distorted sense of time.  It probably also didn’t help being a young kid and anxious to arrive at our destination.

I wonder if anyone ever takes the #9 from end to end anymore.  With the 99 B-Line now in place along Broadway, I know I wouldn’t. Perhaps, though, there’s still some who prefer the slower trolley because they feel it’s a more comfortable ride.

UBC Broadway Debate

TransLink started their newest consultation last week.  The UBC – Broadway corridor has been studied to death over the past 20 years, but here’s our latest manifestation.

TransLink has opened up their Be Part of the Plan website to comments and feedback.  They have provided 6 alternatives showing 6 basic routing options with a mix of 3-4 four different technology options.  Check out their Alternatives page for a summary.

I’m going to focus on just 2 of the alternatives that interest me the most and the one alternative that could happen in conjunction with a rail transit line.

Rail Rapid Transit

The first alternative that I am talking about is the Rail Rapid Transit (RRT) option.  This is TransLink’s naming for the SkyTrain option.  They offer two routing options.  One option runs directly from Commercial-Broadway station along Broadway.   The other option runs from the current end of the Millennium Line at VCC-Clark station along Great Northern Way with an eventual turn towards Broadway before Main Street.  Then the option runs along Broadway and 10th Avenue the rest of the way.

Rail Rapid Transit (i.e. SkyTrain) option

The first option of starting the new UBC line from Commercial-Broadway is a complete waste of infrastructure.  I don’t see the sense of orphaning VCC-Clark as a little stub in the middle of nowhere.  It only makes complete sense to extend the Millennium Line from where it is now.  Otherwise, we wasted a lot of money on a lonely station at Vancouver Community College.  So if we go with Rail Rapid Transit, it should be Bombardier’s automated light rail SkyTrain technology.

The cost of extending SkyTrain is likely the most expensive option and will likely involve tunneling along the Broadway corridor.  So if costs become an issue, the line may have to be truncated somewhere.  The minimal extension should go to at least Broadway-City Hall station at Cambie St.  Without linking up with the Canada Line, then we will have a noticeable gap in our system (Human Transit has gone into a lot of detail about “the gap”).  Ideally, the SkyTrain would run the whole distance to UBC.  I think this makes the most sense in terms of our current infrastructure and for speed and attractiveness of the service.

Combination Alternative

I think this alternative is the most creative of the 6 alternatives.  It is a combination of SkyTrain built as mentioned above, but only to Arbutus St.  Then the rest of the way would be covered by a light rail line all the way to UBC.  The light rail line would also run from Arbutus and Broadway all the way to Main Street Station via a routing along False Creek South including connecting to Olympic Village station along the Canada Line.

LRT/SkyTrain Combination Alternative

I like this stroke of creativity, even though I don’t think it’s the best choice in the long term.  It provides some hope to having some sort of transit along False Creek South to meet up with the Olympic Village, Granville Island and Kitsilano.  Whether it is true LRT with speeds comparable to SkyTrain, or “streetcar”, which runs like a bus on rails, is yet to be determined.  It looks like the media, however, have consistently labeled the LRT alternatives as streetcar.  I think it’s a very misleading nomenclature in this case because it doesn’t fully encompass the possibilities with LRT technology.

LRT can run like a streetcar similar to what Toronto has.  Streetcars run along the street amidst traffic.  That means streetcars would be like a bus and would make frequent stops.  A higher speed LRT can be separated from traffic on its on right of way (surface, elevated, or underground).  This setup would be similar to how Seattle’s new Central Link is run for most of its route.  Or, we can even have a mix of slower streetcar service combined with faster separated right-of-way service.  This would be similar to the way Portland’s MAX runs, which is quick outside of the downtown core, but runs at streetcar speeds downtown.

So how effective this option would be depends on the speed at which they determine to run the LRT portion.  Obviously, if the LRT runs separated on the surface or underground from Arbutus to UBC, then it will be a very effective and quick service with only one transfer needed.

Best Bus Alternative

The Best Bus alternative is about beefing up bus service along routes parallel to Broadway.  Essentially the service of the 4, 44, 84, and 33 would be beefed up along 4th and 16th Avenues.  I think this is the lowest cost option, but not the most preferable to providing rapid transit service to the Broadway corridor.  It would be my hope, though, that the service of these buses would be beefed up regardless of what happens with the rail construction along Broadway.

My Choice

Amazingly to my own surprise, I would like pick SkyTrain all the way to UBC as my choice of technology.  This would be the most expensive way, but it is the fastest, most convenient, and most frequent of all the service options.  It also makes use of the existing Millennium Line up to VCC-Clark instead of wasting it.

However, if money becomes a huge obstacle, which I suspect it will, then I would like to see something like the combination alternative.  It’s hard to say how effective this alternative would be until they decide how to implement the LRT portion of the route.  Price could also be pretty high if everything will be tunneled including the LRT part.

In the past, I have been very supportive of LRT options, but I think for this corridor, SkyTrain will the best alternative from a system/regional perspective to provide the best service.  LRT has its place, but I think a rapid east-west service at frequent 2-4 minute service like SkyTrain is the best for Broadway.  LRT will definitely find its place in the rest of Metro Vancouver (Surrey and Langley) where densities won’t support SkyTrain.

The high cost of ‘free’ parking

The high cost of ‘free’ parking >> Vancouver Sun, July 7, 2009.

A very important article in the back of the Vancouver Sun’s Tuesday edition.  Usually you find important transport information on Friday’s when nobody is reading, but this one is a guest opinion-editorial from the looks of it.

Municipal regulations requiring urban developments to provide on-site parking seem innocuous and receive little attention in public policy discussions, but they do in fact have serious consequences.

They stimulate urban sprawl, encourage excessive use of cars, create inequitable social outcomes, reduce housing affordability, and suppress economic development. Wiping parking regulations from municipal planning codes across Canada is arguably the most urgent policy reform Canada’s municipalities can make.

That’s a pretty strong thesis, in terms of what it is proposing.  However, if you sit down and think about it, it is very true that parking can induce car travel.  Perhaps, parking can induce more travel than even a freeways and bridges.  If you don’t have anywhere to park your car when you arrive at your destination, then how likely are you to drive?

The cost of parking can be substantial. The Toronto Parking Authority estimated that the cost of providing a single parking space could be up to $40,000.

That’s not a surprising figure.  Condo developers have been asking Vancouver city hall to relax their parking regulations for many of the new condo high rise developments in downtown.  Developers know that downtown has enough amenities, walkability, and public transit that they can get away with less parking spots in new projects.

I know my friends who bought condos in downtown Toronto had to also buy their parking spots separately.  Some of them use the spots as mortgage helpers.  If you don’t have a spot and need one, then you can rent a spot or put your bid in for a spot when a parking spot becomes free.

Unlike many deregulation initiatives, the removal of minimum-parking regulations does not need to be sudden or disruptive. If parking regulations were removed today, Canada’s urban areas would adapt slowly over years with new developments having only small impacts on the demand for parking. Instead of regulating the supply of parking, municipalities would need to shift focus to managing demand for parking, which they can do through the use of time-limits and ultimately prices.

I think we’re already seeing this sort of deregulation in Toronto and Vancouver.  Especially since developers are asking for less parking so that units can become more affordable. Toronto has parking that is not packaged in with condos automatically.  Vancouver is starting to have new developments with units that have access to a car share (e.g. the Capitol Residences).

One good example of less parking, or no parking in this case, is The Hub at Commercial Drive/Broadway SkyTrain stations.  There are a few offices, restaurants, and large pharmacy, but no parking at all.  It’s attached to the SkyTrain stations, so it makes sense not to have parking.  The City of Vancouver made a special exemption for this site, if I remember correctly.

A really sad example of minimal parking regulations is actually across the street from The Hub.  It’s the CIBC on the southeast corner of Broadway and Commercial.  I learned about this case at a talk a few years ago where someone from Via Architecture was speaking.  Via wanted to develop that site with no parking spots.  That makes sense since it is also right beside the SkyTrain station.  I believe the City of Vancouver was willing to make an exemption for this site as well.  However, CIBC has a policy of minimum parking spots for its patrons.  I believe the number was 3 minimum parking spots.  So it wasn’t municipal parking regulations getting in the way here.  It was the bank.  If we look at that intersection, we would realistically say that most of the bank’s patrons walk to it either solely by foot or from transit.  The southeast corner of Broadway and Commercial is still prime for redevelopment as some sort of mixed use site.  Having only a bank and its few parking spots occupying that space seems like an awful waste.

Canada Line preview – time lapse video

I’m surprised I didn’t come across this video earlier.  The video is from May 2009 and is a time-lapse (albeit in reverse) of a run along the Canada Line from Waterfront Station all the way to the airport.   The video actually stops short of YVR station, which is a shame.  However, it gives you an idea of how the line will feel like if you were riding at the front of the train.

W Broadway & Vine – Connaught Apartments

Photo: Jennelle Schneider, Vancouver Sun

Photo: Jennelle Schneider, Vancouver Sun

A Kitsilano cowboy with a heritage touch << Vancouver Sun

It’s nice to come across this little piece in the Sun the other day.  It’s about an apartment that I have had the joy of walking past and actually being in, as well.  Unfortunately, I was only in the coffee shop on the corner and not the rest of the building.  The rest of the building according to this article just seems stunning.  Plus, it’s going to be on the upcoming heritage tour.  I’m not sure I will have a chance to join that tour, but this particular building will definitely be a highlight on that tour.

I didn’t realize that the apartments were that well taken care of on the inside.  The building looks quite unassuming on the outside, but still well renovated and in great condition.  The owner has definitely put a lot of TLC into this building.  There’s definitely more development going on around this building.  Across Vine Street on the same side of Broadway is a newly finished condo project complete with an IGA Marketplace and a London Drugs.  The new building is an example of the current model of mixed use residential and the Connaught Apartments are an example of some of the original mixed use development that happened almost 100 years ago in this city.

If you get a chance, swing by the building, take a look and grab a coffee in the coffee shop.

Also check out the other two pieces from the Sun on this building:

Merchants, residents fight Broadway SkyTrain, citing Cambie construction mess

Merchants, residents fight Broadway SkyTrain, citing Cambie construction mess.

Kudos for the merchants along West Broadway for being pro-active and drawing the line in the sand.  Sure, it may seem a little premature, but if a Cut-and-Cover construction, similar to Cambie Street’s Canada Line construction, is chosen then it will be quite disruptive.

I particularly like this part of the article:

“We want them to get the message that the people just don’t want it,” said Donna Dobo, owner of Just Imagine, a clothing store on West Broadway.

“We are in favour of improving rapid transit, but it has to be sustainable, affordable, and community-friendly, which basically describes the Portland system of light-rail trolleys that use overhead power,” Dobo said.

The $3-billion price tag is an indication that the government wants to extend the SkyTrain system along the length of Broadway, she said, as the other options would be far cheaper.

“We want a system that will have many stops along Broadway that will serve our community, too, not just something to bring people from Coquitlam to UBC,” said Dobo, who is a member of the West Broadway Business Association.

The business association did not rule out light rail. That’s a step forward.  Light rail will bring a more human form, albeit slower, of transit through West Broadway.  I’m glad to see that the business association is open to the surface transit option.