Broadway Rapid Transit is Vancouver's top priority

Broadway Skytrain

It looks like the City of Vancouver is kicking its PR campaign for the Broadway rapid transit into high gear. This is a welcome sign as in the past Mayor Gregor Robertson has been upstaged by our neighbours south of the Fraser, who have been screaming bloody murder for more rapid transit for quite some time. Although, to many on the outside looking in, building rapid transit in the city may only seem to cater to those fortunate enough to live within the city’s borders, however, a closer look would indicate otherwise. Broadway rapid transit is a key priority for the entire Lower Mainland, a need that will only be exacerbated once the Evergreen Line comes on line.

“Frequent, high-capacity rapid transit in the Broadway Corridor is the City’s top transit priority. Without significant new investment, achieving the goals of this plan is not possible.”

The Case for Rapid Transit down the Broadway Corridor

1. High Density

We have all heard that the future is going to be in Surrey, Langley, etc; however, look at the map below and you’ll see that the residential and employment density far exceeds Surrey City Centre’s and the other regional centres in the high growth suburb. So, why not serve DEMAND that is already there, rather than build a line now for FUTURE demand that may or may not materialize for another decade or so?

Residential density map

2. The Broadway corridor is the 2nd largest employment centre in the province after downtown Vancouver

The facts speak for themselves. Central Broadway employs more people than Richmond and Burnaby City Centres combined, and yet it is still not adequately served by rapid transit. Furthermore, for all the hoopla about Surrey and Langley, currently combined they rival only Vancouver’s Eastern Core. An Eastern Core that is in the early stages of a revival. Currently combined, Vancouver accounts for 66% of the regional town centre employment. That is a staggering number that can not and should not be ignored by the media when reporting stories about suburban growth and their desire for rapid transit.

Broadway Corridor Job chart

3. It’s North America’s busiest bus route

Approximately 2,000 passengers are passed by at Commercial-Broadway Station every morning during peak period. While some accept this as a price of their commute, others will simply choose to travel by car. Combined, both UBC and Central Broadway see 160,000 transit trips per day. Only downtown Vancouver has higher transit trips at 260,000.

Broadway Ridership

Broadway Corridor projected ridership with Rapid Transit

4. A Growing Need for a Corridor Vision: Additional Transit Demand

Central Broadway area plan

The Broadway Corridor is only going to grow and with it comes increased transit demand.

The City of Vancouver’s 2040 Transportation Plan targets are heavily reliant on large shifts to transit and solving the Broadway bottleneck is critical in achieving that goal. The key issue of course will be funding. Will the Province and Federal government chip in? Perhaps a case for another P3 (Public-Private Partnerships) can be made, similar to the Canada Line? Only time will tell.

The mayor and city support a bored tunnel all the way to at least Arbutus and then a rapid bus to UBC. However, the line should be completed and built all the way to UBC and UBC should pay for a portion of the cost.

If all goes according to plan we could see the UBC line open up by 2021 at the earliest. By then, the Broadway corridor will be a vastly different place.

Broadway Subway

Source: City of Vancouver

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  • Guest

    Progressive solutions to meet the current need. Immediately remove parking on Broadway and create a express bus only lane.
    Then implement Curitiba style bus rapid transit infrastructure.
    economical and can be quickly implemented, until such time we are ready for a subway.

  • Lea

     Poor Vancouverites always needing to tell the rest of the Lower Mainland how awesome they are.  You guys are like a spoiled first born who is terrified of losing favour as the new siblings come into the picture.  Desperation isn’t a pretty look for you.

  • Ael

    Lea, Surrey will always be the poor man’s alternative to Vancouver.  It’s only growing because people can’t afford any other place to live, not because they want to live there.  What’s there to be jealous?  It’s a sprawling suburban dump.  A growing population just makes it a larger dump.  Thanks, but you really are our Mississauga.

  • Gardiner Hanson

    Where is it shown that elevated lines boost ridership compared to underground lines? Do you have a link? Something scientific preferably. 

    So your logic for building in Surrey is that it is cheaper than building along Broadway? Or that if you wait for the density, then you will be forced to build underground in Surrey, thereby increasing costs? Or in other words get ahead of the curve now. Your own argument suggests that Surrey should start taking the initiative to purchasing the appropriate right of ways in places it desires rapid transit to be constructed. If Surrey did such, then planned accordingly for new higher density developments, then once built out a much stronger argument for rapid transit development can be made. But until the people are there, there is no need to build such a line. the phrase “build it and they will come” should not be applied to multi billion dollar infrastructure projects (think Golden Ears). The people, jobs and necessity are all already present along the Broadway corridor, which is why it should be built there first. 
    All of this is a moot conversation regarding either project anyways until TransLink increases the capacity along the Expo line first. The estimated 1.1 billion dollar price tag of increasing capacity along the line from 16,000 pphpd to 25,000 pphpd should come first and foremost. In the required timeframe to complete the upgrade strategy my suggestion would be that TransLink and Surrey should work towards implementing a few strategic B-Line services, a more comprehensive and integrated bus service, increased density, more people using the aforementioned transit services and then revisit the Surrey expansion of RRT through the various suggested corridors. Until then…no way. 

  • Thomasdew_92

    I am hugely in favour of a millennium line extension as a subway to UBC.  Dont callt me out on little details, i dont claim to be an expert.  
    However, as a geography student i have to attempt to understand both sides to the issue.  So here is my critique of the broadway line.
    We have to consider New Urbanism.  the Metropolitan area is not in favour of allowing unchecked urban sprawl to continue to plague the surrey region.  The main way for the metropolitan government to overcome this huge challenge is by providing adequate transit options for these residents.  This challenge is highlighted by the fact that surrey will grow whether or not transit is in place, which is indicative of Urban sprawl.  Thus, they want to prevent urban sprawl by providing transit options.   
    The corridor on broadway will be significantly more beneficial for people and city alike. We can look at the empirical evidence, which we have.  This evidence is explicit. Furthermore, why the hell do the people of vancouver care about the people in surrey? why should the people of vancouver suffer without their necessary transit because other people decided they could not live in vancouver but will commute each day.  It is a decision those surrey folk made when they thought they were going to save money on a house… I dont feel any sympathy for them if they dont have transit.
    In conclusion, when examining the case of Surrey and rapid transit, from a new urbanist perspective, we can understand the government’s perspectives for the desire of rapid transit.  But, why should the people of vancouver care?  Thus we have a political issue.  The people elect the politicians. Thus it is up to the people. 
    Do your Duty, Vote for the Broadway Rapid Transit. 

  • Cbayntonbc

    surrey is a joke

  • Adam Fitch

    This (Terry’s) is one of the more intelligent comments on this page.

  • Adam Fitch

    I think that it is generalizing too much to say that “As a general rule, city councils don’t do a good job of setting aside right-of-ways for transit.” At the time that Vancouver was developing, urban planning was in its infancy. The was NO urban planning going on at the provincial or federal level, and there was no GVRD or Metro Vancouver government at all, let alone any regional planning function or authority.

    Compare this to Toronto, Montreal, even Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg (all more-or-less unified cities, so better able to plan regionally, without the infighting that goes on in metro vancouver). In Toronto, they have had the Metro Toronto planning department and the TTC for ages, and they were able to set aside future rapid transit corridors on Eglinton, Sheppard, Wilson, etc. It can be done, but it takes the political authority to do so, otherwise the planners have no control. 

  • Adam Fitch

    Have a read of this article that was published in the Vancouver Sun. Basically, I say that, if a surface LRT (modern streetcar/tram system) is built along 16th Avenue, it could be built much sooner and cheaper than a subway on Broadway.

    It could serve the need for 10 or 20 years, and allow other projects to happen, such as in Surrey, sooner. It does not need to be Surrey against Vacouver, but one should think long and hard about subway vs surface transit.