The University of British Columbia has a picturesque location southwest of downtown Vancouver, on its own peninsula site. But getting there isn’t so pretty. Or rapid.
With Vancouver’s TransLink SkyTrain light rail tracks connecting Vancouver to points east—even more points will get connected with the finish of a 2016 extension to Burnaby—and even south into Richmond, there remains no track to UBC. But that doesn’t mean campus leaders and city officials haven’t pushed for one, even as the price tag continues to climb. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has routinely touted the effort to lay track toward UBC, even calling it a national need while working to muscle up some federal dollars for the project.
Getting folks—rapidly, mind you—into the UBC campus along Broadway, West 10th Avenue and University Boulevard, as one preferred option, will cost anywhere from the low $1 billions to near $3 billion, depending on the combination of track and train styles and tunneling options.
TransLink has still been short of an official plan for the region, debating the technology of light rail, rapid transit (what exists with SkyTrain currently) or some sort of hybrid. And with studies claiming a bored tunnel will work best, others claiming a cut-and-cover effort, while not as nifty, will save money and still other groups suggesting at-grade track, there’s a lot yet to be worked out.
One thing remains, though. Nearly everyone who has looked at the Broadway corridor agrees the current bus service, one of the busiest routes in Vancouver, isn’t capable of keeping up with the current needs.
A TransLink study on the situation, says new trains will bring anywhere from 160,000 daily riders—for the street-level option—to 320,000 daily riders for a mainly tunneled train route with travel times from Commercial Drive to UBC ranging from 17 minutes to 28 minutes on the roughly 13 km of track.
As TransLink and the local government debates the issues—including input from cities to the east, such as Langley, pushing for extensions their way—we don’t yet have a timetable for a decision. But expect a lively debate along the way.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He also writes for Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.