Broadway corridor subway line to UBC could be a reality in as little as five years

Buses on Broadway
A pedestrian crosses bus-lined Broadway in a rare moment of traffic calm near Cambie Street. City council heard from staff yesterday about the advantages of replacing the current over-crowded bus system serving the Broadway corridor with a subway line down Broadway from Commercial Drive to UBC. Photo: Sascha Porteous

A subway line down Broadway from Commercial Drive to UBC may be in the works for Vancouver.

City council was presented with a recommendation for a rapid transit route along the Broadway corridor that would replace the current B-line bus system in favour of a single underground line that might be constructed over two separate phases.

The first stage of the project will extend from Commercial to Arbutus, with the second stage beginning west of Arbutus and extending to UBC.

12 year-old plan includes subway, but only halfway to UBC

Council’s current policy for the Broadway corridor dates back 2000 and supports a bored tunnel subway line to Arbutus, but with rapid bus service continuing west to UBC, according to city transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny.

Subway is the best way to maintain business and current foot and vehicle traffic on Broadway

“But we have major concerns of the impact of a surface system west of Arbutus,” Dobrovolny said at yesterday’s council meeting.

“Our feeling is that a subway all the way to UBC is the best approach.”

Dobrovolny said that a light-rapid transit surface system, like streetcars, would disrupt the flow of pedestrian and street traffic along the corridor.

He went on to add that in order to accommodate a surface system, sidewalks would have to be narrowed and 90 per cent of intersections along the busy street would be subject to turn restrictions and increased traffic congestion. Businesses would also be less accessible, particularly for deliveries.

The project from design through completion could take five years or more, but Dobrovolny said the city is working with TransLink to accommodate current transportation demands with additional buses and/or double-decker buses under consideration as possible interim solutions.

Broadway’s high traffic means over-crowded buses and thousands of passengers left behind on a daily basis

The Broadway corridor currently boasts a higher transit ridership than the Millienium Line and is almost identical to Canada line numbers, according to TransLink data from June 2011.

It’s also the busiest bus route in North America, according to the report from city staff.

Consequently, roughly 2,000 pass-ups of bus riders occur at the Broadway-Commercial bus stop alone during the morning peak hours, according to Dubrovolny.

In response to mayor Gregor Robertson’s questions regarding the initial, first-phase cost of a bored tunnel and subway line from Commercial to Arbutus, Dobrovolny estimated an approximate cost of $1.5 billion.

Robertson said in closing that he hopes there is unanimity around the council chamber in support of the Broadway subway line, which spells hope for the project proceeding in the near future.

Reported by Brandon Kostinuk

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