Langara students support UBC SkyTrain extension

Mayor says the new line is essential for relieving pressure on transit system

Langara students wait in line for the 49 B-Line bus. The proposed SkyTrain extension is meant relieve transit overload. Photo: Agazy Mengesha.
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Reported by Agazy Mengesha

Langara students are hopeful that the proposed SkyTrain extension from Arbutus to the University of British Columbia will relieve overcrowding on the busy 49 bus route.

Students are feeling positive about the expansion, hoping it will reduce congestion and pass-ups on the 49 bus route due to the lowered demand by UBC students.

“I support it,” said Langara student, Nicholas Tonks.

“I know that a lot of our students come in from Surrey and currently use the SkyTrain station,” he said, “So I think any kind of extension that keeps people on the SkyTrain and reduces overall traffic is probably a good thing.”

TransLink’s study on transit performance

According to TransLink’s annual study, the 49 bus route was the fourth busiest bus route in Vancouver in 2017. The bus route starts at Metrotown and continues past Langara to UBC. As a result, both UBC and Langara students frequently take the bus to school, and are forced to compete with each other for space during peak congestion times.

The 49 route reported more than eight million passengers in 2017. In 18 per cent of its 15,800 hours of operational time in 2017, buses were overcrowded.

A SkyTrain line running all the way to UBC would reduce congestion on the 49 bus route as much as 32 per cent by 2045, according to data released in a joint study done by UBC and the City of Vancouver.

In comparison, a rapid-bus line along the same route was estimated to only relieve congestion on the route by three per cent by 2045.

The Lower Mainland mayors approved a 10-year transit-improvement plan four years ago that envisioned extending the Broadway line from where it stops now, at Clark Drive, to a terminus at Arbutus Street.

Mayors’ council onboard

The UBC expansion, which both Vancouver council and the TransLink mayors’ council have voted in favour of studying, would continue on from the Arbutus station, connecting the Point Grey campus to TransLink’s SkyTrain routes.

Vancouver’s current mayor, Kennedy Stewart, pushed at a council meeting earlier this month to approve the expansion from Arbutus to UBC as soon as possible.

“We’ll be relying on B-Line buses to UBC for decades,” Stewart said of the consequences for UBC faculty and students if the proposal was rejected.

The motion was passed almost unanimously at the meeting, which had student advocates present to support the proposed expansion.

Back at the Langara campus, students who use the 49 bus regularly also appear supportive.

“I’m all for any expansion of the transit system,” said Scott Wang, a third-year marketing student at Langara.

Wang said he had been taking the bus route for three years, four times a week.

Jill Drews, a senior issues management advisor at TransLink, said that while the 49 bus remains one of its busiest routes, expansion efforts have reduced congestion.

“Ridership doesn’t mean overcrowding. [The] 49 buses are all 60-footers now, which are our highest-capacity vehicle,” Drews said in an email.

“Recent service improvements have reduced overcrowding on the 49 between 2016 and 2017 as well.”

Wang has noticed that.

“I’ve been here for three years, it’s been a lot better than two years ago,” he said.

Still, Wang thinks that TransLink needs to improve its transit system.

“It’s coming a lot more regularly but around traffic times, rush hour like 5 p.m.-ish, it can get pretty brutal,” Wang said.

Megan Hope Hall, a former UBC student, also approved of the proposed UBC expansion, citing difficulties she faced when commuting to school.

“It’s almost always too full, if you’re trying to get there for a regular 8 or 9 [a.m.] start time. I normally left about half an hour earlier than I needed to to catch a bus that wasn’t full,” Hall said.

“I think it’s a great idea, I think it’s really great for expanding the transportation network within Vancouver, and especially because, I think, UBC is the biggest employer within Vancouver,” she said.

1 Comment
  1. Patrick McKnight says

    Skytrain is about upzoning neighbourhoods and building towers, not relieving congestion.

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