New university bus loop to be redesigned

The university, in conjunction with Translink, is changing the proposed design of the new bus loop. Construction is slated to begin November 2016.

The original design — given to UBC’s Board of Governors in October 2012 — called for a curving ramp leading to an underground bus layover facility. Both parties soon realized this plan was not only fiscally unattainable, but would also cause difficulties for bus drivers.

“When we first conceived of the idea, we went through an exercise with Translink and we proved out the concept that it would work. But when we got into detailed design, it just became more and more apparent that it was a complex layout and it wasn’t going to work,” said John Metras, managing director of UBC Infrastructure and Development.

The underground facility would have necessitated an increase in budget from $21 million to $27 million. $8.84 million of the total budget, regardless of the new loop’s design, will be covered by Translink. In order to maintain the original budget, the university went back to the drawing board.

According to Metras, a big cost of the original project was the excavation and bulk removal of soil from the site which is reduced with the new layout.

The new design scraps the underground layover facility in favour of an aboveground terminal, which will sit under the new Gage South residences. The residences will be built two stories above the bus terminal, creating a mixed-use space. Best practice will be employed to mitigate sound.

But will the new loop affect traffic flow in and out of campus? Not really, according to Associate Vice-President of Campus and Community Planning Michael White.

“It will move, in fact similar to ... the movement you see today,” said White. “There will be some tweaks here and there for access and egress to the site, but more or less you’re seeing the same number of busses there today as you will a couple years from now.”

White said the number of busses accommodated by the bus loop might actually increase as Translink looks at its plan for the peninsula in the next couple of years. In fact, the new bus loop design will make access to campus easier for the majority of students, Metras said.

“I think [it] will dramatically improve the experience for bus users in terms of the drop off, the flow moving into the campus as well as the pickup areas — much more efficient, much easier to access in the long run.”

This redesign is the result of a year-long engagement process, which consulted various stakeholders such as the AMS and GSS and included workshops, open houses and online discussions with the campus community.

“[There was] a lot of opportunity and a lot of feedback throughout the process,” White said. “Overall, [there was] a fair bit of enthusiasm about this idea of a more sustainable approach to mixed use development [and] to actually integrating transit so tightly with residential and other uses.”

While waiting for the new bus loop to be completed, students can expect some disruption to their usual routes around campus. “But we’ll be working really hard to communicate that with the campus community,” Metras said.