Broadway Skytrain gets largest part of Translink’s expected $7.3 billion phase two investment

In a recently ended public engagement, TransLink detailed a $7.3 billion investment for Metro Vancouver’s transportation systems through their Phase Two Investment Plan for the Mayor’s 10-Year Vision. The majority of the plan focuses on expanding Skytrain and bus operations, while rapid transit to UBC is listed under “future projects.”

Most relevant to the UBC community is the expected $2.83 billion investment into the Millennium Line Broadway extension.

According to a Translink media release, this Skytrain line will have six new stations with trains running “every 3 to 4 minutes during peak periods.” It estimates that travelling from Coquitlam’s Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station to Arbutus Street will take approximately 46 minutes. Subjected to “design, procurement and construction schedules,” the extension’s construction is expected to start in 2020 and reach completion by 2025.

“[UBC] thinks that this is a great first step in securing a line to Arbutus,” said Michael White, associate vice-president of UBC Campus and Community Planning.

“And now that that has been secured, and planning, design and construction will start imminently, we think it’s a good time to also advocate for continuing the line all the way to the university, and to have a seamless connection to the university.”

UBC’s Board of Governors announced last month that the university would be willing to contribute to the Millennium Line expansion to campus through land contributions, development charges, financial funding or a combination of all three.

At this point, the cost of expanding the Millennium Line from Arbutus to UBC remains unclear.

“There’s work underway to try to get a better handle on what those costs will be,” said White. “We are hoping that with a commitment soon to UBC, we can see an opening day at UBC a few years after that.”

Translink itself is only putting $36 million into planning for rapid transit to UBC — along with other future projects such as the Surrey-Langley line and a potential Burnaby Mountain gondola.

“The Vision includes preliminary planning for a UBC extension, not construction,” Chris Bryan, Translink senior media relations advisor, confirmed in an emailed statement.

Extended timeline: Who benefits?

James Wu, a second-year engineering student, believes that the expansion of the Millennium Line would greatly benefit commuter students like him.

“Being a commuter student from Coquitlam, this would definitely streamline my commute,” he said. “I would also expect it to reduce my commute by up to 30 minutes.”

Wu, who spends up to three hours commuting each day, added that he could be spending that time doing other things, such as exercising or volunteering.

At the same time, some students said these extensions “should have been built ages ago.”

“I don’t think any Skytrain line extension would affect us, since we will be already graduated (hopefully) by that time,” Reddit user yppahAsulp commented.

But other users pointed out that some community members, like faculty and staff, will still be at UBC to enjoy the benefits of easier access to more affordable housing and faster transportation, as also noted by White in his interview.

And while it is still in the planning phase, White and other university executives indicated that the expansion of rapid transit to UBC would have “really broad impacts for the region,” as it would benefit the surrounding area environmentally, socially and economically.

“What I’m personally so excited about on this is the contribution to connectivity issues and commute times,” said UBC VP External Relations Philip Steenkamp in a previous interview with The Ubyssey.

“And of course, the sustainability clause with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Following the plan’s public consultation from April 30 to May 11, it will be finalized and forwarded to TransLink’s Board of Directors and the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council in June. If approved, region-wide transit system improvements could begin in early 2019.