Underground bus loop plans cancelled

Plans for a new bus loop in the construction-heavy Gage South area are now under review after a previously proposed underground bus layover has been cancelled.

According to a 2012 Board of Governors proposal, the plan was to have an "at-grade passenger pick-up and drop-off area" beside the War Memorial Gym, and "an underground bus layover facility," below the relocated MacInnes field in place of the old Aquatic Centre.

However, after consultation with TransLink, more space was required to safely accommodate the buses underground; these technical requirements pushed the new estimated cost to $27 million -- $6 million over the previous estimate.

“We started looking at at-grade options below the proposed Gage South student residence facility,” said John Metras, managing director of UBC Infrastructure Development. The student residence is still proposed and would rest over the layover area of the underground loop, on the south side of the War Memorial Gym.

Since excavation is a significant cost, a ground-level option could limit the expense.

Detailing the current plans, Metras said “the drop-off and the layover facility would be where the current bus loop is now. The buses would loop in just north of War Memorial Gym and that’s where they would have the pick up facilities.”

The current bus loop was first established in 2004, and was only meant to be a temporary structure while a new terminal was created, according to Metras, “in an underground facility beneath where the current new SUB is located."

Those plans were re-evaluated in 2009 when TransLink had to pull out of the project due to an inability to support their funding contribution.

Unlike in the past, with the previous two designs for the bus loop, no portions of it will appear underground now. Having everything above-ground also eliminates the possible noise disturbance from buses accelerating up and down the access ramp to the underground.

Construction on the new bus facility cannot begin until the new Aquatic Centre is completed in the fall of 2016. After this, targeted completion of the loop is set to be around late 2017 or early 2018. Both dates, however, are dependent on everything sticking to the current schedule.

Metras said the significant amount of construction in the area has the potential to cause setbacks.

While this new plan is still going through the consultation process, Metras and his team are “hopeful at this point that [they] have a very workable and cost effective solution.”

According to Metras, this solution should work with TransLink, Student Housing and Hospitality Services and most importantly, the campus community.