It seems like a no-brainer that UBC needs a subway. Five of the top seven busiest bus lines in Metro Vancouver end at UBC, with all of these routes experiencing consistent overcrowding. Yet, some people say that this issue can be solved by building more dorms on campus.
Is the solution really that simple? It is true that building more dorms will make life significantly easier for many future students, by cutting out long commute times. And this is exactly why UBC is planning to build another 2,700 beds by 2022, expanding what is already the largest stock of student housing in Canada.
But when you say that we should build dorms on campus rather than a subway to UBC, you are saying that you do not value students' participation in Vancouver's culture and economy. For those who may have forgotten about their university years, it may come as a surprise that students like to do things other than studying and sleeping. Some of us like to volunteer, some of us like to go out with our friends and some of us like to make art and participate in culture.
Right now, there are only a handful of vibrant areas within a reasonable distance (about a 30 minute bus ride) of campus, such as Kerrisdale and Kitsilano. These neighbourhoods offer many opportunities for students to participate in activities other than school. Not only do students benefit from this, but so do the neighbourhoods where they do these activities. Go to cities like Toronto or Montreal, where the university campuses are integrated into the urban fabric. You may notice a vibrancy there that we don't have in Vancouver.
A subway to UBC will vastly increase the amount of opportunities available to students. Not only will we be able to get downtown much easier, but we will have access to the array of diverse neighbourhoods Vancouver has to offer. UBC musicians will be able to play at venues on Commercial Drive. Students could volunteer for one of the many nonprofits in the Downtown Eastside. There may even be more internships and co-op jobs in Mount Pleasant’s burgeoning tech cluster. This is just the tip of the iceberg of how the subway will transform student life.
But without faster and more reliable transit service, these opportunities will remain just too-far-away for the growing population of students living on campus. The subway to UBC will not only allow students to get to class faster, but it will also exponentially increase the amount of experiences, jobs and people that are within reach of a quick ride. This will better prepare UBC students for their lives ahead, while improving the culture and economy of our region.
Elias Rieger is a third-year economics and urban studies major. He is also a volunteer for Abundant Transit BC. The opinions expressed are solely his own.