Thursday, April 21, 2022

Broadway Subway Extension to UBC – Should it be fully tunnelled?

With the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension fully funded and underway, the next major public transit project that the region wants to see built is the Broadway Subway extension to UBC. Right now, the subway is terminating at Arbutus on Broadway.

UBC Transit Exchange

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwxw̱ú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), TransLink, UBC, Metro Vancouver, and the Provinces are studying alignment options for this proposed extension.

The following shows the likely alignment of the extension.

Proposed UBC Subway Extension Alignment. Select image to enlarge.

One of the things to note is a potential future infill station on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm lands.

Whether the extension to UBC will be fully tunnelled or have above grade sections is of more interest. The regional standard for SkyTrain is to build it above grade, only tunnelling when absolutely needed. Tunnelling is costly.

According to TransLink, transitioning from a tunnel to above grade at Arbutus is technically feasible. While technically possible, TransLink claims that the only “functionally feasible” area that could be above grade would be on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm lands.

While I’m sure considerations like land aquation costs factor in the “functionally feasibility,” I find it interesting that areas west of Cambie Street in Vancouver get the tunnel treatment almost as a default. The Canada Line is a good example. It is almost entirely tunnelled in the City of Vancouver, but above grade in Richmond. I certainly hope that the region, the province, and the federal government will not foot the added costs for tunnelling simply because it goes through the fancy Point Grey area of the City of Vancouver. I hope there are other functional requirements for tunnelling beyond neighbourhood median household income.

The Mayors’ Council is looking at incorporating the Broadway Subway extension to UBC as part of their new 10-year vision. The earliest the extension would take place is in year six of the vision, and only once future regional Bus Rapid Transit has commenced. Of course, the federal and provincial governments would need to provide funding.

The Mayors’ Council Finance and Governance Committee is recommending that any decision on fully tunnelling the extension to UBC only occur after local and third-party contribution agreements have been worked out.

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