Video from Translink: UBC Line Rapid Transit Study Situation Analysis
This is my latest column from 24 Hours...
There is no bigger political football kicked around by local politicians than where to invest in rapid transit. Just ask the folks waiting for the Evergreen Line to get built.
While the SkyTrain extension to Port Moody seems assured, it’s where the next big rapid transit investment happens that is the subject of speculation.
What any urban planner worth their salt will tell you is that you must first meet existing transportation needs before using transit to “shape” the future of low-density communities. However, influential senior bureaucrats at Metro Vancouver are hinting they favour expansion in Surrey over the comparatively dense Vancouver.
By far, the greatest need to move people in the region currently exists along Broadway from Commercial Drive to the UBC campus. The West Broadway corridor currently generates one-quarter of the City of Vancouver’s economy. Plans to build rapid transit along this route are stuck on the drawing board, while thousands of suburban commuters are stuck queuing up every morning for the bus.
If urban planners made all the decisions it’s possible that shovels would already be in the ground to complete the Millennium Line. However, it’s our political leaders that make the final call on where we invest in rapid transit, and the sphere of influence of the region has moved away from Vancouver to outlying cities.
Since taking office nearly two and a half years ago Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver council have not said a peep about making Broadway rapid transit a priority. Meanwhile, in Surrey, you can hardly stop Mayor Dianne Watts from cheering on more rapid transit in her city.
Continuing the Millennium Line out to UBC was a political promise made by our former Premier, Gordon Campbell. Ever the policy wonk, Campbell understood that UBC had become a vital economic engine for the province. Moving tens of thousands of students and employees on and off campus daily is critical to its success.
Campbell is now gone, and so is the influence Vancouver once had at the Cabinet table. When Premier Christy Clark formed government, Vancouver went from five ministers to one, yet Surrey remained well represented by several MLAs holding senior portfolios.
Over on the B.C. NDP side, none of the five candidates for premier has thus far described his plan for rapid transit. Not even Adrian Dix, an east Vancouver MLA.
With Vancouver’s mayor silent, the government MLAs less influential, and the suburb’s star rising, the writing may be on the wall. TransLink can consult with citizens and businesses in the Broadway corridor all it wants, but the political will to extend rapid transit along Broadway out to UBC has, for now, evaporated.
However, the hundreds of transit riders queued at Broadway and Commercial shouldn’t despair. Soon, the biggest decision maker of them all, B.C.’s new premier, will be elected to a Vancouver riding.
Let’s hope Christy Clark makes completing the Millennium Line as part of her mandate.
- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen and @24HoursVan on Twitter.