Rapid Transit in Broadway Corridor

The Broadway corridor is the area that extends from Commercial Drive to UBC with an approximately 500 metre zone on either side of Broadway, as shown on this map (from TransLink's website). It is one of Metro Vancouver's busiest bus corridors and has even been described as the busiest bus corridor in North America. It is the most important east-west transit spine through Vancouver, providing transit users throughout the Lower Mainland with access to Central Broadway and UBC, which are major destinations, and connecting with many of the transit routes that serve local neighbourhoods within Vancouver.

TransLink's assessment is that existing transit services in the Broadway corridor do not provide sufficient capacity or service reliability to the major regional destinations and economic hubs within the corridor. Accordingly, TransLink has been considering alternatives for rapid transit in the corridor for several years.

In addition to describing the rapid transit study, this page notes the positions that have been taken by other governmental entities and UBC with respect to transit in the Broadway corridor.

To go to a specific section of this page, click on one of the following links:

TransLink/Province Study

The UBC Line Rapid Transit Study has been under way since 2009. Its purpose is to identify and evaluate rapid transit alternatives for the Broadway corridor. TransLink and the province are leading this study, and are working with Vancouver, UBC, the University Endowment Lands, Metro Vancouver and the Musqueam Indian Band as partners in the study. The international transportation consulting firm Steer Davies Gleave was retained to lead the technical work in the first two phases of the study.

Phase 1 of the study took place between summer 2009 and spring 2010. It included technical analysis and consultation meetings with stakeholders and the public. This phase identified seven alternatives for further consideration.

Phase 2 of the study ended in early March 2013 and included a more detailed evaluation of the seven alternatives and further public consultations that were held in March/April 2011. The Phase 2 Report singles out three options for a more detailed consideration:

  • Street-level or partially-tunnelled light rail transit (LRT).
  • A combination of street-level LRT and tunnelled SkyTrain.
  • Tunnelled SkyTrain.

The SkyTrain option received the highest acceptability rating based on market research. The Combination and SkyTrain options would generate larger aggregate travel time savings and attract more riders, so perform better on a number of measures of cost-effectiveness. However, they are the most expensive, with a capital cost of $2.7 and $3 billion, respectively, compared to a capital cost of $1.1 billion for at-grade LRT and $1.84 billion for partially-tunnelled LRT. Bus options were rejected since they would not have the capacity to meet long-term demand.

The Phase 2 Report is based on an extensive 400-page Phase 2 Evaluation Report (PDF, 16 MB) prepared by the consultants, and is summarized in a one-page Summary. The Phase 2 Evaluation Report contains a lot of interesting information, including figures illustrating LRT on Broadway at Blenheim and at Oak St.

The Phase 2 Report states that the decision on a preferred option for Broadway will be made as part of the development of a new Regional Transportation Strategy (RTS). The RTS consists of two components: a strategic framework (now completed), which sets out a long-term (30-year) general vision for transit in the Lower Mainland, and a detailed 15-year implementation plan. The decision on a preferred option is to be made in the course of developing the implementation plan. This will enable trade-offs to be considered between the various regional investment needs. The specific initiatives and priorities to be identified in the implementation plan will be determined through an extensive consultation process with governments, stakeholders and the public to take place in late 2013 and into 2014.

The UBC Line Rapid Transit Study has not addressed how to pay for rapid transit in the Broadway corridor. As described on the Long-Term Funding page, the Mayors' Council has taken the lead in pushing for new revenue sources for TransLink so that it has funds for rapid transit in the Broadway corridor and other expansion plans. The Premier is requiring that any new funding sources be approved by voters in a referendum to be held no later than November 15, 2014 (the date of the next local government elections).

Extensive information about the Broadway study is available from the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study section of TransLink's website.

In addition to the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study, TransLink and the province are undertaking the Surrey Rapid Transit Study.

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Vancouver and UBC

On October 31, 2012, Vancouver City Council adopted Transportation 2040 (PDF, 14.5 MB), a long-term strategic vision that will help guide its transportation and land use decisions and public investments. This plan states (on page 75) that "frequent, high-capacity rapid transit in the Broadway corridor is the City's top transit priority".

On November 27, 2012, the Vancouver Engineering Department made a presentation to Vancouver City Council (video; presentation material) in which reasons were given for favouring a Broadway subway rather than surface light-rail transit. Furthermore, it was proposed that a Broadway subway be extended all the way to UBC, although possibly in stages. The Engineering Department estimates that it would take five to seven years to design and construct a Broadway subway.

On February 28, 2013, Vancouver and UBC released a 66-page jointly-sponsored report on the Broadway corridor. The study, prepared by KPMG, examines the economic potential of the corridor and concludes that a high-capacity underground rail-based rapid transit system is required to unlock this economic potential. (Executive Summary; announcement of report on Vancouver website, UBC website)

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Metro Vancouver

Action 5.1.2 of Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) includes as an objective that the regional transportation system support regional land use objectives. One of the specific priorities is: "Connecting or extending the existing rapid transit network in the Broadway/Commercial Drive area to the Central Broadway area." The Central Broadway area is located between Prince Edward Street (east of Main St.) and Vine Street (west of Arbutus St.).

A further objective under Action 5.1.2 is that the regional transportation system support environmental objectives through transit ridership growth and mode shifting. This is particularly relevant in the Broadway corridor, as well as certain other parts of the region, where there are established neighbourhoods and key regional destinations (such as UBC) with potential for significant mode shift from cars to transit.

The RGS was adopted by Metro Vancouver in July 2011. In looking out to 2040, it provides a framework for accommodating the over 1 million additional residents and 600,000 new jobs that are expected over the next 30 years. The RGS sets out five goals to address how to manage this growth so as to enhance the livability and sustainability of the Metro Vancouver region. In particular, it targets two-thirds of growth in transit-accessible locations and provides guidance on transit infrastructure investment. (Metro Vancouver RGS page; RGS document (PDF, 5.0 MB))

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Mayors' Council

To date, the Mayors' Council has not been involved with the development of rapid transit plans for the Broadway corridor and has not taken any position on the form that rapid transit should take. The Mayor's Council will have to be brought into the process at some point, since any plans for significant transit expansion must be contained in a supplemental plan that is subject to approval by the Mayors' Council (see the Roles of TransLink and Other Entities page).

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In January 2008, the BC Government released its Provincial Transit Plan. The Plan calls for $10.3 billion total investment in four new and updated rapid transit lines in Metro Vancouver by 2020, with over 40% of the funding to come from the province. One new line is the UBC Line, to run from Commercial Drive to UBC. The Plan anticipates a cost of $2.8 billion to build this line. The other three lines are the Evergreen Line (under construction), the Expo Line (to be upgraded and extended), and the Canada Line (completed).

Brief information regarding the Plan is available from the Provincial Transit Plan page of the BC Government website, the News Release that was issued when the Plan was announced and the Backgrounder on the Plan.

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