Rapid Transit from Arbutus Street to UBC: Coalition does not support staff recommendations, requests Council ‘receive’ reports, not adopt as policy (meeting 30-Jan-2019)

January 25, 2019
City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

Re:         Rapid Transit from Arbutus Street to UBC – Meeting Jan.30, 2019

Report (“Rapid Transit from Arbutus Street to UBC,” staff report, Jan 15, 2019)  https://council.vancouver.ca/20190130/documents/pspc1.pdf

Appendix C (“Rail to UBC Rapid Transit Study: Alternatives Analysis Summary and Update” (McElhanney Consulting Services) Jan 2019 ): https://council.vancouver.ca/20190130/documents/pspc1-AppendixC.pdf

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) does not support the recommendations in the above reports and requests that Council receive the reports for information purposes only, not as policy.

CVN has written many letters to the City, Province and Federal Government in opposition to the subway on Broadway. The links to the letters are attached for reference.

Although we generally agree with the logic to connect the Millennium Line from VCC to Cambie Line, we continue to disagree with the unaffordable option to extend along Broadway to Arbutus with a subway, and to further extend the subway/SkyTrain to UBC. This is for many reasons, not least of which is the amount of money that will need to be directed to it, thus starving the rest of the City’s public transit needs; the reliance on CACs & DCLs to fund it with the resulting corridor of excessive development along Broadway and the further inflated property value increases. Additional concerns are as follows:

  • The above reports have been characterized as political documents masquerading as technical documents.  They misrepresent the underlying assumptions of ridership, capacity, and costs based on reviewing previous flawed “consultation” studies that did not properly compare options or report accurately the level of public opposition and support. The reports are designed to achieve a predetermined outcome.
  • The alternative options of LRT, streetcar or trolleys  for the whole corridor have been dropped from this current comparison. The report claims that LRT has a practical capacity of only 6,120 when in fact it can achieve 20,000 pphpd. Even 1940’s streetcar technology in Toronto obtained capacity of 12,000 pphpd.
  • One of the reasons that the proposed first portion of the subway stops at Arbutus is the smaller street pattern and that there was such strong opposition from Kitsilano and West Point Grey residents and businesses to a subway with the resulting tower densities that would go with it. This has not gone away.
  • The Mayors’ plan for the Broadway subway to Arbutus was strongly opposed in the transportation referendum, both regionally and in the City of Vancouver, so should not be considered a done deal when it has not yet been fully costed and approved. The regional/City of Vancouver  portion has gone up considerably and is yet to be fully consulted with the public.
  • There are much more cost effective options that would provide more transit to a much broader area, giving access to good transit to more people in a wide network, rather than only one corridor. See maps below.
  • The subway is about $535m/km, trams $16m-$40m/km, electric trolley rapid bus $1m/km + $1m per double electric trolley articulated bus.
  • We are opposed to the use of the city’s tax base of property taxes and development fees to subsidize this subway. The civic tax base is needed for civic services.
  • We oppose the use of private-public-partnerships (P3) models that are more likely with expensive transit lines like the subway/SkyTrain because benefits to private partners have higher costs to the public.
  • The development along the corridor will be very large and out of scale with the surrounding area, which will require significant subsidies for services through increased property taxes. Development fees only cover a portion of the costs of growth as it is. Now these development fees will also have to cover the subway itself.
  • Once committed, it may be mostly cut and cover with the same problems as the Canada Line. There is no commitment to bored tunnel and each station is planned to be cut and cover regardless. Elevated SkyTrain would be too impactful on  the surrounding neighbourhoods, even more so than a subway.
Caption: Equivalent electric streetcar network deliverable for same cost of proposed Broadway Corridor subway (Condon, et al, 2008, The case for the tram; learning from Portland, Sustainability by Design – An examination of alternatives to an underground extension of the Millennium Line to UBC, Foundational Research Bulletin, No. 6.)



Larry Benge, Co-Chair, Dorothy Barkley, Co-Chair
On behalf of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods


You can download a PDF of this letter to Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors here:

Reference CVN letters:

May 15, 2018 – CVN letter to City of Vancouver
Millennium Line Broadway Extension of SkyTrain – Municipal Requirements

April 23, 2018 – CVN to Premier John Horgan
Transit Mode for City of Vancouver