Proposed Broadway Subway & extension Arbutus to UBC: Coalition writes Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council

The following letter was sent to all members of the Mayors’ Council. Download PDF: CVN Letter to Metro Mayors-Transit 02 07 2019

February 7, 2019
Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council
Re:  Broadway Subway and extension from Arbutus Street to UBC

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) is a coalition of twenty-four residents associations and groups from across the City of Vancouver. While we do support improvements to the system of transit in the City of Vancouver, we do not support the proposal for the Broadway Subway, neither to Arbutus nor for an extension to UBC. There are also calls from across the region for more affordable options in Vancouver, so that transit funds can be more equitably distributed throughout the Metro area.

CVN has written letters to the City, Province and Federal Government in opposition to the subway on Broadway.  We think that this plan should be reconsidered now that many Mayors and City Councils have changed across the region.

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. Reasons for this are many: 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; the further inflated property value increases which follow.  Additional concerns are:

  • The many 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, trolleys, etc. 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 to the west, 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, and so should not be considered a done deal until it has 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. We also question the accuracy of the budget.
  • 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-$50m/km (vastly inflated in the report when compared to similar transit systems in other locations), 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 have to be very large and out of scale with the surrounding area in order to provide the necessary revenues for the project, 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. City of Vancouver directions regarding resident consultation will be overridden by corridor planning.
  • Once committed, it may be mostly cut and cover with the same problems as the Canada Line. There is no completed commitment to a bored tunnel, or complete costing of same, 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.
  • A robust transit network would take pressure off the Broadway Corridor by diverting passenger traffic to other routes, thus requiring less rider capacity on the Broadway line.


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.)


The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods  opposes a Broadway subway transit solution, instead supporting a transit network that provides good transit access to all of Vancouver, not just one street.

Reference article:

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

Member Groups of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Arbutus Ridge Community Association
Arbutus Ridge/ Kerrisdale/ Shaughnessy Visions
Cedar Cottage Area Neighbours
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
Dunbar Residents Association
Fairview/South Granville Action Committee
False Creek Residents Association
Grandview Woodland Area Council
Greater Yaletown Community Association
Joyce Area Residents
Kitsilano-Arbutus Residents Association
Kits Point Residents Association
Marpole Residents Coalition
Norquay Residents
NW Point Grey Home Owners Association
Oakridge Langara Area Residents
Residents Association Mount Pleasant
Riley Park/South Cambie Visions
Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association
Strathcona Residents Association
Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
West End Neighbours Society
West Kitsilano Residents Association
West Point Grey Residents Association