vancouver: new round of broadway line options

The planning for the missing link in Vancouver's transit network has taken the next step. Newly refined options are out for public comment.  The corridor corresponds, at least in its endpoints, to the orange line on this map, where the existing Line 99 runs one of the most frequent and crowded bus corridors in the west.

VancouverGrid(2) The west end is the University of British Columbia (UBC).  The east end is Commercial/Broadway station, the main transit gateway to the entire eastern two thirds of the region.  In the middle is Vancouver's second downtown, Central Broadway, which includes City Hall and the main hospital, as well as a station on the Canada Line to the airport and the southern suburbs.  (Skytrain and the Canada Line form the region's driverless rapid transit network.)  It's hard to overestimate how central this corridor is not just to the city, but to the region.  For example, many trips between southern suburbs and northeastern ones (Richmond to northern Burnaby say, or Coquitlam to the airport) will be made much easier, or not, depending on this project's outcome.

The newly refined options include rapid-transit options (widely presumed to be extensions of the Skytrain Millennium Line) either to UBC or possibly just to Arbutus Street, which makes sense to consider because it's the end of the dense or densifiable portion of Broadway, and completes all of the regional-connection needs except for UBC itself.  They also look at light rail options and Bus Rapid Transit, both of which would need an exclusive lane.  Light rail options are suggested both on Broadway and also veering off onto an alignment closer to False Creek, feeding into Great Northern Way.

It looks like an interesting process, one that will impact the transit mobility options for a vast part of greater Vancouver.

25 Responses to vancouver: new round of broadway line options

  1. Rob March 30, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    I work near Arbutus and Broadway at a major retailer. This corridor DESPERATELY needs rapid transit.
    Seeing as the light rail and BRT options would eliminate parking on broadway throughout I suspect that ironically the option that westsiders are pushing for as a cheaper more ‘human’ alternative would be shot down by the broadway business association as a quick way to kill their business off.
    Don’t forget that every plan they’ve ever come up with builds the actual line on 10th ave and not Broadway itself, even if they completely screwed things up, it screws up 10th ave. That’s only an issue out near UBC when Broadway merges into 10th ave.
    No half measures, I’m begging them.
    I’m very dogmatic about this but I also believe Surrey should get a White Rock->Central->Guildford Light rail line so please don’t accuse me of being a skytrain sycophant =)

  2. Eugene Wong March 31, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    @Jarret and others
    I’m a little disappointed. The regional district is called, Metro Vancouver Regional District. If you were to look at a map, then we would see that New Westminster is the centre. The eastern portions extend out to Maple Ridge and Langley.
    I think that I know what you meant: the corridor is very important to public transportation. I agree with that. I just find that when Vancouverites tend to think of themselves as the *centre* of anything, then they get a skewed perspective on things. If environmentalists in Vancouver want people from neighbouring cities to get out of their cars, then they have to quit holding events that are held in out of the way places [i.e. Vancouver].
    Just look at downtown Vancouver: mostly surrounded by water, which requires expensive bridges. Vancouver, itself is also mostly surrounded by water.
    New Westminster for the win.

  3. mezzanine March 31, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    @Eugene Wong,
    true to some aspects (translink is moving to new offices in Sapperton) but I would say that the corridor is a regional destination itself. You can’t change the fact that the General hospital, the province’s main cancer agency and several large offices (like trans-mountain pipeline) are regional employers and are located there.
    other factors are at play. Exhibition park (where we used to have our stadium) and the Pacific Coliseum are more centrally located to the metro area, but are much more car-dependent and lack a rapid transit service compared to Rogers Centre and BC Place Stadium.

  4. Alan Robinson March 31, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    I’m really proud of how committed Translink is to its public consultation. I’m sure that many comments will appear here with opinions on this project, and for many projects these opinions would basically reside in the blog. Translink is actively courting these comments on it’s own website, and will probably take a peak here too. Are there any other transit agencies, other than maybe TriMet, that is as committed to community involvement?
    Perhaps it’s also easier for Translink to engage he community as they are tackling customer service and design problems rather than just focusing on the budget problems that most agencies are faced with.

  5. Chris March 31, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    It’s disappointing to me that Translink has chosen to relocate out into the suburban sprawl of Sapperton; at least at Gateway they were near the developing downtown Surrey area. New Westminster may be the geographic center of the region but it is definitely not the population and employment center.
    As for the options, I don’t understand why they have a BRT stand alone option when elsewhere on the page they state that the BRT stand alone option will not have enough capacity. As for the light rail, while there may be enough capacity when the project opens I don’t think there will be excess capacity available in the future, as signal priority will limit trains to a maximum of 4 – 5 minute headways.
    I think one of the important factors in this decision will be the speed factor. An extension of Skytrain will cut in half the amount of time it currently takes to travel between UBC and Commercial Drive on transit, and make it clearly faster than driving.

  6. Jarrett at March 31, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Chris.  TransLink's main offices are located at Metrotown.  Jarrett

  7. Sean March 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Jarrett – that’s true right now but they will be moving to Sapperton in New Westminster in 2013.

  8. Clark Nikolai March 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    It’s a tough one because of a few things. Mostly 10th avenue and it’s nice recently renovated Victorian homes. The cut-and-cover method will probably be hard to sell to people after the memory of Cambie street. Boring a tunnel is pricey but maybe worth it in the long run. Maybe it can be elevated above 8th or 7th. Or the alley between 8th and Broadway.
    Another factor is that Arbutus is not far from Kerrisdale which has residents who want to keep their almost small town feel and prevent development.
    Maybe a bored tunnel Skytrain can be done in stages. First an extension of the Millennium line from VCC-Clark, likely jutting into the cliff above Great Northern Way, a station at the Main/Broadway/Kingsway area, then West below either Broadway or 10th to make a connection with the Canada Line at Cambie. This would be one stage. This stage should probably be promoted as useful for suburbanites who want to get to the airport without having to go downtown first. They naturally will resent more money going to Vancouver and away from their desperately needed transit infrastructure. They need to see that this benefits them.
    Then the rest of the line would go West from there at a later date as finances or politics permit. Again maybe in stages going to Oak (or Laurel), then Granville and then Arbutus. Each one a project.
    It’s fun to ponder these things.

  9. NCarlson March 31, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    The only thing I don’t understand about these options is why there isn’t a combo 3 with light rail to Arbutus and RRT all the way to UBC? Yes it’s more expensive, but if cost is already knocking reasonable (more or less…) options off the table why don’t we have any of the variation that require a transfer at Arbutus?
    Really I don’t see any alternative to full rapid transit making sense in the long term on this, or on the Coquitlem corridors. Light rail probably makes sense just about anywhere else we look to higher order transit in the region, but Broadway and Coquitlem are about finishing the core of a high speed quasi regional service, not enhancing local service. Fundamentally they are not about the areas they travel though, but connecting points along the lines, and that is a very different thing in my view from a surface light rail line.

  10. Josh March 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    Welcome back to Vancouver Jarrett, I hope you can attend some of the open house sessions.
    Commercial to Arbutus definitely has to be RRT, there’s no question about that. This is the region’s 2nd busiest transit destination (after downtown). LRT will not provide sufficient capacity, speed or reliability this corridor deserves. Not to mention LRT will remove travelling lanes and parking lanes out of the already congested Broadway. RRT is the only option.

  11. passup March 31, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    I have nothing much to add to the Broadway consultation, as it has been discussed repeatedly.
    Welcome home(?) Jarrett, I hope with your longer stay at Vancouver, you may also experience and explore solution to some of Translink current problematic routes. One noticeable issue is the infamous #49, which people still suffer passups from 7:30am to 9:30pm daily, even though Translink has applied bandage solution of adding more 60ft buses in the mix.

  12. Alon Levy March 31, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Jarrett, do you have any idea what frequencies they’re proposing? The split LRT option looks suspect to me unless both the VCC-Clark and the Broadway-Commercial branches get high train frequency all day.

  13. Jarrett at March 31, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    Alon.  The "split LRT" option is two alternative alignments, not a proposed branching line. 

  14. Theo March 31, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Jarrett, do you ever see a revitalisation of rail service on the Arbutus corridor all the way to Marpole, or even Richmond/New West/Steveston/Ladner? Because I think that may have an impact on possible technologies and combinations and how well used the East-West Rapid Transit Line will be.

  15. Jarrett at March 31, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Theo.  I wouldn't want to speculate on Arbutus at this point, but at this stage I don't really see how it's relevant to the Broadway corridor technology choice.  There are some nice stray bits of right of way lying around, but the focus has to be on the direction in which the primary demand flows, which is east-west in the vicinity of Broadway.

  16. GD March 31, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    being temporarily in Vancouver, and using the B-Line (and then the Canada line) on a regular basis, an RRT option makes intuitive sense to me, especially given my understanding that, if anything, the areas along Broadway are still going to densify. And since a skytrain extension would connect out into other regional centers, I don’t see an overly strong argument for this being wildly biased in favor of the City of Vancouver. If anything, it makes non-Vancouver addresses more attractive to many of those studying and working at UBC.
    Is there any good background info on whether the cut-and-cover problems might be recitified or whether the planned actual building site is fundamentally different from Cambie, i.e. possibly less problematic?

  17. Alon Levy April 1, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    Jarrett, the LRT 2 option does have a split: “All trains serve UBC; east of Arbutus Street service is split between a segment serving Main Street-Science World Station and a segment serving Commercial-Broadway Station.”

  18. Theo April 1, 2011 at 2:11 am #

    Jarrett, I was thinking that the size of the intended Arbutus Corridor system (if it is going to be built at all) might play in favor of a higher-capacity system along broadway, as a rapid transit line down arbutus would centralize north south travel in the western half of vancouver. This would create more E-W travel demand in the Broadway Corridor for travellers who need want to connect to/from the arbutus trunk line. And remember that the arbutus line connects many med to high density pockets with commercial, e.g. Marpole, Kerrisdale, (Arbutus Village to some degree); in these towns, car use is still pretty high, but I think there’s lots of opportunity to switch over to transit = more ridership via transfers on the Broadway corridor.
    Ok, I’m not so great at explaining ideas in text. And on the second thought, my original idea doesn’t seem so important. And TBH the Evergreen and South of Fraser projects will probably be built long before anything on Arbutus crops up.
    Also – as Alon was saying about the LRT 2 split plan – my original thought was instead of splitting the tracks at Arbutus/Broadway, to instead make two lines: Arbutus/Broadway would become a node with the N-S arbutus line (to granville island, science world), and this would intersect the Broadway line.

  19. Theo April 1, 2011 at 2:32 am #

    A couple more notes: I was curious as to why they didn’t offer the ‘quick fix’ choice – i.e. extend the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark to Olympic Village or Broadway City Hall- as an option combined with LRT. Or maybe they could do it progressively in phases – first to Olympic Village, then to Arbutus, then maybe all the way to UBC as ridership grows?
    I would be loath to choose BRT for any part of the project. Even the extra-long double-accordion artic buses probably wouldn’t be able to handle the regular passenger loads of students trying to get to class. I personally know a lot of UBC students who take much slower buses (e.g. 25) to deliberately avoid the crush loads on those B-Lines. I also know of a lot of commuter students living in Surrey who drive all the way to Camosun and 41st Ave., park their cars beside the Endowment Lands (free parking), and hop the bus to campus – all because they want to avoid the 99. They would take the Skytrain if the ride on the bus wasn’t so punishing. Currently the potential ridership for the 99 is dispersed across various busses and modes of transportation, but I would expect a huge increase in ridership very quickly once this Broadway rapid transit corridor is completed.

  20. Chris April 1, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    The alternatives pages clearly states that BRT won’t provide enough capacity, but they have left it in there anyway.
    Theo: a long time ago the Arbutus corridor was in competition with the Cambie corridor to become the downtown – airport – Richmond rapid transit line. Cambie won because the ridership would be higher, although I am sure the NIMBY problem crept up as well. There’s a part of the right of way between 29th and 37th that goes literally in the back yards of expensive homes.
    I agree that the Broadway RRT would likely benefit suburban residents more than the city of Vancouver: imagine going from UBC to Lougheed Mall in 45 minutes.
    I believe the Broadway line, which is a heavy demand commuter backbone line, should be completely separated from the 6th – Granville Island – Main Street Station line, which seems to me to be more of a local access kind of line.

  21. Chris B April 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    Does anyone know what is going on with the Granville Island to West End Streetcar proposal?

  22. Alan Robinson April 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    @ Chris B
    I believe that the website you posted is as up to date as it gets. The streetcar is a City of Vancouver project while Broadway rapid transit is a Translink affair. They aren’t linked yet, although some connection between the projects may occur if Combo 1 is selected for study in Phases 3 and beyond.

  23. Jack Hope April 1, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    I’ve recently looked over the plans and I have to say, I’m actually kind of impressed by Translink in this instance. They seem to be showing some genuine creativity in their combination options and I think given the province’s fiscal situation, either one of those options are the best bet for actually getting the Skytrain down Central Broadway before the end of the decade. Of course, if we get anything more than the Evergreen Line (delivered on December 31, 2010) before the end of the decade, that will probably be a minor miracle.
    On the other hand, the combination options seem to bring the costs down on this to a much more palatable $2 billion plus, which sounds much more politically acceptable. Which probably means the Liberals will P3 the LRT or rapid Bus segment. Whether that will work out or not, is another question entirely.
    Personally, I am leaning to supporting the Combination Alternative 1, even though I feel the Skytrain right to UBC campus is the best proposal, I don’t feel that the political climate will support a $3.5 billion project either. Also the combination alternative does provide the needed service to Central Broadway, good local transit through Kitsilano and to UBC. It would also provide a real world demonstration and comparison of the two modes and the appropriate uses of an Urban LRT. It would be a good launch pad for a secondary supporting LRT network, using the Arbutus Corridor, the Vancouver Streetcar plans, and other service options. My only caveat would be that it would have to be possible to extend the Skytrain to UBC when demand warranted.
    The second Combination is more or less acceptable as well, although I definitely don’t think it would be as good (for obvious reasons. I also suspect that the Rapid Bus component would be steadily eroded during planning and construction. Which would likely end up as the existing B-Line service with a few cosmetic improvements, but at least having rapid transit through Central Broadway.
    I am definitely going to be participating in the public process on this project though!

  24. Scott April 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    I was very pleased to see that, if I’m reading them right, only one of the updated alternatives now skips East Broadway. Hopefully “Combo 1” can be either killed off or further adjusted, but overall this is good stuff it seems to me.
    I do find it odd that none of the second-round consultations are happening east of Ontario St. I think last time, they had just one over there, and it was on Great Northern Way (a.k.a. “A Place Very Few Live And Even Fewer Work,” UBC and Translink’s hopes for ten or fifteen years from now aside). Now if they had a consultation right by Commercial/Broadway Station, that might pull in some good participation both from the neighbourhood and the suburbs.

  25. GD April 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    I went to the public consultation session in Kitsilano today, though I didn’t get to stay for the small-group workshops.
    So here are a few things on Combo 1 that don’t (maybe didn’t) get stated too explicitly in the material online, though I guess some might be obvious to the Vancouverites reading this
    -the LRT would use exisiting right-of-way for most of its eastern part, and thus be a gentle way to ease in such a system.
    -because of connecting to two skytrain stations in the east, the combo would distribute the pressure on the stations themselves during rush hour. One of the planners present argued that this was a not unimportant consideration.
    -the LRT would provide seeds for future expansions, both circling into the downtown area and potentially along the Arbutus corridor. There seems to be a long-term plan here (cue the LRT vs. BRT debate-a matter on which they seem to be rather differentiated. In the corridor in question, capacity is a major consideration, which has an effect on their evaluation, though they do absolutely acknowledge the benefits of BRT)
    all things considered, I was impressed, but that might be because I come from a different culture regarding these kinds of decision-making.