Before the weekend, Voony and Tessa made some excellent points I want to follow up on.  One of the arguments that keeps popping up against the idea of a Broadway subway is about its cost.  It’s not just that it would cost a lot — although of course it would.  The argument is that the money spent digging a big hole on Broadway wold be better spent building a lot of light rail south of the Fraser.  For the cost of 13 kilometers of subway on the Broadway corridor, you could build ten times that much surface-level light rail.  Why not do that instead?

I have some worries about how to ensure transit-oriented development around new rail lines, but I’m happy to put those aside for now.  Because what I really don’t get in this argument is the word “instead.” Why does this have to be an either/or deal?  Why would we want to pay for light rail in the Valley with money earmarked for other transit development? Why can’t we just advocate for more transit everywhere?

Voony did some excellent work over the weekend to put this in perspective.  He figured out just how much the Campbell government’s put into building major new highway infrastructure south of the Fraser and major new transit infrastructure in the city.  Go read his whole post, because it’s eye-popping, but here’s the upshot.  The provincial government has spent nearly three times more for every driver in the region than they have for every transit user.  That’s per driver, so the fact that way more people still drive than take transit is irrelevant.

The South Fraser perimeter highway is going to cost $1.1 billion.  Why not use that money to build light rail south of the Fraser?  So if you want light rail south of the Fraser “instead” of something, why have it “instead” of a subway on Broadway?  Why not have more light rail “instead” of more highways?


I just ducked into the West Valley Market at Davie & Bute to pick up some leeks for dinner, and apparently we can now see what they have on sale by following their Twitter feed.  Looks like organic beans are today’s hot item.  Exciting!

It’s a beautiful afternoon, and the new Astonishing X-Men onmibus just came out, so on the way home I stopped at the Comic Shop on 4th, and then walked across to the Burrard St. bridge to get to the West End.  It was nice to see a decent-sized peloton of cyclists starting out from the traffic light at the south side of the bridge.

Once again, I’m deeply puzzled by the anger of the opposition people have to the idea of a Broadway subway line.  Part of the anger, if not all, seems to come from some real confusion about who would benefit from it.  Here’s Zweisystem:

The promoters of the a UBC subway and the SkyTrain Lobby will delight at the fact that once again taxpayers who live outside of Vancouver, with no say on how transit is provided inside Vancouver will see massive tax and user fee increases to fund a subway to UBC that they will seldom, if ever use.

People from outside of Vancouver would “seldom, if ever,” use a Broadway subway?  Really?  Who are those massive crowds of people getting off the Expo line at Commercial-Broadway and seeing two- and three-sailing waits to get on a B-Line?  Did they all get on the Skytrain at Joyce-Collingwood?  Really?

Those crowds don’t by any means make a knock-down case for a subway, but let’s try to get some perspective on who’s going to benefit from a Broadway rail line, regardless of whether it’s light rail or a subway.  People in the city aren’t the only ones who stand to gain here.

Courtesy of Stephen Rees, here’s your Friday morning piece of the big picture:

All kinds of things – really important things that the BC Liberals promised were sacrosanct a few months ago like healthcare and education – are now being cut. But nothing it seems can stop the freeway juggernaut here.

That Burrows article in the Straight about a Broadway rail line seems to have pushed some buttons.  Zweisystem at Rail for the Valley says, “If Vancouver wants a subway, let Vancouver taxpayers pay for it!”  And Jordan Bateman at Langley Politics says,

a South Fraser light rail line should be the next transit priority, not another gold-plated SkyTrain in Vancouver. If Vancouver is as concerned about urban sprawl and car culture as they claim, they should be pushing to get transit into Surrey, Langley, and Abbotsford. That’s where the most gains can be made; that’s the low-hanging fruit when it comes to battling climate change and air pollution.

I think the animosity in these reactions is a mistake.  I understand how easy it is to feel like other regions of metro Vancouver are getting transit goodies that your own region isn’t, but sub-regional sniping isn’t doing anyone any good.  We all want more and better transit for the entire region.

But I also think there’s no particular reason to think the “low-hanging fruit” is all south of the Fraser.  The buses on the Broadway corridor are at capacity during peak times right now.  In fact, they’ve been at capacity during peak times for a while.  They’re actually over-capacity for some parts of the day.  (Details here: pp. 86-87.)  As I’ve talked about before, this isn’t a problem that Translink can solve easily by putting more buses on the route.  With three-minute headways, a few red lights in a row is enough to pile up three B-Lines up end.

But what does it mean if Broadway’s at capacity — and sometimes over capacity — right now?  It means that there’s people who want to take the transit on Broadway, but who don’t because the buses are too full.  Add capacity to the route — with light rail or a subway — and all of a sudden there’s room for more people on transit.  Why wouldn’t that count as low-hanging fruit?

Via Zweisystem, here’s a Matthew Burrows piece in the Straight about plans for rapid transit along the Broadway corridor and out to UBC — a plan that, like a mirage, seems always to recede into the distance just as we think we’re getting closer to it.  Burrows’ piece is about the fight about whether a rail line along Broadway should be surface-level light rail or a light-metro subway.  But that’s not the fight I want to have right now.

Instead, I want to flag something that Vision’s Geoff Meggs’ says in the piece:

“We already have a high-speed line ending at the Millennium Line at VCC–Clark,” [Meggs] noted. “It just makes sense to complete it somehow, either over to the Canada Line or, better yet, take it to Arbutus. It could be the hub of a future extension down the Arbutus corridor or over to UBC.”

This is something you hear from time to time — that maybe the Broadway corridor only needs rapid transit to Arbutus, and that extending the line all the way to UBC would be something to do later, rather than when the first stretch of rail gets built.

This is a deeply, deeply stupid idea.  It fundamentally fails to recognize just how big UBC is.  UBC is already second only to downtown in Vancouver as a destination for transit trips.  (Go to p. 81 of this Translink report for that factoid.  Warning: it’s an enormous pdf.)  And looking to the future, UBC is again second only to downtown in Vancouver as an area of significant job growth (p. 55).  So how stupid would it be to run a rail line to Arbutus but not all the way to UBC?   Only slightly less stupid than running the Expo line to Commercial, but then not going downtown.  Or running the Canada Line to Broadway, but then not going downtown.  In other words, epically, monumentally, enormously stupid.