This past spring, Metro Vancouver Mayors achieved a significant milestone when, after years of advocacy, they announced a partnership with the BC Government to ensure the region’s 10-year Transit and Transportation Plan is fully funded.
Vision Vancouver’s right-wing detractors in the NPA and other parties said trying for transit was hopeless. They said Vision should give up. But we never gave up. We fought for transit. Thanks to that work, and thanks to the support of thousands upon thousands of ordinary people who want Vancouver to be the greenest city, the Broadway Subway is being built out to Arbutus. This is an historic achievement - it’s the biggest transit investment in BC’s history.
The transit challenge now is this: We need to start thinking about what’s next.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity in front us to build out our transportation infrastructure to support the future of Vancouver. The Vision Team is committed to seeing the Broadway Subway built - not just in its first phase to Arbutus, but all the way out to UBC.
Building the subway out to UBC makes sense. Former BC Premier Mike Harcourt has long been a champion of the “brain train” which will connect UBC to Simon Fraser University, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Vancouver General Hospital, and the business hub around False Creek. "It's not just a transportation system. It's a catalyst." Harcourt has said.
UBC President Santa Ono sees the value and has committed UBC to contribute financially to a subway project all the way to campus. The next Vancouver City Council needs to be willing to partner with UBC, with the strong leadership they’ve shown, and take advantage of this opportunity. Once the tunnelling machine is in the ground next year, we need to keep it going all the way out to UBC.
Translink, the City, and UBC have done the studies. The ridership forecasts show that we need the Broadway Subway all the way out to UBC. A streetcar or light rail transit route will never accommodate the ridership, or reduce travel times the way a subway will.
While this may seem straightforward, the NPA have said they’re willing to rip up the entire Broadway subway plan. Other candidates are fabricating delays by saying we need more consultation on what form of technology it should be. Then there are those who simply aren’t talking about it at all. Let’s be clear about what this means. It means under the NPA and the other right-wing parties, the Broadway Subway won’t get built to UBC. If Vancouver dithers and delays, transit investment will go to other places, like Toronto, Montreal and other parts of B.C. with their own congestion challenges.
With this historic commitment from the provincial and federal governments to fund Metro Vancouver’s $7 billion, 10-year transit and transportation plan for the region, we need to be thinking further down the road.
Vancouver’s East Fraserlands and surrounding neighbourhoods are being built out in the south-east parts of Vancouver, with thousands of new residents moving in. How do we ensure that they are fully integrated into the transit network? We should be looking at what opportunities with the CP rail line there are to connect East Fraserlands to the Canada Line station at Marine drive. Our residents in the southern part of our city need better transportation and green space options. The CP Corridor could be a natural extension of the Arbutus Greenway.
The Arbutus Greenway will eventually integrate a new streetcar network that will run north and around False Creek. We need to make sure that connection is a priority for our region’s next long-term transportation plan, especially as Vancouver undertakes a community planning process for False Creek South.
The next city council elected in October will be the ones who shape what that next 10 or 20 year transportation plan is for our city. No matter who’s mayor, we need a progressive majority on council. We need that to make sure Vancouver secures the gains we’ve made and build on them to reduce congestion, improve commutes, and keep Vancouver moving. The alternative is a council led by the NPA and the other right-wing parties that will move Vancouver backwards. They will lower our ambitions. They will refuse to think long-term about how we as a city and region are going to deal with transportation. That’s a risk we can’t afford to take.
When it comes to transportation we’ve seen big gains, over the past decade, in terms of walking and cycling - due to the bold ideas embraced by City Council. We need that same kind of boldness when it comes to the future of transit. If you agree, I invite you to support the new Vision team for council. Together, we can keep building a Vancouver for everyone.