Debunking Miro Cernetig’s Vancouver Sun Article

Many supporters of our pro-SkyTrain group have suggested that we write a letter to the Vancouver Sun regarding Miro Cernetig’s front page article on May 25.  We will be submitting a much shorter letter to the Vancouver Sun, however, here is our full response to that article:

Dear Editor,

This is a letter in response to Miro Cernetig’s opinion-based article about “Broadway subway to UBC is an idea headed in the wrong direction.” We, the UBC SkyTrain group would like to rebut a few of the arguments Miro Cernetig makes in that article.

Mr. Cernetig cites that population projections by 2040 are expected to increase particularly within the South of Fraser region, where Surrey, Delta, Langley, and White Rock are expected to increase by 56%, while the City of Vancouver is only expected to grow by 16%. While these figures may be true, one must also consider the form that this growth takes. The City of Vancouver has and will continue to have a much more concentrated density than compared to the South of Fraser regions, an important factor for transportation planning. High density areas deserve higher capacity rapid transit, which is what SkyTrain provides. Moreover, according to the Metro Vancouver’s Concept Plans for the region, the Broadway corridor along with other rapid transit corridors such as Cambie and 41st Avenue are slated for increased density.

In the article, Mr. Cernetig cites the lack of rail rapid transit in the suburbs, also slating that “yet there’s little talk amongst our mega planners of extending a rapid-rail system out to those fast-growing communities.” However, the Provincial Government announced the Provincial Transportation Plan, which included rapid transit extensions and expansions throughout Metro Vancouver, building on the 1996 Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP) by Metro Vancouver, formerly known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The Evergreen Line and the portion of the UBC Line to Arbutus form Phase II of the Millennium Line and are consistent with the 1996 LRSP. This extension of the Millennium Line to UBC is natural given ridership levels on existing B-Line as well as trolley service. With respect to the suburban services, Evergreen Line will provide service to the Tri-Cities before construction even starts on the UBC Line. In the South of Fraser, the 1996 LRSP calls for an Intermediate Capacity Transit System linking Surrey Central to Guildford, to Newton, and busway on Fraser Highway. The announced extension of the Expo Line is consistent with the line to Guildford and will bring more communities of Surrey closer to rail rapid transit. RapidBus service to Newton, potentially to White Rock, and along Fraser Highway to Langley from Surrey Centre is also in the works. The proposed Highway 1 RapidBus service is an additional service not specified in the 1996 LRSP, but announced by the Province. This will link many of the proposed Park & Ride centres with Guildford to Coquitlam South and Lougheed Town Centre. RapidBus is a natural predecessor to rail rapid transit as it allows governments to assess the ridership potential of a route. Once ridership levels on Surrey RapidBus lines can be determined, transit planning can then proceed beyond services set out in the Provincial Transportation Plan. Metro Vancouver is currently updating 1996 LRSP and we suggest that a revised LRSP would include expansions listed in the Provincial Transportation Plan and reflect growing transit needs in the South of Fraser region. To proceed with rail rapid transit projects without either planning or demonstrated ridership demands along the selected routes would be premature and would also be a risky investment.

The 99 B-Line on Broadway has demonstrated levels necessary to sustain a rail-based rapid transit line on Broadway. Today, the 99 B-Line moves 60,000 passengers per day while the other local Broadway routes, such as the #9 trolley, moves 40,000 passengers per day. That’s already a total of 100,000 commuters moving throughout the Broadway corridor via transit. It’s certainly not a “ridership figure far, far in the future.” It is important to note that this ridership figure is for the people who are using transit on Broadway today, and not tomorrow. Furthermore, this figure doesn’t include the commuters using other buses that would otherwise use the 99 B-Line if not for the slow speed and packed conditions. Buses along Broadway, which leave about every minute, are already at capacity. More transit riders will take the 99 B-Line and #9 trolley when the Canada Line opens this year, and again in 2014 when the Evergreen Line opens. It is critical that the UBC Line be built as SkyTrain to accommodate a regional level of service for generations to come.

SkyTrain has also been demonstrated to be exceedingly popular with Metro Vancouver residents and many believe that it is much needed on Broadway, according to the “High Public Support for SkyTrain Extension to UBC” article by Frances Bula of the Vancouver Sun published on December 15, 2007. The survey, conducted by Former Mayor Sam Sullivan, showed that “most feel a tunnel system under Broadway is the best technology and route for thee UBC/Millennium Line.” Moreover, an older but more scientific survey conducted by Canadian Fact showed that “61% of residents in Greater Vancouver were ‘more likely’ to support the construction of SkyTrain rather than ground-level LRT.” Because of this, we feel confident that a SkyTrain Millennium Line extension towards UBC would be a popular alternative for commuting along the Broadway corridor, especially if it is a seamless connection between Coquitlam and Burnaby, to Broadway.

Adrian Leung
UBC SkyTrain Group

On behalf of the group, I would like to thank everyone for their support.  I would also like to acknowledge those who have helped us with this letter.  Thanks again!

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