Before the UBC SkyTrain Group was formed, Translink and the City of Vancouver have studied transit options for the vital Broadway Corridor. While TransLink is currently considering three options to replace the current 99 B-Line (BRT; Bus Rapid Transit; LRT: Light Rail Transit; and ART: SkyTrain), our research eliminated BRT as the current 99 B-Line already features many typical BRT features, like HOV lanes and all-door-boarding. These features were also studied previously by the City of Vancouver. However, post-implementation results have shown none to little improvements to the speed and reliability of the 99 B-Line.
Here is our explanation of why SkyTrain should be the technology chosen for the extension of the Millennium Line to the University of British Columbia:
- Safety & Reliability
SkyTrain (ART) is more reliable than ground-level LRT as it is fully grade-separated from traffic on the Broadway Corridor. Accidents are far more likely with LRT as it runs at-grade on the Broadway Corridor, coming across vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. Any accident can cause delays lasting hours. While incidents are also possible with SkyTrain, they would likely be related to suicides and located solely at station platforms (such suicidal fatalities are just as likely to occur on ground-level LRT or any mode of transportation whether it be a bus, car, freight train, etc.) . Of the approximately 55-deaths SkyTrain has seen in its 24-years in operation, 10 have been accidental and the remaining have been suicides. However, such incidents (whether accidental or intentional) can be completely eliminated if Translink decides to install platform screen doors in the future. It should also be mentioned that studies have shown that automated systems are much safer than driver systems.
- Train Frequency
Transit frequencies are preset prior to the line opening. Unlike LRT, SkyTrain has the ability to run trains every 90 seconds per train. LRT cannot deliver this frequency as it is not automated or fully segregated unlike SkyTrain. A LRT train on Broadway would arrive every 3-4 minutes during peak hours and every 5-10 minutes during mid-day hours and weekends. While frequencies during mid-day hours and weekends can increase, the same cannot be said for peak hours (which is the busiest times of the day). If a SkyTrain extension to UBC is built, Millennium Line trains would either operate from Waterfront to Lougheed via Columbia or would be reduced to a shuttle service between Columbia and Lougheed Stations. In addition, the planned SkyTrain Evergreen Line to the Tri-Cities would operate from UBC to Coquitlam. Trains would run an average frequency of 3-5 minutes from UBC to Coquitlam. If additional capacity is needed in the Broadway extension section of the line, frequency can be increased by operating more trains in the extension section of the line: trains from UBC can be short turned at Commercial Drive to increase the frequency of the busiest portion of the newly extended Millennium Line to UBC.
Alternatively, if the Millennium Line operates from Waterfront to UBC and the Evergreen Line operates from UBC to Douglas College, trains would arrive every 2-4 minutes in the combined service stations (from UBC to Lougheed). This would be similar to how the Expo and Millennium Lines already operate.
- Transferless Conection
SkyTrain provides a transferless connection bringing Millennium Line commuters straight to UBC without having to transfer at Commercial Drive Station. If the Evergreen Line runs from UBC to Douglas College, which was advised in a recent Translink study, commuters from Coquitlam would be able to take a one-seat ride all the way to Central Broadway/Cambie Uptown and UBC. LRT, unfortunately, requires a transfer at Commercial Drive Station. This would also increase the number of passengers in the current Broadway-Commercial Drive hub, which is already the busiest and most congested transit transfer point in the entire region with 100,000 passengers passing through the hub daily. Long line-ups for the the 99 B-Line for the morning rush from Broadway-Commercial Drive are already a norm.
SkyTrain is more than capable of handling passengers at the two transfer points of the UBC Millennium Line extension. In the diagram above, it clearly shows where the majority of the commuters will be transferring onto. The busiest portions of the UBC Line would clearly be in between Commercial Drive Stations and South Granville, where this portion of the line will go through two major transfer points and one potentially busy station on opening day. If the UBC Line is built as Light Rail, there will be potential problems with congestion in the foreseable future as Light Rail cannot accomodate as many passengers as SkyTrain. Also note that the direction of passengers transferring is dependant on the time of day. As stated above, SkyTrain can easily be expanded as it will be built with Millennium Line standards and will have the ability to expand its platforms to accomodate longer trains. In addition, the frequency of the UBC Millennium Line can easily be increased and trains can be short turned at Commercial Drive station to serve the busiest parts of the line. The UBC SkyTrain recommends longer and wider platforms and multiple entrances to be built at Broadway-City Hall station to help move more passengers entering, exiting, and transfering at that station. The UBC SkyTrain group also reccomends a wider pedestrian bridge to be built at Commercial Drive station to help improve passenger movement entering, exiting, and transfering at that station.
Please continue reading onto Part II of our explanation to why SkyTrain is the better choice for the Millennium Line.