Despite media reports, Metro growth plan leaves room for Broadway rapid transit and Surrey expansion

Has Metro Vancouver decided to dump the UBC-Broadway corridor as a transit priority in favour of Surrey?

If so, that would be grim news for the thousands of riders jammed on the 99 B-Line, the 84 and the many other routes headed to UBC.

That was certainly the tenor of comments by Metro Vancouver chief administrative officer Johnny Carline in this story by Vancouver Sun reporter Kelly Sinoski. Carline was speaking at a meeting of Metro’s planning committee, which was reviewing the latest draft of the Regional Growth Strategy.

That’s why I attempted in my response to resist any attempt to pit Surrey against Vancouver while defending the need for investment on the Broadway corridor, where ridership now is equal to that on the Millennium Line. (My comments provoked this question from Beyond Robson, which wonders what I have against Surrey. Answer: nothing, but I also want action to help riders on Broadway, who come from all over the region.)

But a closer reading of Carline’s written comments tells a different story: Surrey and Vancouver investments have an equal priority, if the Vancouver portion is limited to the Broadway Corridor between Main and Arbutus where most of the ridership is now.

In Sinoski’s report, Carline apparently rejected any  investment in a rapid transit line to UBC in favour of more Surrey expansion. In one paraphrased comment, Sinoski says Carline believes “it wouldn’t be prudent to spend its [Translink’s] limited pot of money in Vancouver when there is a bigger need in Surrey and other areas south of the Fraser.”

But Carline’s comments leave out a crucial distinction he made in his letter transmitting the Regional Growth Strategy to the Metro Board. In that letter, he clearly concedes Surrey and Broadway (to Arbutus) merit equal consideration after completion of Evergreen. In fact, they are both “priority 2.”

Last year, both the Translink Council of Mayors and the Metro Board voted unanimously to support a 10-year plan that included both, a proposal rejected by the Province because it did not include funding for the Evergreen Line. In fact, all three investments are crucial to the future of the region.

Translink’s initital assessment of the UBC-Broadway options will be available within weeks. A phased expansion, first to Arbutus and later to UBC, may be the prudent course. But to leave Broadway out altogether would be just plain wrong.

Here is the key paragraph from Carline’s letter:

One area where there might not have been complete consensus was in setting transit
investment priorities.  The plan acknowledges TransLink’s role in the planning and delivery of
the regional transit system, but also recognizes the need to link transit investments to growth
and land use development objectives and the role of the Regional Growth Strategy.

To that end, the RGS recognizes for rapid transit investment purposes, three overriding priorities: the
need to reinforce the development of and shape the travel patterns associated with the north
east sector focused on the Coquitlam Regional City Centre; and the need to reinforce the
development of and shape the travel patterns in the area south of the Fraser focused on the
Surrey Metro Centre; and the need to connect the central Broadway portion of the Metro Core to
the eastern and southern part of the transit system.

These translate into the following rapid transit investment priorities: the Evergreen Line (“Priority 1”), the expansion of transit south of
the Fraser River to connect to Urban Centres in that part of the region to the Surrey Metro
Centre (“Priority 2”) and the westward extension of the ‘Broadway line’ in some form to Central
Broadway as far west perhaps as Arbutus (also “Priority 2”).  [The first and third of these are
essentially remaining priorities from the 1996 regional growth strategy (the LRSP) and the
second is clearly the pressing priority for the next phase of growth within the region].

The concern was expressed that a technical study was being undertaken by TransLink on the
possible linkages form central Broadway to UBC and the suggestion made that “Priority 2”
include expansion to the main campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC), pending the
results of the rapid transit technical studies currently being undertaken by TransLink.

We recognize that this study involves a rigorous analysis of alternatives and will yield valuable
insights. However, in our view the issue there is a fundamental policy issue than needs to be
recognized.  Given the financial situation facing TransLink, the Province and the Federal
Government it is difficult to be optimistic about rapid transit lines being constructed more rapidly
than they have in the past.  Nonetheless, the plan identifies two complete new lines and the
completion of the Broadway line as a priority for supporting, serving and shaping regional
growth.  This is consistent with past policies.