UBC line rapid transit act 2

April 5, 2011

Post updated on April 6th

As mentioned by Stephen Rees, I was at “a special blogger breakfast” about the project where Jeff Busby and Margaret Wittgens from Translink provided a description of the different options and was answering our questions [1]. Translink has provided significantly more material in this phase than in phase 1.

The consultation process

Like in Phase 1, translink has scheduled several workshops. In those workshops, Translink staff engage conversation where you have the opportunity to discuss your concerns, opinions not only with staff but also with your ‘neighbors’ and understand others viewpoints. It is a very constructive approach, and I warmly recommend people to attend those workshops and provide feedback as soon as possible in the process to Translink.

Some comments:

In the preliminary phases, it was unclear what Translink was meaning by “LRT”, an LRT in the American sense, or a tram in the European sense? A later solution apparently favored by noticeably UBC professor Patrick Condon and a relatively active Broadway merchant group called BARSTA.

  • The Phase 2 gives a clear answer: the option is an LRT in the american sense.

Compared to the “business as usual case” (assumed to be the bus 99B) [4] the cost required to attract additional ridership is around $25,000 per new rider, as suggested by the graph below comparing the different solutions proposed by Translink

cost per new rider is around $25,000, except two outliers, the RRT above and the BRT below. Numbers from (4)

That is, the additional ridership could be at the expense of local bus routes, so if the goal is to increase the Transit mode share, and that is a goal of both the Province and the City of Vancouver [5], the figure become more striking, and solutions providing net gain time on the Commercial Drive to Central Broadway seems at a net advantage in term of “buck for the bang”.

Capital cost per point of additional Transit mode share in the corridor, compared to the 'business as usual' case. Numbers from (4)

Some solutions provide clear advantage in time of access time from Commercial to Cambie, and convenience from the Millenium (lack of Transfer), over others; and at least from the cost/additional rider perspective, looks reasonably priced. Obviously it couldn’t be the only metrics to look at…among others are the travel time to UBC [2], operating cost…

Under this regard, the lately added Combo 2 , RRT+BRT, could require more refinement:
The redundancy of service East of Arbutus doesn’t seem to provide the bang for the buck, noticeably in term of serviced area. We could have preferred something looking more like the rubber tire version of Combo 1 or looking like the figure below

Combo 2 could have been maybe better served by a 'BRT' reusing the 84 alignment terminating at Main, and a potential rerouting of the 44 to serve the RRT

The regional perspective

That is, as reported of this week workshops, and already outlined here, it is hard to ignore the regional significance of the connection of the Millennium line to the Canada line, which could have a “shaping” effect probably as great as if not greater than an extension of the existing Skytrain in the confins of the GVRD.

A discussion has been engaged by Stephen Rees on the trip model used to generate ridership. It appeared that Translink consider the Evergreen line built in its modelling. That says, they also rely on growth projection provided by external agencies; and this growth projection could not have considered a transit network effect

The network effect

The gap in the Vancouver rapid transit network is hard to ignore. credit (3)

On this topic, Jeffrey Busby mentioned that the scope of the study is really the Broadway corridor, and not addressing the question of the “extension” or not of the Millennium line.

  • According to the selected option, this question could be still open, leaving customer of the Millennium line to their frustration for very long time.

In that sense, an apparent cheaper solution, not based on an extension of the Millennium line could prove to be a costly mistake, but obviously all of that need to be quantified and LRT could make sense at least on part of the corridor

[1] You will find other account of it at Southfraser.net, vpsn blog or citycaucus.com

[2] The choice to prefer to compare travel time between Commercial and central Broadway rather than UBC is deliberate since UBC bound riders, mostly students, could be less sensitive to travel time than the more general users.

[3] Illustration from Jarret Walker

[4] UBC Line Rapid Transit Study Evaluation Summary – March/April 2011

[5] Province call for a doubling of the Transit ridership by 2020. Vancouver call for 50% non-auto mode share in the city by 2020


10 Responses to “UBC line rapid transit act 2”

  1. David Says:

    I much prefer your combo option to what I feel, and told TransLink in no uncertain terms, is their rather insane combination of BRT and SkyTrain. Not that I like anything involving a tunnel. If we absolutely must extend the Millennium Line west to a more logical terminus then let it fly at/above grade to Olympic Village where passenger counts are ridiculously low.

    It was sad to see TransLink go with American LRT over European. It confirms my long held belief that planners here think the core and suburb model is the way to accommodate growth in the region. Emphasizing travel time from Commercial to anywhere is wrong headed because it makes someone from Surrey or Coquitlam more important than the huge number of #99 and #9 bus passengers who board at other locations.

    The problem with the whole consultation is how much of a closed box it is. Only the “best bus” option looks outside Broadway for alternative ways of dealing with the distributed demand. RRT B talks of no-transfer connections to other services, but the LRT and bus options avoid the topic. LRT 2 could easily continue north on the Downtown Streetcar routes. It’s such a no-brainer that the City of Vancouver would probably pay for the track!

    TransLink’s questionnaire limits each answer to 500 characters so I need to find other ways of interacting with them.

  2. Voony Says:

    David, I have talked about the Olympic Village option to Jeff Busby at the breakfast, it is when it has mentioned to me that the scope of the study was really the Broadway corridor and not the extension of the Millennium line.

    In some ways, it makes sense: as you have mentioned there is a huge amount of traffic inner broadway (route #9 itself is very busy), and studying what are the best options to address this problem is sensible…Then, you can still see how to address the second more regional problem, which is the extension of the Millennium line, and see how to conciliate the both goal if possible.

    On the travel time, Jeff Busby also mentioned that-at least today- half of the 99B patrons were travelling all the way from Commercial to UBC. …I see also huge numbers waiting at Cambie …but again a lot of them come from suburbs….they could not go all to UBC or Commercial…but certainly a very significant share of ridership on Broadway is provided by people coming of outside the corridor (I think CoV had some number on it)

  3. Rico Jorimann Says:

    Nice post, is it appropriate to use just the numbers of the 99B for comparisons to new riders or should the numbers from the whole corridor be used? How would it affect the cost per new rider? I like the way you put data out there in ways that get me thinking. I have to say I think that translink not considering the network effect is asking for some serious underestimation of ridership with some options (not to mention on other parts of the system….I expect that a RRT or RRT/combo option will significantly impact Canada Line/Expo Line numbers as well).


  4. Rico Jorimann Says:

    Oops, one further question, could you do the graph to show Commercial to UBC travel times?

  5. Voony Says:

    Rico, you are right: it is questionable to consider only the 99B, especially considering that the option could also replace route 84, but that is the number I have from Translink ( I have updated the graph, with “business as usual” instead of today number). Those numbers give only how much more more attractive is the proposed solution compared to the 99B. That said, it could be at the expense of local bus routes…so it could be more relevant to measure the effect of the solution on the transit mode share in the corridor: That is the purpose of the additional graph I have added…

  6. Rico Jorimann Says:

    Thanks for the update, I like the additional info.

  7. […] to ubc blog”-Now, there is one that know of. Click here to access that blog or here for the City of Vancouver’s information for the UBC […]

  8. Nothing like joining a conversation… oh, about one year later! Missing from the discussion is how transit options will shape the experience of urban space. And, we really have to come to grips with some hard statistical data as to whether or not avoiding “a transfer” is a good enough reason to build Skytrain everywhere.

    From an urban design perspective, Skytrain is the last option behind subway, LRT, BRT, B-Line and trolley/bus, in decreasing order of capacity.

    What we are really grappling with in our region is the option between two models: Skytrain & Towers; and LRT & Human-scale TOD. The core should be serviced by subway. What we are really talking about is what will best densify the periphery.

    I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, I feel I have a good grip on what will produce sustainable or ‘good’ urbanism (Human-scale TOD). On the other, I have a firm grip on reality (Skytrain + Towers).

  9. Voony Says:


    Skytrain is another name for a subway in Vancouver…and it looks effectively that the subway/skytrain makes sense to serve the core.

    Can it also help to densify the periphery: it is the thesis I defend in this https://voony.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/freedom-map-with-broadway-rapid-transit/“>post (notice, that it is not involving a skytrain in the periphery)

    PS: I have just added a column with “latest comment” to give greater visibility to late comment on older post like those one

  10. […] add any supplemental information on what we already knew, and just predictably short list the previously presented options for public consumption, not sure we understand why it takes one year to Translink to do […]

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