Flying a Trial Balloon

Trial balloon: A tentative measure taken or statement made to see how a new policy will be received.

As the Daily Hive seems to be the official organ of TransLink, it comes as no surprise that a trial balloon is floated regarding an elevated SkyTrain to UBC.

The first problem is that Vancouver City Council, horrified at the ugly elevated guideway in New Westminster, Burnaby and East Vancouver, passed a by-law banning an elevated guideways within the city.

An elevated light-metro guideway would be political suicide for MP’s and MLA’s in the riding’s it passed, it would also be political suicide for any Vancouver Councillor or mayor supporting this option.

What is of interest is the reposting of this almost year old story and I would surmise, it was done to take the spotlight off of the current subway controversy.

Other than a bureaucratic make work project for under employed Translink planners, an elevated SkyTrain trundling to and fro to UBC is a non stater.



SkyTrain, a nice fit over Broadway?

UBC SkyTrain route options examined along 8th Avenue and East Mall

Kenneth Chan

Jan 24 2019

UBC SkyTrain route options examined along 8th Avenue and East Mall

It’s a near certainty that if SkyTrain were to be extended all the way to the University of British Columbia, the section between Arbutus Street and Alma Street will be tunnelled under West Broadway.

There will be subway stations at Macdonald Street and Alma Street to serve the immediate areas and provide bus connections.

But west of Alma Street within Point Grey, the University Endowment Lands (UEL), and UBC, the route is far from certain and obvious at this early stage of planning.

According to the findings of the new detailed technical analysis released by TransLink earlier this week, rapid transit west of Arbutus Street to UBC needs to be SkyTrain to ensure the system is built with future-proof capacity. The final decision on rail technology lies with the Mayors’ Council.

However, if SkyTrain is chosen, the report reveals there are several route and built form options SkyTrain could take from Alma Street to the ultimate terminus at UBC’s Point Grey campus.

“The SkyTrain extension would be the one technology that would provide sufficient long-term capacity to meet the needs,” said Geoff Cross, the Vice-President of Planning and Policy for TransLink, during today’s Mayors’ Council meeting.

The main questions are now: “How much of it is elevated versus tunneled and what key land uses do you need to hit? Where are the stations located? What would the exact corridor be?”

For the Rest of the story, please click.


One Response to “Flying a Trial Balloon”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I think before you even care about the likelihood of surface or above grade Skytrain rights of way on the future Arbutus to UBC Millennium Line Extension (yes it will be a Skytrain like vehicle), you have to start getting accurate capital costs assessments. The article in the Daily Hive, is using costs without, a contingency of 40% to 60%, which using a contingency that high is ridiculous. Even the author’s basic cost assessent of a tunnel is so far of base that well you are better off relying on my 11 year olds assessment of, “a whole wack more than that! ”

    Unless everyone involved is able to put everything to tender by late 2021 to early 2022 at the latest, all the cost estimates for this project will have to be redone. All of the cost assessments are based on 2018 basic engineering assessments (not detailed engineering studies) starter assumptions, 2018 supply conditions of equipment and materials, not to mention out of date financing and insurance rates. If you are now opening the possibility of route and grade changes to the right of way, this is a signal to me that very little real planning towards the establishment of a functional construction project has been done.

    Right now I believe the cost of the Arbutus to UBC Skytrain extension, completely tunneled, with the exception of the last 600 – 700 metres, is between $3.6 to $3.8 Billion (which is lower than my last assessment) assuming the project is tendered by April 2022. Many material costs have actually dropped in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, if Translink goes beyond that, many other basic material and human costs will HAVE to be redone.

    On top of that another phenomenon that has been plaguing infrastructure construction is the huge increase in the last 15 years of pre-construction risk assessment /management costs. The entire federal P3 program was put in place to deal with this worrying trend. Private companies pay lower risk costs than government, hence the drive towards private companies acting like the defacto client. Even European and British infrastructure projects are seeing stunning increases of risk assessment costs. In many European regions up to 25% of final project costs are are pre-construction risk costs. In North America 30% – 33% of final project costs are due to pre-construction risk assessment/management costs.

    How much are you willing to pay for a Skytrain line to U.B.C. when you are still dealing with the drop of passengers due to the pandemic and higher pre-construction risk costs, not to mention basic price inflation in construction? A line extension to U.B.C. is really starting to look like a $4 Billion – $5 Billion project. This extension is just 7 km long for a Light Metro line which moves half as much as a Toronto or Montreal Subway/Metro line!

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