The Subway To Stupidville

Patrick Condon is the James Taylor chair in Landscape and Livable Environments at the University of British Columbia’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the founding chair of the UBC Urban Design program.

Prof. Condon is worth listening to, as he gets it about transit, which is a rare commodity with Metro Vancouver’s academia .

Building with SkyTrain, has turned into the Canadian version of Lysenkoism, where there has been a grand distortion of the transit planning process, to favour pre determined political, academic and bureaucratic biases.

Definition of Lysenkoism: metaphorically describes the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives.

The Broadway subway may turn into a FastFerry style fiasco, where it would be just cheaper to operate buses. The Charleroi metro in Belgium is a good example of building a subway, but never used because operating costs were such, it was cheaper to operate buses on the route. The subway lays derelict, never used, waiting for trains that will never come.

Subway to UBC? What No Mayoral Candidate Dares Say

They’re all aboard. But here’s why we should pull the emergency brake.

By Patrick Condon Today |


View of proposed UBC Stadium Area development and proposed 30-plus-storey high-rises. From UBC Stadium Neighbourhood Phase 3 Planning Consultation website.


You might think a mega-project with huge cost risks would become a major issue dividing candidates who aim to be mayor. Not this time in Vancouver, where all four of the so-called leading candidates give at least weak support to extending all the way to the UBC, a Broadway subway that so far is slated just to run to Arbutus Street.

Some candidates are more fully on board than others. Mayoral candidate Shauna Sylvester seems the most wildly enthusiastic, saying that, “Once we start digging… we need to connect to (UBC)… you don’t start and stop again.”

Sorry, yes you do, if the gamble is too great, the price tag is too high, and the supposed reason for the project doesn’t add up.

The price tag. The already-slated stretch of the Broadway subway, which would start at Commercial Drive and end at Arbutus Street, was supposed to cost $2.1 billion but now is pegged at $2.8 billion. Running it out to UBC could add $4 billion more, as we elaborate below. Perhaps a lot of Vancouverites aren’t worried because they figure the feds or province are certain to cover almost all of it. They should worry.

The gamble. Three sources of funding are earmarked for the Broadway subway to Arbutus: federal, provincial and local — local meaning a combination of money from local taxpayers and TransLink, according to press reports. But as mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart recently acknowledged, the precise mix of funding for the Broadway subway to Arbutus is not yet a done deal. Ottawa’s share is not guaranteed until the federal budget is passed this spring. Even less certain is how the province and local funders might chip in. That’s because we remain in the dark about who can lay claim to the region-wide transit focused development tax approved by the province. Is that development tax revenue money going to be credited to the local share or the province’s share? We don’t know.

For the rest of the story, click.


7 Responses to “The Subway To Stupidville”
  1. Almond says:

    Extending the subway to UBC is the best investment for Vancouver. The #99 is an ugly, noisy, smelly and overcrowded bus.

    Zwei replies: A $6 billion+ subway to UBC a good investment, really? Well I have some BRIC Shares for you to buy.

    It is a terrible investment that may just bankrupt TransLink and Metro Vancouver.

  2. Almond says:

    “The already-slated stretch of the Broadway subway, which would start at Commercial Drive ”

    That is not true. it will not start at commercial drive. Did you do your research?

    It will be extension of the Millenium that currently ends grandview highway at Clark Drive.

    Zwei replies: Really? Really, really?

    Commercial Drive stations must be completely rebuilt to handle the transfers. You do your bloody research.

  3. Almond says:

    Yes, really.

    Actually, commercial drive station is already being rebuilt right now. A third platform is being added to the expo line station and a new bridge was recently added over broadway to connect with the millenium line station. A new entrance was added on 10th avenue, in addition to the extisting 2 entrances on Broadway. This is to improve the flow of people through the stations.

    There was an open house recently in Kitsilano. Project planners says it will be an extension of millenium line to Arbutus in phase 1. Phase 2 will take it to UBC.

    Millenium line terminates at Clark Drive, 6 more stations will be added to extend to Arbutus.

    I did my research. What about you?

    Zwei replies: First of all, if you have read this blog for any time, I have done my research; going to a TransLink open house is not research, it is a propaganda fest.

    All is old news to me.

    Now here is something to think about. The Broadway subway is funded up to $2.8 billion, but now estimates are creeping over that figure and the project may cost $3.5 billion when completed. Who is going to ante up the $700 million difference? Or is the Broadway subway going to be like Germany in the 70’s and 80’s with almost 100 km of uncompleted subway tunnels, which ran out of money for completion?

    Today, some of the subways have now been completed, but many portions remain unused, with a few being used to grow mushrooms.

  4. Almond says:

    There is plans to upgrade the expo line too.

    Zwei replies: To date no funding for this $3 billion rehab.

  5. zweisystem says:

    On a general note. Subways are hugely expensive and complicated to build, subways are also very expensive to maintain.

    TransLink does not understand this, as the Broadway subway is being built strictly for political reasons and nothing to do about providing better transit.

    Those who support the subway either are badly misinformed; making money off subway construction; protecting academic careers, or land speculation.

    You can build a subway under Broadway, the question is, can you afford to operate it?

  6. Haveacow says:

    @Almond yes, there is a plan but if you actually read it, many of the details like a list of projects, construction scheduling, work plans, detailed engineering and design not to mention anything about planned budgets, aren’t there. There plan says essentially, when we are finished doing what we want to do next (Evergreen extension, Surrey LRT and the Broadway extension) we (Translink) will make a Expo Line maintenance project list and see what needs to be done most urgently. Hopefully, we will have funding by then however, we have no idea what this will cost! That’s there plan, which it really isn’t. It’s planning to do a to do list of most needed projects. Essentially, will see what breaks down first and try and fix it then! There’s no capital funding outside of the current 10 year plan. Which covers only the easiest and cheapest of the Skytrain maintenance backlog! The vast majority of the work and updates needed for the Expo Line is unscheduled and completely unfunded!

  7. Haveacow says:

    Oh yes, @ Almond consider these little points. When that report was written Translink had no idea about how much new cabling for both the power system and the communication system was needed. That was literally just completed this week ( I’m a friend and colleague of the person doing it). They still have no idea about the true condition of the right of way between the stations on the Expo Line. As for the tunnel in downtown that engineering condition assessment doesn’t begin until next year. Tracks and signaling equipment assessment has yet to begin. What we do know about those areas is that, both systems require much of the existing infrastructure to be ripped out and upgraded. How much, where and replaced with what there’s no exact answer, those assessments are year or two away. Remember, these are assessments, not the actual work or even a realistic work plan of when and what will be actually worked on!

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