As 2020 comes to a close, I’m pleased to be turning my attention to a fresh new year and what it will bring for the university and our community.
While we continue to tackle the immediate challenges presented by COVID-19, I am eagerly looking ahead to the day when we can safely welcome everyone back to our campuses and when the university grounds are again thriving places of teaching, learning, research and community. Through the pandemic, we have learned that online education presents many opportunities, but great challenges as well. I think most will agree the experience has underscored the importance of in-person engagement and in-person learning in realizing the mandate of the university and the aspirations of our community.
As a premier teaching and research institution, significant employer and home to a growing residential community, UBC is positioned to play an important role in Canada’s economic recovery. For the Metro Vancouver region, connecting research, health, innovation, employment and housing destinations is critical to that recovery, and that’s why we are continuing to push for progress on a once-in-a-generation infrastructure project: the extension of rapid transit to campus.
Before the pandemic, UBC’s Board of Governors approved a strategy to secure a rapid transit line to the Vancouver campus. Since then, we have been working with partners throughout the region and the province to demonstrate why this project is so crucial for improving mobility, affordability, sustainability and access to education as well as supporting British Columbia’s economic recovery by creating thousands of jobs. UBC has partnered with Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and the City of Vancouver to jointly advocate for the line—we firmly believe that it is an example of reconciliation in action through its recognition of Indigenous community interests in major economic, social and community planning initiatives in Vancouver. Our aim is to enable the project to be built as a seamless continuation of the soon to begin Broadway Subway Project, which terminates at Arbutus St. If we are successful, we could see a station at UBC by 2030.
The UBC extension is more technically-justified and needed than any other planned or contemplated transit project in the region.
The UBC extension is more technically-justified and needed than any other planned or contemplated transit project in the region. The Broadway Corridor is the busiest bus corridor in Canada and the United States, and UBC is home to the busiest bus exchange in Metro Vancouver with more than 1,000 buses per day bringing students, faculty, staff and visitors from every municipality in the region. The current drop in transit ridership being experienced across the Metro Vancouver system is temporary; once the pandemic is behind us, the volume of UBC-bound commuter traffic will once again cause a disruptive regional transportation problem. Just look at the projections:
- 99 B-Line from Arbutus to UBC will be at capacity on opening day of the Broadway Subway to Arbutus St. (2025), meaning at peak hours, UBC-bound passengers will be waiting in line for buses.
- Daily SkyTrain ridership on the segment from Arbutus St. to UBC is projected to be higher than the entire rest of the Millennium Line today (119,000 daily riders by 2045).
- With 10,000 people per peak hour passing through, the UBC station, once complete, will be twice as busy as the current busiest station on the entire SkyTrain network (Burrard Station).
Significant progress has already been made in the planning for the UBC extension:
- January 2019: Vancouver City Council endorsed a SkyTrain extension to UBC.
- February 2019: TransLink Mayors’ Council endorsed SkyTrain to as the technology of choice for concept design and business case development.
- Work is currently underway to develop station location and route alignment alternatives as well as benefit-cost estimates. This work is expected to be complete in spring 2021, at which time a business case could commence.
UBC is now advocating for continued progress through the development of a business case. It is a critical time to maintain momentum on this important project, as the provincial and federal governments are developing economic recovery-related infrastructure plans. Over the past months, I have had many productive and positive discussions with key decision makers at all levels of government, including mayors from across Metro Vancouver, members of Parliament and key federal ministers.
I recently joined regional mayors and others from across Canada in calling upon the Government of Canada to establish a permanent transit fund—the UBC extension and other transit priorities depend on the government creating a new source of capital funding. I was encouraged to see the permanent transit fund referenced in the recent Fall Economic Statement and am hopeful it will be part of the government’s forthcoming economic stimulus package. Finally, I was pleased to see the UBC extension referenced in the recently announced mandates for ministers in Premier John Horgan’s new cabinet—I look forward to working with the premier and his cabinet to realize the full extension of SkyTrain to UBC.
In all of my meetings with government, I have reiterated UBC’s commitment to this project and that we continue to explore how the university could make a financial contribution to the regional share of the capital cost, ensuring no funds are diverted from the academic mission.
You can learn more about the UBC extension at https://ubc.ca/rapidtransit. I look forward to continuing to update you on this important project.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor