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Dan Fumano: Connecting the region with the "behemoth" that is UBC



Vancouver City Council on Wednesday reviewed the plan with major regional implications: How to connect the wider region with Vancouver's chief engineer called the "behemoth at the end of the line".

That "behemoth" is the University of British Columbia. The council heard that it is now not only an educational institution, but a growing community with a daily population that is approaching the size of municipalities like Kamlops and Nanaimo.

UBC is also the third-largest BC employment center, a council is heard, and a plan ahead of them on Wednesday will link it with numbers 1 and 2: the center of Vancouver and the Broadway corridor.

Wednesday after almost eight hours of presentations, questions and debates, the Vancouver Council voted nine to two to support SkyTrain extension from Arbutus Street to UBC, and to direct staff "to advance design development, including public consultation on to establish stations, vertical and horizontal compliance. "

The idea of ​​a fast transit link with UBC has been discussed for decades, and Wednesday's vote in the council was a key step, Mayor Kennedy Stuart to the Sun immediately after the vote.

"Today was a big step because he could have died today," Stuart said.

Voting on Wednesday was crucial, partly because of the weather, Stuart said and others, as the next meeting of the Mayor for Regional Transport Council is February 15, to discuss the next steps for the project.

If the project receives such support at the regional level, Stewart said, it will help in the case of funding from high levels of government, especially in one federal election year.

"But," said Stuart, "if our local council did not support it, it would have been done."

Hours before the vote on Wednesday, Stuart told his advice: "This is one of these very big decisions … I can tell you, today, many people are watching us."

The council received a study last week, paid by TransLink, UBC and City of Vancouver, which updated the previous work conducted between 2008 and 2012. The new study recommended SkyTrain, via light rail, as the only option that provides enough capacity.

The expansion of the Broadway subway to Arbut was approved in May 2018 by Vancouver's previous council as the main underground expansion of the Millennium SkyTrain Line from Clark Drive to Arbut. And in the coming months, as Stewart was running a mayoral campaign, he was a vocal champion for bringing SkyTrain to UBC.

Several citizens who opposed the proposal on Wednesday told the Sun that although true, Stuart was campaigning for a quick transit to UBC and winning the October elections, winning only a small difference.

Nevertheless, Stewart's mayoral opponents, who finished second and third, each with a significant part of the vote, also campaigned for SkyTrain's expansion to UBC. In fact, the four top-most mayoral candidates backed SkyTrain to UBC, which means more than 90 percent of voters in Vancouver in October supported mayoral candidates who campaigned for SkyTrain at UBC.

UBC professor Patrick Condon, who announced last year that he intends to run for mayor before retiring, is one of SkyTrain's main opponents to UBC. But it looks like he realizes that his viewpoint is not widespread: the title of his column this week for The Tyee asks: "Am I the last voice against SkyTrain to UBC?"

The idea has broad support in the region, according to recent polls. The October survey of the Cooperative Survey showed that 86 percent of Vancouver respondents – and 87 percent of respondents in the Metro Vancouver region – advocated extending the past Arbitus line to UBC.

More than two dozen speakers signed to address the council on this subject. They heard enthusiastic support for fast transit to UBC from representatives of graduate and undergraduate university students, the biotechnology industry that is spreading there, organizations representing business interests from Vancouver to Sarrie, and the union representing campus employees.

Ten speakers prompted the council to oppose the SkyTrain option west of Arbut. Postmodia talked to council councils with five of SkyTrain's opponents, all of whom said they were long-standing proprietors of the neighborhood around the proposed transit line, but had concerns beyond their own backyards.

Stewart asked City Engineer Jerry Volunteer, a 30-year veteran from the City Hall in Vancouver for the opportunity ahead of them, with the alignment of federal and provincial governments on a fast-track route, as well as UBC and Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh I nations, whose joint corporation develops the countries of Jericho, near a possible future station around Alma Street. Stewart asked: "Is this an open window at this stage, which has not been open for a very long time, and maybe it can be closed very quickly if we do not act?"

Dobrovolny replied: "I will stop saying that it will close, but I can say that it was not open to this measure in the past."

Volunteer also expressed fear that sometimes the process of rapid transit moves slower than its name suggests.

"My serious concern is that as a region, we make these rapid transit decisions slow," Volunteer said. "We deliver a project every decade or more, and our region grows at more than double speeds. And I am very concerned that we are quickly losing ground."

The University Vice-President of University Campus and Community Planning, Michael White, told the council that the university is ready to "materially contribute to go to university until academic funding is used."

White did not give details of how much of the cost can be covered by UBC, but its presentation says that the contribution of UBC may include providing land for stations, a "transit" for revenues or fees collected by developers.

The only advisers who opposed SkyTrain on the UBC plan were NPA Kong. Colin Hardwick and Koneski Council. Jean Swanson.

Many councilors who voted for it mentioned the importance of transit for their children and the future of the wider city. Immediately after the vote, some City Hall employees discussed their children one day using the line, which is expected to be completed by 2030.

dfumano@postmedia.com

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