If I were a gambling man, these would be my numbers. Emblazoned on the fronts of buses that carry more than half of all travellers to and from UBC Vancouver now, they’ve transported us a good deal closer to the sustainability jackpot. But what’s at stake now is bigger than UBC, and our lucky numbers can’t get us where we need to go on their own steam. Allow me to set the scene…
We’re standing on the UBC-Broadway corridor, waiting for the 99 B-Line. Stretching from Commercial Drive westward to the University, the corridor is BC’s second-largest employment district, providing more jobs than the next eight largest town centres combined. That includes a quarter of Vancouver’s tech sector employment and 40 per cent of the city’s health care jobs. It’s Western Canada’s largest health care precinct; millions of British Columbians visit VGH, UBC Hospital and the BC Cancer Agency every year. And the economic potential here is enormous. Linking health care, life sciences, the technology industry, and UBC’s research enterprise, the corridor has the makings of a technology hub on par with Toronto’s MaRS district, San Diego’s CONNECT, or London’s Tech City. Already, BC’s tech industry is the second-fastest creator of new private-sector jobs and growing more than twice as fast as the rest of our economy.
Here comes the 99. Better stand back: it’s not slowing down. The size of two regular buses, it’s packed to capacity. The next one’s not stopping either. Or the next. We might be here a while.
The corridor is the busiest bus route in North America. Every day, 110,000 people travel it by transit, half of them from outside Vancouver. And every day, 2,000 of them are passed by full buses. That’s half a million pass-ups a year. Factor in the additional 150,000 residents and workers expected over the next 30 years and, well, you get the picture: an exploding hub of innovation and creativity with the capacity to attract talent, businesses, and venture capital to this region; home base for our technology industry; the health sciences hub for the whole province; and the main artery connecting the city to UBC’s $10 billion economic clout, 150+ spin-off companies, research power and knowledge capacity… all choked off for want of a way to get from A to B.
The solution? Rail-based rapid transit running from Commercial and Broadway to UBC, connecting the Expo, Millennium, Canada, and Evergreen Lines to the corridor. Car traffic and bus capacity are maxed out now, and the streetcar some are suggesting wouldn’t be able to handle the growth that’s coming. On the day it opens, a UBC-Broadway line will have more riders than the Canada Line. With the future of BC’s economy top of mind, the decision is as clear as the need. The numbers speak for themselves, and whatever happens next, luck will have nothing to do with it.
“The UBC-BROADWAY CORRIDOR is the KEY GEOGRAPHIC CONNECTION between Vancouver’s central business district, UBC, and regional business centres and communities in Metro Vancouver.”
“The corridor already has many of the attributes of LEADING GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY CENTRES – proximity to a leading university, nearby business and financial services, a technically-skilled workforce and a high quality of life. However, it is MISSING HIGH‑CAPACITY TRANSIT.”
Source: KPMG study released by the City of Vancouver and UBC on February 28.
“An analysis on UBC-Broadway Corridor transportation usage has found that 40 PER CENT of UBC’S 60,000 DAILY COMMUTERS start their trips in communities outside of Vancouver, underscoring the regional need to improve the corridor’s STRUGGLING TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE.”
Source: AMS Press Release, April 11 2013.