The ambitious plans to expand the Vancouver region’s subway system to the University of British Columbia in the far west and Langley will get a significant boost from money committed by UBC and from development fees, says the head of the transit authority.
TransLink chief executive Kevin Desmond said UBC is now prepared to contribute $100-million or more, along with potential contributions from the three Indigenous nations with developable property near the university. Plans for significant new density along the Fraser Highway will make the Langley section workable, he explained in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
“The [UBC Board of Governors] said they want it and they’re willing to put in a very large amount of money, into nine figures,” Mr. Desmond said. “We believe the Musqueam [and others] would be similarly interested in contributing to the line.”
And, he said, the Surrey-to-Langley line now being planned will see significant development along its route, which is something local politicians are prepared for.
“They understand you’re going to have to build up density around the stations,” he said.
UBC’s associate vice-president for community planning, Michael White, said in an e-mailed statement that the university’s contribution to the line could consist of land for stations, charges collected from developers or transit-enabled revenue collected from people coming to the campus for recreation or culture. He said no specific dollar amount has been determined yet.
Mr. Desmond, the TransLink executive hired away from Seattle four years ago, is carrying out an aggressive plan to try to get all of that built – and more – as quickly as possible.
At the moment, TransLink is moving forward on a first phase of the Surrey-Langley line, a $1.6-billion project that will run from Surrey’s city centre to its Fleetwood neighbourhood seven kilometres away, while trying to plan for a second phase that takes it all the way to Langley.
In Vancouver, the province is overseeing the construction of the first phase of a 5.7-kilometre, $2.8-billion extension that would take the current Millennium Line from Clark Drive to Arbutus Street. Meanwhile, TransLink is working intensively on plans to build and finance a second phase that would continue on from Arbutus to the university. Those additional seven kilometres are currently estimated to cost as much as $3.8-billion.
The UBC Board of Governors passed a motion to support the line financially last April, saying it approved “the business strategy of exploring, along with external partners, a contribution towards the regional share of a rapid transit extension to accelerate its completion to the campus, provided the contribution does not affect funding for UBC’s academic mission.”
The board, which had previously said UBC did not have the resources to make the kind of financial contribution that, for example, Vancouver International Airport did for the Canada Line in Richmond, did not spell out an amount or a source for the money. The airport put in $300-million for the line, which has three stops on its property.
The Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh bands co-own, with the federal government, a big piece of land near Jericho Beach on the west side that is anticipated to see significant development.
There has been much discussion of having the Broadway line swing down to the Jericho lands at Fourth Avenue to serve that development.
“They see the success of the development could be dependent on transit,” Mr. Desmond said.
Mr. Desmond said that the results of the federal election, where there are likely to be promises of transit money from all parties, could mean a seamless construction project for the full line to Langley.
“If everything went well and there was another round of funding available, it’s not that hard to get the additional money to Langley,” he said.
He did caution, though, that things could go the other way, without spelling out which party might be responsible for that.
“Everything could slow down and there could be no money for many years,” he added.
That would be frustrating for everyone in Vancouver, said Mr. Desmond, who noted that, although there are a lot of new mayors in the region, enthusiasm for more additions to the bus and rail networks has not dimmed.
“They all want more transit and they want it yesterday,” he said. In the current consultations about a new 2050 transportation plan, they are asking for everything from a gondola to Simon Fraser University, SkyTrain to North Vancouver and, in one suggestion, an extension of the Canada Line from Tsawwassen in the far south to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.