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The Globe and Mail

Projected demand for Vancouver's Broadway subway sees 250,000 trips on first day

A SkyTrain commuter train travels into downtown Vancouver on April 11, 2012.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

A subway along Vancouver's Broadway corridor would have 250,000 trips on its first day, new data suggest – and Mayor Gregor Robertson says it further strengthens the case to build the line as soon as possible.

Mr. Robertson, who is nearing the end of his second term and seeking re-election in the fall, told members of the business community at a downtown hotel Tuesday that building the Broadway subway is his top priority and the single best thing the city can do for its future.

"We've seen extraordinary demand on the Broadway corridor," he said. "… We need to get rapid transit through from Commercial and Broadway to the west.

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"The corridor really is choked with cars and we'll basically sacrifice our livability and our economic future by not investing in that as soon as we possibly can."

Mr. Robertson said the Broadway corridor is the second biggest jobs hub in B.C. and the busiest bus route in North America.

Previous data had suggested a Broadway subway could expect 125,000 trips on its first day – half of what Mr. Robertson said is now projected. He said the 250,000 subway trips would outpace the figures for either a new Massey Tunnel Bridge or the Port Mann Bridge. The mayor said building the subway would also cut the number of car trips along Broadway by 50,000, reducing congestion and improving air quality.

The new data were compiled by city staff, who analyzed information released by regional transportation provider TransLink.

The subway would stretch from Commercial and Broadway to the University of British Columbia. The university and city last year released a study, conducted by KPMG, that said rail-based rapid transit is necessary to meet the corridor's anticipated population growth and economic potential.

Mr. Robertson said it would take at least five years to build the line. The funding, however, remains elusive.

B.C.'s Liberal government has said there will be a referendum that asks the public what funding sources they're willing to support for transit improvements.

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Mr. Robertson said transit referendums have about a 70-per-cent success rate. Voters in Washington State last month voted against a transit tax increase, prompting cuts.

Mr. Robertson said it's unfortunate the province is going down the referendum path, adding that that it's critical to let the public know how important transit investments are.

"People are going to pay more if we don't invest in transit," he said. "It's actually more expensive to travel by car, and if you add a million people and you don't build more transit then people are going to be in more traffic and spending more money."

Mr. Robertson said Lower Mainland mayors will soon forward their 10-year transit plan to the province. Although he called the Broadway subway his top priority, he said transit upgrades are needed throughout the region. When asked if Vancouver should get the Broadway subway before Surrey gets its proposed light-rail transit network, Mr. Robertson said he sees a need for both.

"Our goal as mayors is to put together a cohesive plan for Metro Vancouver, and make sure that the whole region is served," he said. "…We need to make sure that the transit system serves all of us."

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