Sunday, 3 November 2019

Broadway Subway - Everything We Know

The Broadway Subway Project is one of 3 current Vancouver infrastructure projects that I personally love watching unfold and I think will be great for the city.

For those that are unaware, the core idea of this project is to continue the Millennium Skytrain line from VCC-Clark station to Arbutus street (mostly under Broadway). The hope is that by tripling the capacity of current bus systems, and cutting the transit time by 2/3, more people will leave their cars at home and congestion at street level will lighten ahead of the growth of the city.

As usual, there are the ignorant armchair engineers and uninformed citizens that Translink and City Engineers must suffer.  I cannot imagine being recruited from the other side of the globe for my expertise successfully building similar things in bigger cities than here and listening to some of the complete bullshit as if for over a decade no accountants or data analysis by experts hadn't been focused on this one.

That said, despite the LRT idiots whose solution would meet like 1/10 of the key requirements of this project (but be cheaper, right!), there is a history that does invite some of that:

  • Under-built station lengths on the Canada Line (no one ever mentions the massive resistance citing no one would ever ride the Canada Line which is over capacity now..)
  • Skytrains plagued with outages over the years.  Since we have only 3 lines this can and has crippled the city (but doesn't that also suggest that if we build fast infrastructure,.. people will use it? To me that supports this project)
There is also a compelling case to be made for going further.. to UBC and a major campaign to make that happen. I'm a bit torn on that one.  Yes I'd like people out there to leave their cars West of Burrard but there is a very long and costly stretch between the University and Alma with zero business or population density where the people will never leave their SUVs. My feeling is the end should be Alma/Highbury (with a station at MacDonald too) in anticipation of the major, major development project there and existing business and population density already in place.  For the cost of the end part to UBC (a very fast road and almost stop-less now on 99 B-line) you can run one hell of a lot of last leg shuttle buses around the clock. 

COV and Translink have released many notices about the plans and timelines, and even setup a project office (right near my place!). However, like the Granville Bridge Improvement project the graphics and posts seems to submarine and disappear from time to time so I'm compiling my own collection of  "what is known" about the stations.

In this city, subway station placement will radically change neighbourhoods.  The city, of course, is trying to ensure that the cost of these stations is not wasted by allowing more densification along the line.  I'm going to share their drawings, but highlight something I don't think they are drawing much attention to: what will be redeveloped just to allow the temporary project work yards, let alone the stations themselves.

For example, near my closest station a major building is removed for the station, and several more go down almost a block away for a construction yard.  I'm not saying all development is bad but there is a 28 storey building being shoved in on the edge of my 3 storey neighbourhood... so my guess is the nice row of businesses being bulldozed between Hemlock and Granville is not just so they can store some sacks of concrete, but it will go from 1 storey buildings, to something that could alter the neighbourhood as much as the station itself.

First, here are the key links to read if you are interested in the "maps" of this project:

Let's go station by station and check out all of the pics together to paint a more fleshed out picture of what is going on along with the implications for the area. 
Red lines show the yards and an X indicates a building that will be lost.  My bad blue scratches indicate what part will actually be the station and not just new condos or businesses.
In many cases I'm guessing based on the info provided.

Great Northern Way

This station is where the train goes underground.  This should be great for servicing the growth here too, currently it is quite a walk from VCC.  Currently this is just an open area but the line (not the station), looks like it might require tearing down the Equinox gallery.

Mount Pleasant

I'm not really going to miss the tanning place across from Chutney Village but I am surprised that the new building up Main will go (but I think Noodle Box is crap and being this is a recent horrible building, no heritage lost).  The Tim Horton's is in an older building (an old bank?), but at least it is not the Lee building.

Broadway-City Hall

I don't know a ton about the process or machinery involved with boring, but this render shows the depth at which they will go (the station on the surface apparently remains the same but now you can go left at end of ramp).

What is interesting is how much space on the surface they are dedicating to the yard.  I think the City might own all of that land so I guess that makes sense but really a whole block is wiped clean.
The old 40s buildings don't surprise me, that block may actually improve for niceness for the average citizen but I'm surprised at the use of the parking lot off of 10th.
That lot is one the biggest concentration of the following things in our city:
  • EV plugins
  • Car2Go, Evo, Modo and some other weird share vehicles
  • Mobi bike share docks
To not have that removes of one of the major success factors for this hub: a means for people to come and leave the station without use of a personal car that needs a parking space.  I sure hope they have a plan B and long terms this space comes back (and more!)


This station services the huge medical building concentration and the hospital itself.  My sincere hope is that the simplicity of taking a faster service with less stops encourages the huge worker population to take transit more (apparently already high).  More importantly, maybe be the truck driving out of towners (presumably family of patients?) that drum up business for VGH daily by trying to wipe out the cyclists on 10th,.. will find taking a subway here easier from wherever they are staying.
The current B-line already has a special stop here bucking the trend of only stopping on the arteries but this makes sense.
Unfortunately there are some unique looking buildings that will becomes casualties of the station and needed construction yard. There goes more sunlight...

South Granville

This station services "my" neighbourhood so I'm particularly curious about how it all fits together.

Originally Daily Hive said the station entrance was going to be closer to Hemlock where DeSerres Art store is now. This would have been slightly nicer for me, but I digress.  Instead, it looks as if the building that holds the Royal Bank currently is going to be replaced.
As it stands now the building will not be much taller than it is now but that seems likely to change given 2 blocks away a 28 storey building on higher land was proposed.  In fact, this entire block except the newer building on Hemlock and Broadway will be gone.  The building across the alley from RBC (and the alley itself) will become part of the new building (not shown correctly with my red lines), as will the entire middle of the block.  For a local this sucks.

Supposedly just for the work yard (and not the station structure itself) we lose a great store for cards and art supplies, and other businesses have already moved out including some of the more useful ones in a desert of useful businesses for non-rich people.  Our only bike store,.. gone. Soon to go (along with sunlight): Memphis Blues, Breakfast Table, decent Chinese and Thai.  Why oh why couldn't we kill 2 birds with one stone and wipe out MacDonald's, Joey's and the cheesiest furniture store on earth out (Jordan's) instead?  Clearly, the reason to use certain spaces for the construction yards is also accelerating certain development agendas in the process, and usually trouncing the businesses I care for and the structures with history (unfortunately).


The final station (currently) is Arbutus. This is the one I hear most complaints about for 2 reasons:

  1. Presumably because it inches further into quiet residential streets.
  2. Because it is the emotional focus of the end of the line where people feel UBC, MacDonald, or Alma should be the end.
The first one is not unwarranted. None is going to miss the Fido building which looked temporary the day it was built as a video rental store.. (though there are probably memories in the tree lot) but here will now be a bus loop in that same space.  I used to commute (by car) down Arbutus and that intersection can be hairy.  The thought of buses turning within 200m of the corner.. I'm not sure the subway will offset THAT many cars and given this is the hop off spot for the remaining journey to UBC... I imagine will very, very noisy and congested indeed.

To me, the work yard is the other frustrating part (but this one shorter lived).  For the duration of this project and another great project, the Arbutus Greenway, there will be a broken detour for pedestrians and cyclists.  Granted, there will be some killer new "character zones" added in the coming years, but it seems like bike paths always take the hit and these were recently built!

 Further questions

I'm really a big fan of this line despite losing some buildings I like and the fear it might be the beginning of the end for sunlight in winter along Broadway due to densification.

That said, I have at least one big question for the concept of ALL of these stations (especially City Hall, and Granville): why do we only have one entrance for each station? 

Congestion is not only cars,.. but also pedestrians crossing at intersections with cell phones and headphones and slowing the flow of traffic due to their complete ignorance of the road rules.  In NYC,.. you can get to each station from at least 4 different corners and walk underground.  City Hall and Granville stations should both have entrances that allow travel underground to the opposite corner.

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