The propaganda campaign for the UBC subway has begun. Here comes the Campbell Line!



On September 8, the first day of regular commuting, after the summer break, in the region, the Vancouver Sun had a “Canada Line” Live chat where a poll question pops up “Should SkyTrain continue to UBC” and not surprisingly 59% have voted, “Yes get on with it”. Here we have the the first push of a massive propaganda campaign to win public approval for building Vancouver’s UBC subway. Certainly the mainstream media, both print and electronic, loudly banged the drum for RAV/Canada line and now banging on the drum for the UBC subway.

Not only should a UBC subway worry residents in the Tri-Cities as they see their long promised Evergreen Line dismally fade away, it should worry residents in the Fraser Valley, that once again Vancouver is getting a politically prestigious subway at the expense of regional and provincial taxpayers. The promoters of the a UBC subway and the SkyTrain Lobby will delight at the fact that once again taxpayers who live outside of Vancouver, with no say on how transit is provided inside Vancouver will see massive tax and user fee increases to fund a subway to UBC that they will seldom, if ever use.

It will take about one year before the hoopla of the RAV/Canada Line dies down and a meaningful statistical analysis can be made. Many questions must be answered, including:

  1. How many RAV Line customers first took a bus to the metro?
  2. Is TransLink apportioning fares between bus and metro?
  3. What percentage of RAV Line customers use deep discounted U-Pass?
  4. What is the real daily ridership?
  5. Is there an independent audit of RAV service?

Before we invest any more money on a very expensive subway, we first must have solid evidence that the RAV/Canada Line has indeed attracted new customers and that it has created a discernible modal shift from car to transit, in the neighbourhood of at least 30%. If not, then a subway, under Broadway, will be a colossal waste of taxpayers money.

Just what sort of ridership justifies subway construction? About 400,000 to 500,000 passengers a day, far less that what the Broadway buses carry on Broadway today. TransLink and SkyTrain/metro lobby are again, selling ‘pixie dust’ planning as real the real thing, with faux arguments supporting a SkyTrain subway!  One must stop and pause for a moment to reflect, that despite now investing over $8 billion of taxpayers money on light-metro, TransLink share of regional ridership is still a dismal 11% to 12%, a number that has remained almost unchanged for almost two decades!

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is TransLink’s modus operandi!

Gordon Campbell, with full support of Liberal ‘West side types’, Vancouver politicians, UBC academics, and the mainstream media will champion a nearly $4 billion subway because Vancouver is a ‘world-class city’ and as everyone knows ‘world-class cities’ all have subways; whether the subway will actually attract the motorist from the car is a different matter.

Premier Gordon Campbell, with a disastrous start to his third term as Premier and with the CN Rail-gate trial beginning to stink like three day old fish, is looking for a legacy or two before he departs for more leisurely pursuits in Maui. Could it be that the new replaced Port Mann Bridge will be called the Gordon Campbell Bridge and the new UBC subway will be called the Campbell Line?

One thing is for certain, if the Campbell Line subway is built, watch for TransLink to implode, as Fraser Valley politicians shun the transit authority like a leper, and call for a new South Fraser Transit Authority. If that happens, then wait for shrill screams of Vancouver’s taxpayers as they have to pay the real cost of a very expensive, yet needless politically prestigious subway.


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12 Responses to “The propaganda campaign for the UBC subway has begun. Here comes the Campbell Line!”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    According to stats can, 16.5% of commuters took public transit in 2006, up from 11.5% in 2001 (which was a bus stike year).

    IMO evergreen skytrain would have to be built first before extending down broadway.

    Zweisystem replies: Sorry mezzanine, don’t pull that one, the fact is TransLink’s share of regional transit is about 11% to 12%, your figures do not take in account of population increase nor that car ownership has risen by 90,000. As before, statscan’s statistics are not as dependable as they were before and should not be used for transit planning, rather we need solid statistics from annual or bi-annual independent audits of TransLink, including ridership, as just about every other city in the USA and Europe must do.

    TransLink’s increase of ridership just matches that of population growth and there is absolutely no evidence that our light-metro system has created a modal shift from car to metro.

  2. Xerx Says:

    thought the Canada Line was the Campbell Line

  3. Jim Says:

    “One thing is for certain, if the Campbell Line subway is built, watch for TransLink to implode, as Fraser Valley politicians shun the transit authority like a leper, and call for a new South Fraser Transit Authority. If that happens, then wait for shrill screams of Vancouver’s taxpayers as they have to pay the real cost of a very expensive, yet needless politically prestigious subway.”


  4. David Says:

    To put the 400,000 to 500,000 number into better perspective…

    The Expo line carries fewer than 200,000 per day. That’s despite 24 years of effort to concentrate development around the line and the force feed bus passengers to the train. The line is nearly 29 km long, passes through 4 cities and is supplemented by bus and Millennium line passengers from at least two other cities, yet it falls woefully short of the number needed to justify a tunnel of any kind.

    Anyone who thinks a subway to UBC is going to carry twice as many people as the Expo Line is smoking some really amazing stuff that they need to share with the rest of us so we can be as ‘happy’ as they are.

    UBC SkyTrain is supported by a number of self interested groups. Off the top of my head there’s:
    1. Rich west siders who want the trains underground so they don’t have to see or hear them.
    2. Students who despite paying no taxes whatsoever and only a minimal amount for a transit pass think they deserve a shorter commute.
    3. Citizens who’ve been duped into “world class” thinking.

    What’s more world class than New York City? What are they doing there? Reducing car use by closing some of their most famous streets and building extensive new bike facilities. Sure they have a subway, one of the most extensive in the world, but they have the population to justify it. The number of people who work in New York is roughly equal to the entire population of Canada minus Ontario.

  5. mezzanine Says:

    i like that stat because you can compare it to other metro areas in canada.(Toronto/Montreal = ~22%, with minimal growth)

    You can also have some comparison with jurisdictions in the US via the US census (portland = 13.3%, seattle surprisingly has 17%)

    It doesn’t take account non-work trips.

    Otherwise, there is no standardized way to define ridership.
    -APTA defines it as unlinked passenger trips (the number of passengers who board public transportation vehicles. Passengers are counted each time they board vehicles no matter how many vehicles they use to travel from their origin to their destination.)
    -NYC MTA defines subway trips as all entries to the subway, including from buses. It excludes train-t0-train transfers.

    Zweisystem replies: The problem here is that TransLink, like BC Transit before have never been honest with statistics because there has been an agreement between Bombardier and BC Transit/TransLink to sell SkyTrain abroad. SkyTrain was always made to look good and is still why TransLink comes out with these little gems such as “SkyTrain pays its operating costs”, even though the metro system is subsidized by over $200 million annually.

    Until there is an independent audit of ridership on our transit system (Seabus has turnstiles and its ridership figures are readily available) TransLink will still boast about the metro in full knowledge no one will contradict them. Remember Gerald Fox shredded the business case for the Evergreen Line; the Greer report made a farce about the Millennium Line and LRT was never even to be allowed to be mentioned in the bidding for the RAV/Canada line, even though the three of the bidders, including Bombardier, were rumored to want LRT as part of the project! No wonder SNC Lavalin won the contract, they have no experience operating transit systems, just building what they are told to build.

    All the ridership statistics in the world isn’t going to change the facts that a subway needs vast ridership, in the neighbourhood of 400,000 to 500,00 passengers a day to sustain it and the Broadway/Campbell Line will never achieve it.

  6. Who would benefit from a Broadway subway? « View from the 44 Says:

    […] of the anger, if not all, seems to come from some real confusion about who would benefit from it.  Here’s Zweisystem: The promoters of the a UBC subway and the SkyTrain Lobby will delight at the fact that once again […]

  7. David Says:

    A UBC subway would primarily benefit only two groups:
    Long distance commuters, especially those on the Millennium SkyTrain who would have a fast, zero transfer journey.
    Commercial land owners near proposed stations who will see allowable density and property value rise significantly.

    Everybody else should be against the subway.

    Those living outside the service area or between the widely spaced stations will get no better and likely worse transit service than they have today despite having to pay hefty tax increases. Those near stations will have to balance property value increases against the intrusion of higher density development, local parking restrictions and significantly higher crime rates.

    For small businesses the impact will be entirely negative. After dealing with construction, they will have to cope with higher taxes and lower sales unless and until higher density housing follows. They will also suffer from the same higher crime rates as local residents.

    Street level LRT has an answer for all those issues. Construction is fast and inexpensive so nobody suffers during construction or pays higher taxes afterward to fund it. Operating costs are lower than B-Line so fares don’t need to rise. Even crime isn’t a big deal thanks to highly visible bus stop style stations. There are typically more stations so even more people can use the system without needing a bus or long walk just to get on it.

    Big property developers should cheer LRT because more stations equals more places where zoning restrictions will be eased and land values rise.

    On the other hand, long distance commuters would face the same number of transfers they have today and would not save any time. However, they’re already compensated for their long commute with lower rent/mortgage payments.

  8. UBC Liner Says:

    Your faulty arguments are getting really tiresome. Around the world, over the last couple of decades, transit use has fallen due to cheap gas and sprawling development. The fact that transit use has remained the same and that commuting by transit has increased is a sign that what has been done in the region is successful, although, I admit, much more is needed.

    You also fail to mention that regions such as Calgary and Portland with extensive LRT systems have lower transit mode shares than Metro Vancouver. You chose to ignore the fact that commuting by transit has massively increased in Burnaby and New West over the last decade. Even if the Census numbers are not accurate, the increase is large enough to be significant.

    There is also no reason to exaggerate the cost of the UBC Subway. $2.8 billion is more than enough. I’m not sure why you say it is $4 billion as it just brings the rest of what you say into question.

    Your cherry picking of the facts does little to help the debate. You might what to set a good example and avoid propaganda yourself.

    Zweisystem replies: This is your fourth name change and quite frankly, you are a troll. That being said, if you had cared to read a book, subways are very poor in attracting new ridership. Subways drain money from the rest of the transit system, something that transit planners well understood in the 60’s & 70’s.

    Subways cost vary from about $150 million/k. to over $500 million/km. per km.; the close to $4 billion estimate for the Campbell Line is more accurate than $2.8 billion. All SkyTrain has done, with about 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first taking a bus to the metro, is give bus riders a far more expensive and inconvenient trip!

  9. Chris Says:

    David – some good points but I thought I’d take you up on the one about students not paying tax.

    BC has many consumption taxes and students are not exempt from them (taxes which will increase with the introduction of the HST I might add).

    Every time a student buys a beer (as we all know every student does), like everybody else they pay some tax.

    Furthermore, after graduating students are more likely to have higher wages and so will consume more and pay more tax over their lifetime.

    Fair game please – student may not pay much tax but everybody pays taxes and a smarter nation is in everyone’s interest.

  10. David Says:

    I sometimes get carried away. Education is important and students certainly pay consumption taxes.

    Why will a UBC subway cost more than $2.8 billion? You mean other than looking at what it costs to build elsewhere?

    As recently as late 2007 InTransit BC claimed Canada Line was still on track to complete within its original $1.35 billion budget. We’ve since been told the cost was $2.05 billion and information from the Susan Heyes court proceedings suggest the true total is close to $2.5 billion.

    The new Port Mann Bridge was approved after the original budget to build a bridge next to the old one doubled in a span of just 5 years during which time inflation was under 3%.

    The original study for the Evergreen Line pegged the cost to build the south east route at almost the same total as building the north west route despite one being almost entirely at grade in existing rights of way while the other required land acquisition and a $300 million tunnel.

    If there’s something our people in Victoria is good at, it’s providing hopelessly inaccurate estimates of project cost.

  11. Jim Says:

    Knocking down a perfectly functional bridge is another hair-brained idea, in my opinion.

  12. UBC Liner Says:

    Guess you don’t like competition with name changes. How many have you gone through? Oh, everything is OK if it is done in the name of the scared LRT. Give me a break. You are just pulling the $4 billion estimate out of the air with nothing to back it up. If you aren’t, say how you came up with it.

    Zweisystem replies: Insults aside; a competent transit consultant told me that the cost for a UBC subway could easily surpass $4 billion. Remember, the RAV/Canada Line’s costs were escalating so much that a switch was made from ART to a generic metro system; the stations were built so as to only accommodate 3 car trains; single track operation in Richmond and spartan station facilities. As built, RAV/Canada Line can’t even carry the same capacity as an on-street/at-grade system. The cost to increase capacity on the RAV/Canada Line? OVER $1 BILLION DOLLARS!

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