Broadway merchants want light rail not SkyTrain down business corridor
A coalition of merchants and residents opposed to the building of a SkyTrain line along Vancouver’s Broadway corridor rolled ahead with a meeting Tuesday to discuss alternatives.
About 120 people packed the meeting held by the Business and Residents Association for Sustainable Transportation Alternatives (BARSTA) at the St. James Community Square in Kitsilano.
Donna Dobo, a business owner who attended, is concerned that she will be “squeezed out of business” during construction.
Dobo has been operating a costume store called Just Imagine at the Broadway Avenue location for 22 years. “Business is good, but I don’t know if I could survive three to four years of construction with no foot traffic,” Dobo said. “A tunnel construction with huge craters would completely destroy us.”
Broadway merchants, such as Dobo, are concerned that SkyTrain construction like the Canada Line on Cambie Street would be detrimental to business. She, along with a contingent of like-minded merchants, would rather opt for a street-level electric system with stops to encourage passengers to use Broadway’s shops.
Several Cambie Street owners are involved in a class-action lawsuit for damages, claiming the decision to use a cut-and-cover construction method instead of a bored tunnel resulted in problems that hurt businesses. Mel Lehan, a Kitsilano resident and co-founder of BARSTA, said he remains very concerned that a “transit system will be imposed” upon them without consultation. “I think [TransLink has] already decided to build a SkyTrain,” Lehan said.
But TransLink’s Ken Hardie dismissed the notion. “I honestly don’t know where they got that idea that a SkyTrain is the front-runner,” Hardie said. “We are looking at a variety of options.”
Hardie said a complete list of options for the 12-kilometre extension between Commercial Drive and the University of B.C. will be given to city council within the next two weeks. “We’ve been doing consultations with the community in a very robust manner,” Hardie said.
Although a cost analysis will not be completed until the proposals are submitted to city council, Hardie said he hopes that the UBC and Surrey lines will be extended within the next 10 years.
Meanwhile, Jerry Dobrovolny, assistant city engineer of transportation, confirmed that council passed a motion in 2008 stating a preference for the bored-tunnel approach under Broadway or 10th avenues.
Despite the rising concern over the future of the Broadway corridor being raised, transportation economist and regional planner Stephen Rees assured the meeting’s attendees that worrying is all for naught. “TransLink can’t afford to build anything right now . . . They can’t even afford to run more lines on the already overcrowded Canada Line,” said Rees, a former planner with the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority.
Citing the non-existent Evergreen Line and other proposed projects, Rees advocated TransLink look at creating a regional transportation system that includes outlying, rapidly growing cities like Surrey and Langley. “It’s very scientific. It’s very interesting but it’s not real,” he said of TransLink’s proposals. “They can’t afford to build anything here any time soon.”