Critical response to ‘Skytrain to UBC’ MoU by CoV, UBC and MST: “Great Broadway Subway Grift Continues”

Arbutus to UBC SkyTrain map 2020

This costly extension idea is definitely NOT supported by everyone.

On January 29, 2020, the City of Vancouver issued an enthusiastic media release, “City, UBC and MST Development Corporation sign historic agreement to help get SkyTrain all the way to UBC,” and fact sheet (Arbutus to UBC Sky Train, PDF), and organized a joint media briefing at City Hall.

What is being proposed is big stuff. It involves huge public funding and is a big development play. And as with the Broadway Subway, for this proposed extension to UBC, officials so far have failed the public by failing to show balanced consideration, to have open discussion of the alternatives, and to question the numbers and other information being presented. Mayor Stewart will be off to Ottawa soon to lobby for federal funding. But there are serious critics of the proposed extension.

Rail for the Valley” is a group of experts that advocates for the return of a modern interurban service from Vancouver to Chilliwack and includes co-authors of the Leewood Study. Below is a response by one Rail for the Valley contributor to this week’s announcement of the MoU, followed by links to media coverage, and excerpts of the news release. “The Great Broadway Subway Grift Continues!” article by zweisystem is copied below, with permission, and includes an insightful cost comparison graph. But first, a definition from the Cambridge English Dictionary:

Grift: “Ways of getting money dishonestly that involve tricking someone”


The Great Broadway Subway Grift Continues!
Posted by zweisystem on Wednesday, January 29, 2020

One has to shake one’s head as the Broadway subway lobby desperately tries to have their way.

Reality is just not in their lexicon, as the city of Vancouver, UBC and several First Nations, all involved with land development along the route, are now lobbying for funding.

I would like to ask:

  1. Where is the funding coming from for the about $4 billion subway?
  2. Who will pay the added the operating costs? The cost to operate the subway to Arbutus will be around $40 million annually; around $50 million to UBC.
  3. Who will pay for mid life rehab, 25 years down the road? In Germany, the gift of new subways, latter meant bankruptcy for transit authorities when mid life maintenance costs cannibalized monies from the rest of the transit system and they collapsed.

Important questions, that the Broadway subway lobby ignore and will ignore at the taxpayer’s peril!

  • TransLink fired its two top planners because they did not like to hear the truth that there was not the ridership on Broadway to justify a subway. So who trusts TransLink?
  • Then there are the land speculator/developers, enabled by the city of Vancouver, who is going to believe this lot of grifters, especially when there is not the ridership to justify a total $7 billion subway?
  • The mainstream media have been bribed by scarce advertising dollars to report positively on the subway and to ignore contrary opinion, thus making the mainstream media nothing more than the Canadian version of Pravda and Radio Moscow! The previous post certainly shows that!
  • As Barnum observed, there is a sucker born every minute and the Broadway subway lobby are banking on the fact they all live in Metro Vancouver!

Cost comparison transit mode Metrolinx rail for the valley

Graph prepared by Metrolinx to inform the debate on choice of modes.

Update – These numbers were for Greater Toronto. A Canadian cost estimate is apples to apples. The costs for Vancouver are comparable. 



First Nations, city, UBC pushing to go farther, together. Opinion: Mayor’s pitch for SkyTrain to UBC might be harder for Ottawa and Victoria to ignore with UBC and, especially, local First Nations firmly and formally on board. (Dan Fumano, Vancouver Sun, 29-Jan-2020)

Excerpt: “It’s an expensive proposition. A preliminary estimate from TransLink said SkyTrain extension from Arbutus to UBC could cost as much as $4.8 billion. The parties represented on the stage Wednesday expressed — in very vague terms — their willingness to discuss how they could contribute to making it happen. …. Time is of the essence, Stewart said, with projects in Toronto and Montreal competing for federal dollars.”

First Nations, UBC join Vancouver mayor in plea for $4-billion SkyTrain extension: Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he has no ‘plan B’ if senior governments don’t fund project (Mike Howell, Vancouver Courier, 29-Jan-2020)

Excerpt: “Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow, Tsleil-Waututh First Nation Chief Leah George-Wilson, Squamish Nation band councillor Khelsilem and UBC president Santa Ono were at city hall Wednesday to announce a memorandum of understanding with [Vancouver Mayor Kennedy] Stewart and the City of Vancouver.”

More to be added



City of Vancouver – News release – January 29, 2020 EXCERPTS

City, UBC and MST Development Corporation sign historic agreement to help get SkyTrain all the way to UBC

The City of Vancouver, UBC and the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Development Corporation (MST-DC) are joining forces to advocate for the completion of a SkyTrain line all the way to UBC as soon as possible.

The unique partnership was struck late last year via a Memorandum of Understanding. The three organizations committed to jointly advocate for federal, provincial and regional support and funding for the extension of the Broadway Millennium Line beyond the currently planned terminus at Arbutus St.

“This agreement sets a new example for how city-building in the 21st Century should work,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “Building SkyTrain all the way to UBC is a regional priority that will not only help connect academic and health sciences along Broadway with the rest of the region, it will put Reconciliation into practice as we work in partnership with the MST Development Corporation.”

COV, MST-DC and UBC are neighbours and have a shared interest in working together to build vibrant and resilient communities that ensure Metro Vancouver continues to be a great place to live, learn, work and play. The three organizations are united in the pursuit of SkyTrain to UBC for its potential to achieve their shared aspirations of improved transit in the region, more affordable housing, better post-secondary accessibility, increased economic growth and reduced GHG emissions.

It’s the first MOU in Canada that brings together an academic institution, a First Nations development corporation and a municipality to seek investment in major transit infrastructure…


5 thoughts on “Critical response to ‘Skytrain to UBC’ MoU by CoV, UBC and MST: “Great Broadway Subway Grift Continues”

  1. Very good points. We should be also be looking for a life-cycle energy analysis showing embodied CO2 in the excavation and construction of a below grade transit system and how that still leaves the street as a continued playground for cars and the continual carbon costs of our car centric city, versus a BRT or LRT at grade which takes away space for cars encouraging more localized economies.


  2. I couldn’t agree more. For less, they can build far more student housing right on UBC lands instead of high priced condos there so students don’t need a subway they can walk to classes, AND probably afford a surface transit line between Vancouver and places like Chilliwack, Mission etc. Why isn’t West Coast Express partnering on that? Not one person I’ve met has ever said they’d like to see a subway to UBC along Broadway. Not. One. The plebiscite told the CoV that years ago. Broadway seems to function just fine as it is with buses running on it. Rise up people, stop the insanity.

  3. I almost snorted milk out my nose when you described Rail for the Valley as a group of experts. For kicks people should look at old posts in Rail for the Valley and compare to what we know now. Someday Zweisytem will be right but so far the record is not good. In regards to the attached post: point 1: where is the money? Good question, I don’t have the answer but obviously it won’t go forward if money is not budgeted. The question should be should the money be budgeted for an Arbutus to UBC Skytrain. Thankfully there is a publicly available cost benefit analysis available (Rob9363 it also speaks to lifecycle carbon). I encourage everyone to read the cost benefit analysis (remembering costs for all options have gone up). Point 2: Operating costs (and maintenance), this is crucial and again we can look to the cost benefit analysis to compare options. Skytrain is the LOW cost option for operations and maintenance per rider. Or we could just compare Skytrain operating/maintenance costs per rider against other North American LRTs as these numbers are generally publicly available and despite what Zweisytem often repeats by rider Skytrain has the lowest cost in North American rail systems for operations and maintenance. Point 3: you know I would love to see a source of Zweisytem’s statement about German U-bahns (metro systems) because I have not seen it and whenever I asked for it from Zweisytem…silence. If people are interested they could look at German per capita transit use in different cities and no regression analysis is needed to see the correlation between U-bahn(metro)/grade separated S-bahn and higher transit ridership. The post also has ‘important questions’ – the first is apparently Translink fired a couple of planners I certainly have never heard it had anything to do with Broadway…except of course from Zweisytem. But let’s compare the results of Zweisytem’s ridership projections on the RAV line (now Canada Line) vs Translink’s. Zweisytem frequently stated the RAV line would not even get the 40,000 boardings the Express buses on the route got because of the ‘forced transfer’, and the RAV will never get the ridership predicted. Sound familiar? The sucker’s Zweisytem is referring to are those who uncritically accept what he says.

    • Rico, unlike your misrepresentations, the Rail for the Valley blog is vetted by real transit experts and engineers, something that you and the SkyTrain lobby are loath to admit too.

      How many people actually use the Canada line? How many are forced to transfer from bus to the Canada Line? How any U-Pass users make multiple daily trips on the Canada Line? These are questions that Translink refuse to answer.

      Pre covid, the Canada line actually carried under 45,000 actual people a day with most people boarding the metro at least twice a day (in and out). Until there is an annual or biannual independent audit of ridership as done in Europe and the USA), claims by TransLink should be taken with a grain of salt.

      The claim that SkyTrain has lowest cost of North American rail systems is pure B.S. In 1992 the total annual subsidy for the Expo line to New Westminster was over $157 million annually, more than the subsidy of the combined bus and trolley bus systems.

      I ask this quest over and over again; “Why, in an era of unprecedented investment of regional rail in the world, only 7 of the proprietary and now called MALM light metro have been built in the past 40 years and why just three are seriously used for urban transit?”

      No one has copied Vancouver’s transit planning and no one has copied Vancouver’s exclusive use of Light metro!

  4. Pingback: Opinion: TransLink SkyTrain Business Case Hoax – letter sent to PM & Premier | CityHallWatch: Tools to engage in Vancouver city decisions

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s