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Archive for March 10th, 2023

Broadway Subway Project will reduce transit time in British Columbia’s second largest business hub to only 11 minutes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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Photo provided by Sarens

I have this morning received a Press Release from a Belgian crane company that helped install the tunnel boring machines for the Broadway Subway in Vancouver. The reason I have decided to post on this bog about it is that it makes some quite remarkable assertions about the benefits of this project. My commentary appears after their quoted text below. Not all of the Press Release is included here.

This new project, scheduled to open in 2026, will cover a 5.7 km extension of the Millennium line between VCC-Clark Station and Broadway and Arbutus, and will create more than 130,000 direct and indirect construction jobs.

Sarens had a direct participation in this project, by contributing with its technical team and specialized machinery to the assembly of the tunnel boring machines (TBM) used for the construction of the subway section of the line.

This new line will represent an important environmental advance by exponentially reducing road traffic in the area, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 9,800 tons of CO2 per year by 2030.

“Construction work on the new Broadway Subway Project is already underway on the tunneling phase prior to completing the six underground stations along its 5.7 km route. Once inaugurated, this line, which serves as an extension of the Millennium Line, will reduce the travel time between VCC-Clark and Arbutus to just 11 minutes, saving the average transit commuter almost 30 minutes a day.

“This new subway line will consist of a subway section of approximately 5 km, while the remaining 700 meters will be built above ground to connect to VCC-Clark Station. Sarens, world leader in heavy lifting, engineered transport and crane rental, has participated at the request of Broadway Subway Project Corporation, an Acciona-Ghella joint venture, in the assembly of the tunnel boring machines (TBM) used for the construction of the subway section.

“For this particular job, Sarens used one of its Liebherr LR 1400-2 cranes in SDB configuration. To facilitate the transfer of the TBM parts into the tunnel portal, the team used a 70 m main boom with a 135-ton counterweight and a 170-ton Superlift counterweight. In addition, support cranes such as the LTM 1095 or the Terex Explorer 5800 were used.

“As the operation is within the City of Vancouver, the crane operators had to deal with a heavily congested site and tight lifting schedules. In addition, due to the limited visibility available for the installation maneuver of the various parts of the TBM, the technical team had to work under close coordination established by radio.

“Broadway Subway Project is a project driven by the province of British Columbia, which will be operated by TransLink once it is commissioned in 2026. It will cover a total distance of 5.7 km between VCC-Clark and Arbutus, a corridor recognized as the second most important business center in British Columbia.

“This new subway line is expected to generate more than 130,000 direct and indirect jobs. In addition, thanks to the project’s adherence to the Community Benefits Agreement, a significant portion of these positions will employ women, indigenous people and traditionally underrepresented sectors, which will benefit the community economically and create a highly skilled technical workforce base.”

The claim that this project will “exponentially” reduce road traffic is not supported by any evidence, nor is it consistent with the plan of building a subway. The whole idea of burying the line is to protect the current capacity for road traffic. There are no plans to reduce the amount of road space dedicated to moving and parking vehicles. If there were, the preferred alternative would have been light rail running on the surface. But the whole purpose of SkyTrain has always been to keep out of the way of the cars. The only difference is while the rest of the region’s rapid transit system is on elevated guideways this one is all in tunnel; just like most of the Canada Line in Vancouver.

The only way to reduce traffic is to either reduce the amount of road space dedicated to moving vehicles – and that includes parking spaces too – or start charging a fee for using the road. Neither of those are popular with Vancouver voters – especially those who like driving large cars and trucks, mostly with just the driver most of the time. Just look at the fuss made when one exclusive bike lane was put in Stanley Park.

Traffic expands and contracts to fill the space available. Roads can carry many more people when they use sustainable transportation modes – buses, bikes and walking. If road users insist on bringing their SUVs for every trip, congestion is inevitable but tends to adapt over time. Gridlock, when it does occur, is due to rare events and people using their cars and trucks to block intersections. This blog has made these statements many times over the years and no-one has ever managed to solve traffic congestion by building more road space. Simple geometry means modes that carry more people per hour than SOVs, and given priority in their own lanes will greatly increase the utility and attractiveness of streets. People also like spaces where they can sit down and watch the passing scene. As long as they are not deafened by engines and tire noise and choked with exhaust fumes. Broadway in New York City being a great example. Times Square now sees far more activity than it ever did when filled with cars.

Most of the people who will use this new stretch of subway currently use transit. The 99 B-Line being one of the busiest bus routes. Since the subway line will only get as far as Arbutus Street many will continue westwards on what will be a shorter B-Line route. It could get Rapid Bus treatment, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that.

I expect that the Broadway subway will attract new transit users, but even if there are a lot of people who stop driving and start riding transit all the time, don’t expect that to translate to fewer cars on the street absent a user fee or a reduction in road width dedicated to cars and trucks. When Toronto decided to replace the streetcars on Yonge Street with a subway, traffic in downtown increased – since there were no longer streetcars holding up the cars while people got on and off them.

When the Broadway subway opens do not expect any reduction in people driving. The people who do switch modes will quickly be replaced by others hoping for a quicker drive along Broadway with fewer buses competing for space. Within a very short period of time any available road will be occupied. Guaranteed.

A nice new B-Line bendy bus (hybrid diesel electric) on its way from UBC. Once the subway opens this service will terminate at Arbutus Street Station.

No decision on the extension of the Broadway Subway to UBC has yet been announced.

My photo CC license for non-commercial use

This post was revised on March 13, 2023 to correct the country of the crane company.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 10, 2023 at 10:36 am