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How a SkyTrain to UBC will benefit the Broadway Corridor, according to an expert

Skytrain to UBC Hero

Produced by Postmedia Network

A rapid rail connection to UBC has long been a focus of Metro Vancouver’s transit strategy

And while some progress is being made with the extension of the SkyTrain’s Millennium Line as part of the Broadway Subway Project, this extension (scheduled to be completed in 2025) will only bring the SkyTrain as far as Arbutus Street — still a significant distance from the campus. This means the majority of commuters would have to transfer to take alternative modes of transport to get from Arbutus Street to the university. 

It is believed that further extending the line so it directly connects UBC’s campus to the broader community would have huge economic, social, and environmental benefits for all of Metro Vancouver. In fact, a 2021 transit survey of 15,000 Vancouverites found that 92% of people supported the train’s continuation to UBC. 

We talked to Dan Jordan, senior vice president with Vancouver Brokerage at Colliers, to find out what this extension could mean for UBC, Broadway, and the city’s future as a whole. 

“It’s a no-brainer to extend the SkyTrain to UBC,” says Jordan. “Broadway, for many years, has been one of the busiest transit corridors in North America so extending the line all the way out to UBC, for a more immediate connection, will have tons of benefits. Over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of life sciences companies emerge out of UBC, so a lot of times the research starts at the university and then, as they grow, they need to relocate off campus. A connection would lead to more growth of companies, like life sciences companies, on campus.” 

The extension would also improve access to a number of residential areas, making it easier for people to access different, and even more affordable, housing options across the entire length of the line. What’s more, it would mean a higher volume of people would be using a more sustainable form of transportation daily. 

With the construction of the new SkyTrain comes the Broadway Plan, a 30-year project focused on bringing new opportunities to the Broadway Corridor. 

“The plan over time is to revitalize the whole Broadway core,” Jordan explains. “Really, Broadway is the second downtown of Vancouver. But today, it’s very aged — it’s full of small buildings and lots of vacant storefronts because the buildings aren’t modern enough for the ways businesses need to use them today.”  

With additional density and the development of new buildings, it will become “possible for larger companies to [move to] the area” creating a community that’s “exceptionally vibrant, really diverse, with lots of great amenity offerings and of course, transportation with the SkyTrain’s extension down Broadway.” 

A focus on modernized buildings will not only bring about change in the office space but in the working lives of employees in the area by elevating the employee experience. 

“In the post-COVID world, the largest employers are trying to figure out the best way to attract all of their employees back into the office on a regular basis,” Jordan says. “So, again, these brand-new buildings with all of the modern amenities should be a big draw… As well, there’s going to be greener, more environmentally friendly elements to all of the buildings.” 

There is a multitude of positive aspects in the Broadway Plan but, as Jordan notes, it’s important to address some of the inevitable challenges that a comprehensive area plan like this can present. 

“I think probably the biggest challenge right up front is, there will be some displacement of the existing businesses in the area… And that upheaval is in order for new buildings to be developed,” he says. “With new densities and zoning allowed under this Broadway Plan, it will mean that a number of businesses will have to relocate to make room for that development.” 

“The Broadway Plan might not be perfect but I think it gets a lot of things right and it’s definitely a move in the right direction.” 

For more expert insights from Colliers on the Broadway Plan and its commercial real estate impact, click here