A Tunnel to Nowhere?

Posted by: | October 27, 2009 | 9 Comments

The AMS this morning released a statement saying that UBC intends to cancel the underground bus loop project.

Earlier today, Blake Frederick outlined the situation: 3 weeks ago UBC starting thinking of a contingency plan if loop wasn’t going forward, due to concerns over Translink’s funding drying up. Translink was supposed to commit $10M to the project. Blake: “If Translink’s funding doesn’t come through, they have no other source of funding and they will have to cancel the underground bus loop.” Translink’s ten year plan does not include this funding. Blake has now reached the conclusion that the project will be getting the axe.

Blake also passed on information from Tim Chu’s meeting with Translink representatives this week. Apparently Translink does not yet have the technology available for the proposed bus loop, and also do not have the staff available to devote to the project, presumably because of the transportation planning going into the Olympics.

Ken Hardie, spokesperson for Translink said only that “Translink is not in a position to fund expansion,” adding that what exactly falls within the definition of expansion is a discussion to be had between Translink and the University.

Nancy Knight, AVP Campus & Community Planning, said that while the Mayors Council funding package announced earlier this week does not appear to contain the necessary funding to go ahead with the project, UBC is still waiting to hear this officially from Translink. She indicated that UBC is still committed to the project, but that it has always been a partnership with Translink, and in a partnership, if one partner is unable to meet its obligations the project falls apart. In the event that Translink pulls out of the project, the tunnel will not be built but that in all likelihood the road would (half of which is already built).

When asked about all of the utilities that were moved last year, she said those would have needed to be moved anyways in order to properly service the new buildings going in there (currently only the New SUB and the Alumni Centre, and possibly some student residences.) Even if the project is cancelled, the university still does not look fondly on the current location for two reasons: a promise made to the UEL that the bus loop would only be temporary, and the designation of the land it currently sits on as the “Gage South” neighbourhood, slated for market housing. As to what that means, while Campus and Community Planning will be looking to develop the future transportation plan with all of campus (we can all hope that actually happens; it certainly didn’t with the underground bus loop), a rather large, easily accessible and relatively central location would have to be found if a new bus loop were to be built. In the land use plans laid out in the current version of the campus plan, that certainly isn’t there (and this is why we should all listen to Darren Peets when he says planning is a total crapshoot).

Although no one has yet confirmed the exact fate of the underground bus loop, it’s a safe bet that the project’s dead.

Update: October 27, 4:56pm
Nancy Knight has issued an open letter regarding the status and future of the Underground Bus Loop, which can be found here. Details are still vague, and confirmation regarding this cancellation is still pending discussion with TransLink.

Update 2: October 28
Nancy Knight has released an amended version of her open letter in which it has been confirmed that Translink will not be able to contribute its share towards the underground bus loop.


9 Comments so far

  1. Alex Lougheed on October 27, 2009 2:55 pm

    Without a concentrated transit hub, there will definitely have to be redevelopments to the neighbourhood plan. The current plan relied on the high density pedestrian traffic to sustain the ground-level business operations.

    Also, the OCP outlines the need for a bus loop. If translink isn’t funding it, the OCP still says it should be there…

    I predict a bailout.

  2. Geoff Costeloe on October 27, 2009 3:03 pm

    Pretty silly of the AMS to release a press release before anything is actually confirmed. A bit of an offensive blitzkreig if I do say so myself. Exactly the thing that our exec needs to stop doing to have a working relationship with the University.
    On the other side, if the cancellation is happening then I think Blake’s words are correct (if too strongly worded). They only speak to the smaller half of the problem.

    Money is lost on projects like this all the time. Is it a shame? Yes. Is it a waste of money? Yes. Is it completely unavoidable on large construction projects at times? Yes. We shouldn’t judge the UBC admin until we actually see their budget.

    If true, the real impact of the cancellation will be on UBC’s stance within the Provincial and Municipal government. What does it say to the university’s chances at further funding for projects? Not very good things if I do say so myself.

    Because of this larger issue around the importance of UBC in the eyes of the cheque writers, our exec needs to really come together with the administration to lobby united before the Campbell bureaucrats. Because of memo’s sent out with an aggressive, tone that this exec is becoming renowned for, we further ourselves from natural allies who, in truth, have the same goals as the AMS in 95% of cases.

    Better for the AMS to give up on the 5% (that must exist although I can’t think of any examples to fill it) and reap the rewards of a 95% friend than to have 100% of negative nothingness.

  3. sarah galashan on October 27, 2009 3:15 pm

    nice site guys! love the slogan. would be awesome if you could add video blogs. keep it up.

  4. F. Hydrant on October 27, 2009 7:22 pm

    One of the first things that crossed my mind was whether this was an attempt to get the SUB to pay for part of the bus terminal — I wouldn’t be surprised if some more recent cost overruns had the administration thinking that the AMS should chip in for their share of the foundation and utilities. If the major capital projects budget mentioned is indeed the correct budget, if the money hasn’t been previously allocated, and if the budget is actually one bus terminal short, then this is certainly interesting news.

    I’ve certainly made no secret of my dissatisfaction with the terminal design’s shortcomings, lack of research, and outright design flaws. Something will have to be done, so perhaps this gives people a chance to sit back and think about it a bit. I could comment for pages on the implications and possible outcomes, but I’m going to hold off for now.

  5. F. Hydrant on October 27, 2009 7:31 pm

    Oh, and to Alex: The OCP says there must be a bus loop, and says something about its properties. It doesn’t say anything about location. In two (?) places, it uses the then-bus loop as a landmark (as in “such-and-such can be built at East Mall and University Boulevard, near the bus loop”). The “temporary” arrangement is in full compliance with the OCP.

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  8. Blake Frederick on October 28, 2009 10:30 am


    Students have been opposed to this flawed (see Darren Peets) bus loop since day one. Despite calls from the AMS and direct protests, UBC charged ahead. Now that the project will be canceled, students will be getting what they have been calling for all along.

    You’re simplifying the relationship between the AMS and UBC when you say that we are engaging in a blitzkrieg against them. It is true that on some issues we stand at opposite sides of the table. On those issues, it is my duty to use the resources at my disposal to further the AMS and student agenda. It is also true, however, that the AMS and UBC remain united on a myriad of issues. The partnership between the AMS and UBC on these issues is not compromised by the work we sometimes do to oppose UBC on other issues.

    Incidentally, the cancellation of the underground bus loop will increase the design options and sustainability measures that we will be able to implement for our new SUB.

  9. Gossip Guy on November 3, 2009 12:23 am

    Thanks for that comment Blake. You inspired my first post on my relaunched site!

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