The University of British Columbia has opened the door to providing funding for an extension of the Millennium Line all the way to its Point Grey campus.
UBC's board of governors passed a motion on Thursday endorsing talks with other levels of government to extend the rapid transit line, and to explore contributing to its cost, provided it doesn't come from academic funds.
Earlier this decade, the City of Vancouver was a large proponent of extending the Millennium Line from its current terminus at Vancouver Community College all the way to UBC.
But the university rejected the idea of funding the project, and for a variety of reasons, it was decided that the extension would end at Arbutus Street.
Funding for that extension has been mostly
secured in recent months
, and UBC Vice-President for External Relations Philip Steenkamp told the the board of governors there was a "narrow window to accelerate completion to UBC."
The university has not said how much of the estimated $3 billion cost it would be willing to provide, but suggested a contribution could come from the sale of land, developer charges, or an extra levy, similar to the Canada Line extension to YVR.
The university is over 400 hectares in size, and has built a de facto municipality of about 8,000 permanent residents over the last 30 years, outside of Metro Vancouver's jurisdiction.
UBC is exploring the idea of two stations on campus — with additional stations at Sasamat, Alma and Macdonald streets — to be in service in 2028, three years after the extension to Arbutus is expected to be complete.
"Today's board approval of the advocacy strategy enables UBC to advance conversations with senior levels of government, regional partners, and with the UBC community about expediting the project," said UBC President Santa Ono.
Reaction from other partners
As word of UBC's decision came out Thursday afternoon, comments from governments and TransLink were cautiously optimistic.
"We're interested in this development," said TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews, calling UBC's change on its funding position "encouraging."
However, she noted there are no funding agreements in place and that TransLink is focused on its current initiatives, including the extension of the Millennium Line to Arbutus and the development of light rail transit in Surrey.
"A future phase of investment will likely include rapid transit to UBC, but the fact is there are no approved plans to start construction beyond Arbutus."
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena didn't have an immediate response to the announcement, but Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby — who represents the entire region that a UBC extension would pass through — was pleased to hear the news.
"In my constituency there's a lot of concern of B-Line traffic … it's bus after bus after bus, they're all diesel buses, and they're all full of students, and often people get bypassed by full buses as well," he said.
"I will certainly be talking with the transportation minister and minister responsible for transit about this change of position at UBC, I think it's a very interesting development."
Steve Brown, Vancouver's manager for rapid transit, had a similarly positive reaction to the news.
"The city would welcome anything that UBC could do to accelerate the completion," he said.
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