– University bus loop blues

The Ubyssey

Piecing together the U-Blvd project

By Samantha Jung
news@ubyssey.ca

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1. What isthe underground bus loop?

The underground bus loop is part of UBC’s plans to create a “university town” on campus, more commonly known as the “U-Blvd” project, and to replace the “temporary” bus loop on Wesbrook Mall. It was originally designed to go under a shopping mall and block of condos on University Boulevard to provide accessible transportation. According to former AMS VP Administration Tristan Markle, the university has scrapped the condo plan but is still going ahead with the $40 million bus loop project.

The AMS has been vocal about their opposition, lobbying the Board of Governors  to halt construction. Students-at-large have also voiced their opinions: in April 2007 a petition was signed in opposition to the entire U-Blvd project. A protest space called Trek Park was created, which caused a number of confrontations between police and students.

In April 2008, 20 students were arrested after a “peaceful protest” turned ugly in an incident that is now known as “Knoll-Aid 2.0.” Included in those arrests was Stefanie Ratjen, who was the AMS VP external at the time.

Today, the AMS still maintains their opposition to the cost of the project, lack of capacity and inability for trolley buses to access the bus loop.

3. How the new SUB fits into it

AMS President Blake Frederick told The Ubyssey that the AMS has started planning for the underground bus loop in their plans for the $110 million SUB Renew project. How exactly the two plans will fit together, Frederick said, is yet to be determined.

4. If you want it, get on with it

Almost seven years later, the project seems to finally be in the construction stage. The university has reevaluated the project multiple times. Students were finally granted involvement in the planning process during the 2007/2008 year, when the AMS executive pushed for inclusion.

The project has experienced many delays. In January 2006, a construction boom, combined with poor budgeting, forced the project to schedule construction in phases, which delayed its start. One of the architectural firms pulled out of the project in the summer of the same year, restarting the hiring process. Relocation of the underground utilities were complete this past summer, and the walkway by Shoppers Drug Mart was restored.

5. two part project: UBC not worried

The Board of Governors decided to separate building the actual bus loop from building the ramp and tunnel leading to it.

You could end up building a tunnel to nowhere,” students told the university when they announced the separation of the two parts of the project in 2006.

Managing Director of Infrastructure Development for UBC’s Land and Building Services John Metras said that this is not possible. “The board is very supportive of the project, so no, there’s really not a chance that one part would go ahead and the other part wouldn’t,” he said. “This [project] has gone on for quite a number of years; really at this point we’re in the implementation process.”

6. Looking ahead

The university is still committed to the project, and are waiting for TransLink to get back to them with design details and a construction schedule. They are expecting a decision from TransLink by the end of October.

Despite concerns that the bus loop is too small, John Metras, managing director of infrastructure development for UBC’s Land and Building Services, said that the university is comfortable that the facility at its current size will meet the needs of commuters, and that they’re “relying on the technical expertise of Translink.”

“We’ve heard all of the concerns,” he said, “and I think there’s been efforts to try to address some of those concerns, but ultimately…the project will go ahead.”

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