Got a call the other day from the University of B.C.’s public affairs department about a piece I wrote in this space about Mayor Gregor Robertson and UBC president Stephen Toope.
The topic was the UBC-Broadway corridor and both leaders’ call for a 12-kilometre subway system to alleviate gridlock and attract businesses along the bustling swath of real estate.
The caller from public affairs demanded I print a correction.
Apparently, Toope has never stated support for a subway and UBC is actually “technologically agnostic” when it comes to a preferred method of moving people from Commercial Drive to the campus.
I was confused, to say the least.
The previous week, I showed up at a press conference where Toope joined Robertson to release a $100,000 KPMG study that said “rail rapid transit — a subway — all the way to UBC best meets the needs of today’s transit riders and tomorrow’s population and economic growth.”
Yes, a subway.
That conclusion was based on a preliminary evaluation of transit options for the corridor by TransLink and research by the City of Vancouver. A joint press release followed the press conference and stated “a rail-based transit system” was needed to meet the corridor’s expected population growth and economic potential.
At the press conference, I asked the city’s director of transportation Jerry Dobrovolny to define “rail-based transit.” His answer: a subway. He told me this with a UBC senior staffer sitting two seats from him. She heard exactly what he said.
The mayor, as you’ve probably heard, has made it no secret that a $2.8 billion subway is the best and only option for the corridor. He said this a few times at the press conference, with Toope standing next to him on a riser.
Despite questions from reporters about the cost and why it was the best option, Toope left most of the answers to the mayor. Never once did he clarify that UBC was “technologically agnostic” about the type of transit system along the corridor.
I asked Toope whether UBC was prepared to pick up any of the $2.8 billion cost of a subway. He said it would be up to the university’s board of governors but that it was premature to say whether UBC would put up some dough.
So when I’m asking Toope about a subway and the $2.8 billion cost — and he answers the question — am I to believe that he doesn’t support a subway?
You can see why I’m scratching my head here, folks. What I took from the public affairs rep is that UBC doesn’t really care what type of system is built — as long as it’s built soon and it provides effective transportation for people.
So why didn’t Toope say that at the press conference where it was all about the subway and the cost?
The PR rep didn’t have an answer.
No sooner had I hung up the phone with said PR rep that I received another press release from the mayor’s office. The headline to the release: “New TransLink study strengthens the case for Broadway subway to UBC.”
That study concluded a subway provides the most travel time savings, greenhouse gas reductions and would attract the most riders out of any transit system.
“This latest report by TransLink provides more evidence for why a subway is the right investment for the UBC-Broadway corridor,” said the mayor in a canned quote from the release.
Apparently, UBC won’t be saying the same.
Or will they?