Broadway subway has far greater environmental impacts than at-grade line


Re: Train can’t get too far, Murphy’s Law, Feb. 6

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Your article about LRT has some significant lack of facts on what the issues are in the planning of the Broadway subway line to UBC. The City of Vancouver’s press release touches on them with brief references and they are “reduced GHG emissions” and “cost effectively as possible.”

There is a recent academic article published by three professors at the University of Toronto’s engineering school which clearly states that a subway line will create 22 to 32 times more GHGs than an at-grade equivalent line. That is to say, in percentages, 2,200 to 3,200 per cent more GHGs to just build a subway and this does not include the operation of the system.

How could the minister of environment and climate change face the COP26 Conference in November with this albatross around his neck? He is responsible for the new Impact Assessment Act (2019) and his riding is North Vancouver. This project is not a required “designated project” but the minister has the powers to designate it for an Impact Assessment Study, which would be an independent review based on science and the wishes of Parliament as stated in the act.

Why is the proponent of this project not planning for such a study? That is up to the minister of environment and climate change to find out.

The International Standardization Organization has recently issued a group of protocols under ISO 14000 that are collectively known as Lifecyle Assessment Standards and these standards are published by the Canadian Standard Bureau. They attempt to measure the GHG of any type of project, big or small, and is what was used by the UoT study. The data collected allows for the study to report the lifecycle costs of this project.

The city is being mischievous when it does not report that the cost of an at-grade LRT line from Science World to Arbutus and Broadway is about $500 million compared to the subway line of $2.8 Billion. The at-grade alternative uses the city’s various purchases of CPR rights of way which include the Arbutus corridor, now called Greenway, to Arbutus and Broadway and runs south to the Fraser River. 

This RoW was an interurban line through Richmond to Steveston, and much of this RoW is now owned by either the City of Vancouver or the City of Richmond. Why would the federal minister of environment and climate change want to ignore this best alternative technology, as it is called in the policy statements on the Impact Assessment Act?

The Arbutus corridor bylaw of the City of Vancouver actually rejected the technology of the subway proposal from being used on Greenway but does allow the LRT technology. Why is the Toronto Transit Commission planning to replace the Scarborough 3 line which uses the same technology? Why should Metro Vancouver’s taxpayers want such a project like this subway when the alternative costs so much less and delivers the same passenger load? 

Given that 40 per cent of the funding for the subway project will come from each of the federal and provincial governments, why would any taxpayer want slightly higher taxes to fund any portion of this subway project?  Why would any taxpayer want to be mulct?

I would hope that you and your readers would want the minister of environment and climate change to designate the Broadway subway project so that a lifecycle assessment can measure the GHGs for both the proposal and its alternative in order to enforce the Impact Assessment Act.

Chris Shelton

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