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Extending SkyTrain to UBC would encourage economic growth and prosperity throughout the region

When I look back on what we accomplished in 2018 at the University of British Columbia, I’m particularly proud of the community’s involvement in the development of UBC’s new strategic plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century.

When I look back on what we accomplished in 2018 at the University of British Columbia, I’m particularly proud of the community’s involvement in the development of UBC’s new strategic plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century. I’m proud of the plan itself, but I’m especially proud of the process that led us there.

Throughout the planning process I had the opportunity to hear from a wide range of students, faculty, staff and community members throughout the province. One theme that consistently emerged in these conversations was the need to engage more and in deeper ways with regional communities.

Expanding and deepening engagement will take place in a variety of ways. Building deeper linkages will include more co-op programs and internships that embed UBC students in businesses and communities throughout the province. Expanded engagement also includes a stronger presence in clinics, schools, community centres and organizations across Metro Vancouver and indeed the province.

Some of the strategies we are pursuing to deliver this kind of engagement will take time, while others require immediate action to take advantage of emerging opportunities. One such opportunity would make an impact not only on the ability of the university to achieve its goals of increased engagement with communities, but also on the lives of people across Metro Vancouver: a robust, regional transportation network that includes a SkyTrain connection to UBC’s Point Grey campus.

There is much to celebrate about the great work that led to the recent confirmation of federal, provincial and regional funding for the extension of the Millennium Line to Arbutus Street. But I’m here to tell anyone who didn’t already know this: the plan stops short. It won’t solve the congestion problems on the Broadway Corridor, it won’t connect UBC – B.C.’s third-largest employment centre – to the rest of the region, it won’t help the thousands of people who travel on transit every day to campus and it certainly won’t allow UBC to support the aspirations of our communities, students, faculty and staff to make a stronger impact.  

But here’s the good news: the recent municipal elections injected new energy into regional transportation discussions, restoring my confidence that the vision for a SkyTrain connection to UBC will be realized.

Extending the Millennium Line SkyTrain to UBC will contribute to a growing transit network that meets the needs of the entire region, reducing congestion, moving people more quickly and safely between their homes and places of work, and minimizing our impact on the environment. It will also increase access to education and affordable housing options, and encourage economic growth and prosperity throughout the region.

The university is committed to expanding its presence in the region and working with our partners to address the challenges and opportunities facing the communities we call home, including enabling better transit.

As we announced earlier this year, UBC is willing to contribute to the completion of the Millennium Line to UBC, providing such an investment does not impact funding for the university’s academic mission. At the same time, we will continue to build more on campus student, faculty and staff housing and amenities, but this alone will not help the region meet its goals of prosperity, affordability and sustainability. To do so, we will also need to improve regional connectivity.

I continue to meet with many groups and individuals on this topic, and in recent months I have been encouraged by the growing interest in completing the line to UBC. The federal and provincial governments appear to be partners-in-waiting, and most people across Metro Vancouver think this project should proceed. Across the board, I’m hearing that regional partners, such as UBC, need to both advocate for and make a financial contribution to make the SkyTrain extension a reality in the near future. We will make this a top priority heading into 2019.  

I am optimistic we can create a robust transit network that serves Metro Vancouver today and well into the future. I look forward to working with partners across Metro Vancouver to make a SkyTrain extension to UBC a reality.

I wish everybody a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous and healthy 2019.

Santa Ono is president of the University of British Columbia.