“Planning has been underway for five years,” says Krista Falkner. She’s standing on University Boulevard, looking north to the busy construction site on Wesbrook Mall and the sunlit mountains beyond. “We’re planning on rebuilding the full roadway, which is old and falling apart. It’s a huge job, and while we’re at it, we’re reimagining Wesbrook Mall.”

Wesbrook Mall is one of UBC’s biggest arteries, explains Falkner, Transportation Engineer at Campus and Community Planning. It’s a long corridor: just over 2 kilometres, from Chancellor Boulevard to 16th Avenue. It is long overdue for a facelift, especially as the intersection of University Boulevard and Wesbrook Mall is the main gateway for people arriving to UBC.

Wesbrook Mall project area extends from Chancellor Boulevard to 16th Avenue.

A Long-Term Design Vision

Campus and Community Planning developed a long-term vision for Wesbrook Mall in partnership with the University Endowment Lands, TransLink and BC’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and involved input from the campus community. The plan is to implement the vision in phases with the first phase of construction underway to be completed this fall and remaining phases to be completed over the next number of years.

The long-term design vision focuses on improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and transit. These include wider sidewalks and new, safer intersections; separated bike lanes; and new dedicated bus lanes to reduce bus travel times along the corridor. With these changes we expect to see a lot more pedestrians and cyclists using the corridor and hopefully a shift from personal vehicles to buses as a result of the transit priority along the corridor.

Universally accessible sidewalks and features such as seating will be installed at the University Boulevard intersection.

Better Intersections

“This intersection is one of the busiest at UBC,” adds Joanne Proft, Associate Director of Community Planning. She’s standing next to Falkner, watching as dozens of students cross Wesbrook Mall at University Boulevard. “It was originally designed to prioritize cars, so we’re transforming it into a more urban intersection that meets the needs of all users.”

This involves narrowing the roadway so the crossing distances for pedestrians are reduced and improving things like lighting and landscaping. “Safety and comfort are paramount,” Proft explains. “Walking in and out of campus will be a much safer, more pleasant experience.”

A concept for a “feature crosswalk” design at the intersection is in the works that combines the UBC and Musqueam crests. Designed by both communities, it acknowledges that UBC is situated on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. 

Just south of University Boulevard on Wesbrook Mall is another busy pedestrian crossing that will get a new pedestrian signal. This will vastly improve the safety for users using the pathway connection between University Village in the UEL and the UBC Hospital and the rest of campus.

Universally accessible sidewalks and features such as seating will be installed at the University Boulevard intersection.

The above photo is an example of a dedicated bike lane in Halifax which is part of the long-term vision of the corridor.

For Fall 2019 – New University Blvd Intersection and Bike Facility and Bus Lane

“Wesbrook Mall is part of the region’s frequent transit network,” says Falkner, “which is why transit priority is so important." “We also want to encourage more cycling along the corridor as a result of its connectivity to other bike routes.”

The first phase of construction on Wesbrook Mall includes a full rebuild of the University Boulevard intersection and roadway with separated bike facilities all the way north to Student Union Boulevard.  It also includes a new dedicated bus lane and bike lane southbound from University Boulevard to 16th Avenue.

A concerted effort will be made to salvage trees as well as plant more trees along the corridor. “We will have to lose a few trees with construction, but we are replacing the ecological value of the trees in other areas of campus” explains Proft.

The new bus lane will be completed in time for the launch of the new 41 B-Line in September 2019 and will improve service for all bus routes that run along the Wesbrook Mall corridor. The highly anticipated new B-Line will shorten wait times and travel times between UBC and Joyce–Collingwood Station along 41st Avenue. The new service will replace the existing 41 service and increase capacity by 33% and will run every 3-6 minutes during peak hours. There will also be frequent service at night, with a bus coming every 15 minutes until 1am.

A map showing the route of the future 41st Avenue B-Line. (Click to enlarge map)