The first phase of the Wesbrook Mall upgrade project is nearly complete, including work by TransLink to prioritize buses as part of the new R4 41st Ave. RapidBus that is coming to campus in January 2020. Improvements are welcome as Wesbrook Mall sees upwards of100 buses travel up and down the street during the peak hours – with over 10,000 passengers.

A few years ago, 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, that also involved input from the campus community. The long-term design vision focuses on improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and transit, to be implemented in phases. The first phase of construction, which started in Spring 2019, is almost complete and remaining future phases will be completed over the coming years as funding allows. 

Construction is nearly complete at the intersection of Wesbrook Mall and University Boulevard. Once finished there will be new intersections, improved pedestrian facilities, and new, separated, bike lanes for cyclists. Work is expected to continue at the intersection of Wesbrook Mall and University Boulevard for the next few weeks as crews finish construction on the roadway and install the new trolley poles and traffic signals. More closures are planned for University Boulevard to finish these final critical pieces of work. All major roadwork is anticipated to be completed by the end of September with landscaping and the enhanced pedestrian crossing installation to follow.

New Changes and a Long-Term Design Vision

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

As part of preparations for the R4 41st Ave. RapidBus coming to UBC early in 2020, TransLink recently installed a new dedicated bus-priority lane and bike lane on Wesbrook Mall in the southbound direction from University Boulevard to 16th Ave. The red bus-priority lane gives transit riders a “red carpet” to travel on and will reduce bus travel times along the corridor by separating bus and regular traffic. In Vancouver, bus-priority lanes for the 41st Ave. route are currently being installed and transit riders will benefit from these improvements long before the RapidBus launches.

A Green Lane for Cyclists

Cyclists will notice the newly painted green bike lane that runs alongside the bus-priority lane travelling southbound on Wesbrook Mall. Krista Falkner, Transportation Engineer at Campus and Community Planning, notes there are a few sections of Wesbrook Mall where the bike lane ends and is shared with the bus lane. “We recognize this isn’t the ideal condition, but the project had to work within many constraints. It is a temporary situation and mimics what is on University Boulevard where cyclists must yield to buses at bus stops. When buses are stopped to pick-up or drop-off passengers, cyclists can either merge in with general traffic to go around buses or they can stay in the bike / bus lane and wait until the buses move.”

The 43 Joyce Station bus utilizes the new bus-priority lane on Wesbrook Mall.

Phase 2 of the Wesbrook Mall redesign, slated for construction spring & summer 2020, will include separated bike lanes both northbound and southbound between University Boulevard and Agronomy Road. “With these changes we expect to see a lot more pedestrians and cyclists using the corridor and with the incentive of transit priority along the corridor, hopefully a shift from personal vehicles to buses,” said Falkner. 

Making Way for the R4 41st Ave. RapidBus

Although one of the main reasons for installing the bus-priority lane is to prepare for the arrival of the new 41st Ave. RapidBus in January 2020, the benefits will be realized beforehand and will benefit all transit riders along the corridor. “These changes will improve service for all bus routes that run along Wesbrook Mall,” said Denis Agar, Senior Planner, RapidBus Projects at TransLink. TransLink is now finalizing the installation of a pedestrian signal across Wesbrook Mall at the UBC Hospital and new concrete pads at the future R4 41st Ave. RapidBus bus stops. 

A map showing the route of the future R4 41st Ave. RapidBus. 

When the R4 begins operation, riders will experience shorter wait times and travel times between UBC and Joyce–Collingwood Station along 41st Ave. The new service will travel along 41st Ave. to SW Marine Drive and will have stop on W 16th Avenue and on Wesbrook Mall at Agronomy Road, before culminating at UBC Bus Exchange. It replaces the existing 41 service and will address the route’s frequent overcrowding, increasing capacity by 33% throughout Vancouver. The R4 will run every 3-6 minutes during peak hours and there will be frequent service at night, with a bus coming every 15 minutes until 1am.Agar points out the closest stop for Wesbrook Village residents will be on W 16th Avenue just west of Wesbrook Mall. At each stop along the R4 route large digital displays are being installed to show when the next bus will arrive.

In January 2020, the 49 will change its route to turn off SW Marine Drive and onto Wesbrook Mall into Wesbrook Place to provide transit service to that neighbourhood. The 49 connects UBC with the Expo and Canada lines and a direct connection to Metrotown, but not the Kerrisdale neighbourhood. To get to Kerrisdale, or anywhere else along 41st Avenue, Wesbrook Place residents will have two options: Walk to the RapidBus stop on W 16th Avenue across from the high school; or, hop on the 49, which will stop in front of Blenz, and transfer to the R4 at Dunbar St. The change to the 49 bus route brings the added benefit of higher-capacity articulated buses through Wesbrook Place. 

Proposed Changes for the 68/70 Route

To provide better transit service to the west side of campus and reduce redundancy in service along Wesbrook Mall, TransLink is reconfiguring the existing 68 and 70 bus routes to create an out and back route along Lower Mall. This will result in more frequent service that connects the west side of campus to the UBC Bus Exchange and shops and services in Wesbrook Village. The proposed routing shown in the image above will be launched in January 2020 to match the launch of the new Rapidbus to UBC. 

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