While there is no question that the Broadway extension of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line and the construction of a new Surrey light rail network are Metro Vancouver’s next rail rapid transit priorities, there are discussions on what the next transit projects should be after the two major transit projects in Vancouver and Surrey are complete.
One south of Fraser mayor wants to see a form of rail rapid transit, perhaps SkyTrain’s Canada Line, extended across the provincial government’s new George Massey Bridge and to Tsawwassen.
Lois Jackson, the Mayor of Delta, says such an extension would be “natural” considering the current underserved passenger demand and the anticipated future growth in Delta. The potential growth from developments spearheaded by the Tsawwassen First Nation also plays into the equation, as well as the need to connect the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, BC Ferries’ busiest terminal, to rail rapid transit.
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“It is a very futuristic idea, but I think we should be planning all of these things now,” Jackson told Daily Hive. “With the track record that we’ve had in terms of serving the Lower Mainland in terms of good transportation, we don’t have a very good track record especially south of the river.”
“I think we are very short on service in Delta overall. We are so underserved here, we should be beginning to plan for the future.”
Metro Vancouver has ample east-west transit services anchored by the Expo and Millennium lines, including the recent Evergreen extension into the Tri-Cities. Municipalities on the eastern fringes of the region are also served by the West Coast Express commuter rail service, which operates during the peak hours in the peak direction.
Currently, long-haul express buses to Delta and Tsawwassen operate from Bridgeport Station in North Richmond and travel along Highway 99 to destinations in the western south of Fraser municipalities.
“Bus service is not very good, it’s not good at all,” Jackson continued. “I continue to speak about the services that we get and people are very frustrated with bus frequencies like one bus an hour, and you know the buses aren’t going all the time down there.”
A separate system
Don’t expect multi-storey-tall concrete pillars for an elevated guideway to be built along the side of Highway 99, next to farmland. Jackson says she is open to a separate system from the Canada Line, perhaps light rail or even commuter rail, that operates mainly on the ground level.
“I travel all over Europe and I’ve never been on what we call a SkyTrain in all of those places,” she said. “I think the at-grade is a very excellent way of going, you might have to travel over or under some major highways but that is the norm in Europe and I don’t see why we can’t look at something more futuristic on that regard.”
A seamless extension of existing Canada Line infrastructure from Richmond-Brighouse Station could be infeasible given the system’s limited capacity. Currently its station platforms can only be extended to 50 metres in length for an ultimate carrying capacity of 15,000 passengers per hour per direction with more trains and a small one-car extension to each two-car train.
However, this ultimate carrying capacity is only between Waterfront and Brighouse stations; the capacity for the spurs to Richmond-Brighouse and YVR Airport stations are approximately halved with train directions alternating between spurs.
And furthermore, the final 650 m stretch after Lansdowne Station to Richmond-Brighouse Station was built as a single track to cut construction costs. This span of track and the Richmond terminus station would need to be reconfigured and widened, perhaps even rebuilt, to fit a dual track for any extension to Richmond’s southern neighbourhoods and beyond to Tsawwassen.
“As the line stands now, I haven’t heard that the single track has provided any problems,” said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “When the line was built, one of the criteria provided was that it had to be able to be extended to the south. Whether it is done by extending the Canada Line or you make a new line that comes into it, the fact is the idea of extending rapid transit line to the south is a good idea.”
Rapid transit through the tunnel
Brodie has no preference for whether an extension begins at Bridgeport Station or Richmond-Brighouse Station, but he would like to see the existing George Massey Tunnel retained and twinned with rapid transit going through the expanded tunnel.
“Our City Council has had very significant reservations about the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project, but we recognize that there is a very large traffic congestion problem with the current tunnel,” he said. “So my view is that we should be twinning the tunnel, putting rapid transit through there, and not building the bridge.”
The provincial government intends to commence the construction phase of the new $3.5-billion bridge in 2017 for a completion in 2022.
Both TransLink and the provincial government have already built an extension capability into the Evergreen Extension’s design. The route could potentially be extended with a new spur from new platforms at Coquitlam Central Station to Port Coquitlam or even as far as Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.