91% of Metro Vancouver residents support continued SkyTrain expansion: survey

May 17 2021, 12:37 pm

Over nine-in-10 residents in Metro Vancouver support continued investment in new public transit infrastructure, according to a new survey by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT), conducted by Mustel Group.

The results show support for SkyTrain projects such as the Expo Line’s Surrey-Langley extension and the Millennium Line’s UBC extension remains high, with 92% of Vancouver residents and 91% respondents in Metro Vancouver supportive.

Respondents indicated they believe the availability of funding for transportation infrastructure is most likely to impact how Metro Vancouver residents move and travel around the region, with 50% noting transportation infrastructure funding, followed by 41% for population growth, 30% for technology, and 28% for land use and development.

“The results of this survey clearly illustrate the ongoing support for public transit investment both in Vancouver as well as the lower mainland,ā€ said Bridgitte Anderson, president and CEO of the GVBOT, in a statement.

“Right now, important progress is being made to expand transit service, including the recent announcement of major construction beginning on the Broadway Subway Project. It is clear that the public wants to ensure that this momentum is not lost, and we do not emerge from the pandemic only to be stuck in traffic.”

The survey also gauged how transportation habits have changed during the pandemic. Half (49%) of respondents said they are using public transit less often, 12% are reporting a decline in car travel and/or ownership, 6% are using ride-hailing services less frequently, and 9% are using carsharing services less often.

Nearly a third (29%) said they are getting around by active transportation more often, and the same proportion (29%) indicated their transportation patterns have not changed.

The big question for businesses and governments is forecasting the extent of the permeability of these changes after the pandemic comes to an end.

Currently, only 11% believe most of their mobility changes will likely be permanent, while 39% state some changes will likely be permanent. Nearly half (46%) said they will likely go back to pre-pandemic travel modes.

“As employees return to offices and students to schools, travel patterns will shift again but the results clearly indicate it will be some time, if at all, that travel habits will resemble pre-pandemic habits,” said Evi Mustel, president and co-founder of Mustel Group.

“However, with our population growth, there will be continued need and support for public transit investment.”

The survey also found that 21% of respondents have recently moved or plan to move further away from the region’s urban centres for improved affordability and more living space, with 35% noting that this relocation was directly due to the pandemic. This was highest amongst residents aged 18 to 34 (26%) and 35 to 54 (25.5%).

The Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension is considered a shovel-ready project, but its implementation is now behind schedule. TransLink had previously planned to launch its bidding process for a construction contractor in early 2021 for a construction start in 2022, but the project did not advance to procurement.

Funding for the $3.1-billion project from the provincial and federal governments has not been secured. During last fall’s provincial election campaign, the BC NDP promised to expedite the construction of the 16-km-long extension from King George Station to Langley Centre in a single phase by providing funding and transferring the project’s responsibility from TransLink to the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. This jurisdictional transition over the project’s planning is expected to reach completion early this summer.

Last week, TransLink concluded a public consultation on extending SkyTrain from Arbutus Station to the UBC campus. This project is still in preliminary planning, and requires about $40 million in funding for detailed planning and a business case.

The federal government recently announced new major funding programs for public transit infrastructure, but it has yet to set aside major funding for projects in Metro Vancouver. About $12 billion in new federal funding for rail transit projects in Toronto and Hamilton was announced just last week.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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