Opinion: North Shore rapid transit is a must for TransLink, and can't be overlooked

Nov 20 2023, 10:17 pm

Written for Daily Hive Urbanized by Linda Buchanan, who is the mayor of the City of North Vancouver and chair of North Shore Connects, which is a partnership between the District of West Vancouver, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) to advance Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit.

Everyone knows that congestion on the North Shore has reached a tipping point. For too long, people have not had a competitive alternative to travelling over the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to their final destination. Our only way out of this crisis is to deliver a new option that allows people to move efficiently.

Frequent transit riders will have likely heard by now that TransLink’s Mayors’ Council has prioritized three rapid transit lines for investment and implementation.

I’ve been asked, and quite rightly so, what exactly that means for people looking for a better way to move across the inlet.

As people sit in cars waiting in hours-long backups, or as people wait for a bus in the rain that arrives already over-crowded, we all want to know something is happening now — no one can wait any longer.

Last week’s announcement is tangible and real, but only if we use our collective power and demand it so. While a rapid transit connection between Park Royal and Metrotown has been identified as a priority, and planning has begun, funding still needs to be secured. We have an opportunity so rare and so important that people must make every effort to seize the moment to have their voices heard by those in a position to fund this investment.

Being prioritized is great, but without sustained pressure, it doesn’t mean we will see Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) built from Park Royal to Metrotown with the urgency it needs. As TransLink looks to secure investments from the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada, we need to reaffirm that the Park Royal-Metrotown line must be the first of the rapid transit lines to be built, and it needs to happen quickly. We cannot take for granted that this is a given.

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TransLink Mayors’ Council press conference on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on November 16, 2023. (Linda Buchanan/submitted)

translink brt prioritization map 1

Map of three new rapid transit corridors using buses. (TransLink)

Regardless of how you choose to travel, securing a rapid transit connection over the inlet will make it easier for everyone to move around. The Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, in either direction, is an increasingly congested corridor as it is the gateway to many jobs, homes, tourist, and commercial destinations, and the rest of Metro Vancouver. This busy corridor is in the heart of the region and as we continue to see economic growth and development it will become increasingly harder to address our transportation challenges. That’s why we need to act now.

The other two prioritized BRT lines have a lower ridership potential than that of a Park Royal-Metrotown line. While this makes implementing BRT easier from a technical perspective, it won’t help us alleviate the congestion gridlocking our economy, reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions, or improve access to jobs and housing.

It will never be easier than it is right now to move forward with Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit (BIRT).

Delivering this line — or not — will have far-reaching generational impacts. It’s up to the people in our region today to decide what their future looks like.

I invite you to join the call by writing your elected representatives at all levels of government to prioritize BIRT — we need to hear your voice.

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