All three North Shore cities affirm push to prioritize new SkyTrain line

Feb 9 2022, 1:49 am

On Monday, the three separate city councils for the municipal governments of North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, and West Vancouver approved a joint request to ask TransLink’s Mayors’ Council to prioritize the Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit (BIRT) project for implementation.

All three jurisdictions want the North Shore rail transit project to be included in the Mayors’ Council’s new 10-year regional transportation vision and investment plan, which is currently up for consideration. They are pushing to have planning, designing, and construction begin within the decade.

The decision by each city council was unanimous.

Metro Vancouver’s 23 municipal governments and jurisdictions are being asked to provide their input on what should be included in the new 10-year vision for finalization in Spring 2022, and the new 10-year investment plan for finalization in 2023. This also builds on the Mayors’ Council’s approval last month of Transport 2050, which includes the North Shore project within the region’s 30-year transportation expansion plan.

Last year, the three municipalities partnered with local First Nations to create the North Shore Connects (NSC) partnership on advocating for public transit and road infrastructure improvements benefiting their communities.

It is intended that NSC will assist TransLink and the provincial and federal governments in determining the most appropriate route and technology, and the potential for completing the project in phases.

In 2020, the provincial government released the findings of a preliminary technical study exploring potential SkyTrain route options across Burrard Inlet to provide a new fixed connection to the North Shore.

Then in 2021, NSC performed a feasibility study building on the findings of the provincial government’s earlier analysis. It explored the benefits of a theoretical SkyTrain line running west-east across the North Shore between Park Royal, Lower Lonsdale, and Phibbs Exchange, and then continuing southwards across the Second Narrows.

The 20-km-long SkyTrain Purple Line route from the North Shore would transition from Hastings Park/Hastings Street to Willingdon Avenue, providing direct connections to SkyTrain Brentwood Town Centre Station on the Millennium Line and SkyTrain Metrotown Station on the Expo Line.

The other option of an 18-km-long SkyTrain Gold Line would run from the North Shore to Hastings Park, then along Hastings Street towards Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver.

NSC’S early findings estimate 50,000 daily vehicle trips could shift to public transit as the result of a SkyTrain line serving North Shore and crossing the Second Narrows. Over 175,000 jobs — more than twice today — would be accessible within a 60-minute public transit ride for North Shore residents and there would be $4.2 billion added to GDP, $7.6 billion in economic output from new economic opportunities, and tens of thousands of new homes to help address housing affordability and supply issues.

Neither the provincial government nor NSC studies made a specific recommendation on routing or technology.

The North Shore has not received a major transportation project since the completion of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in 1960.

ironworkers memorial bridge traffic

Annual vehicle traffic statistics on the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge. (City of North Vancouver)

Just nine road lanes link the North Shore to the rest of Metro Vancouver and in recent years, the existing two bridge crossings have seen rising traffic and congestion from the growing regional population, the increase in car trips from workers who commute into the North Shore from other areas of the region (as the result of a lack of suitable housing on the North Shore), the completion of Highway 1 upgrades, and tourism growth. This includes increased traffic to BC Ferries’ Horseshoe Bay terminal, Squamish, Whistler, and other destinations along the Sea to Sky corridor, which all depend on the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge and Lions Gate Bridge.

“The North Shore is the last large population base in the region and the Lonsdale Regional City Centre is the only city centre without rapid transit or commuter rail,” reads a report by City of North Vancouver staff.

“The findings show positive benefits that will help the City, the North Shore and the Metro Vancouver region meet goals related to decreasing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, improving safety, and boosting economic productivity.”

The North Shore rapid transit project also has the backing of the City of Burnaby. Last month, Burnaby City Council approved not only its support to have the project included in the Mayors’ Council’s new 10-year vision and investment plan, but also its strong preference for the SkyTrain Purple Line route given that it would directly serve its jurisdiction.

Vancouver City Council has not publicly made its formal declaration of support, but the city was previously involved and supportive of the provincial government’s initial North Shore SkyTrain study.

The City of Vancouver also wants the SkyTrain Millennium Line extension from Arbutus to the University of British Columbia prioritized this decade through the Mayors’ Council’s new vision and investment plan.

 

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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