North Shore SkyTrain would remove 50,000 cars from the bridges daily: cities

Oct 19 2021, 5:54 pm

All three municipal governments and two First Nations on the North Shore of Metro Vancouver are joining forces to advocate for a rapid transit solution to their transportation woes.

North Shore Connects is a partnership composed of the City of West Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver, Squamish First Nation, and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

“The collaboration between the partners of North Shore Connects showcases what can be achieved when local governments work together towards a common goal,” said West Vancouver Mayor Mary-Ann Booth, who is also the chair of North Shore Connects, in a statement.

“Building on the excellent planning work and priorities identified by INSTPP, North Shore Connects will continue to implement the recommendations and suite of projects required to improve transportation options and reduce congestion on the North Shore.”

Their advocacy is backed by a newly completed assessment that examines the benefits of a rapid transit connection between downtown Vancouver and the North Shore via the Second Narrows, providing a new fixed crossing across Burrard Inlet. This builds on the provincial government’s 2020-completed study that examined several SkyTrain route options across the inlet.

SkyTrain would shift 50,000 car trips to transit

While the assessment did not select SkyTrain as the preferred technology for the extension, the analysis used SkyTrain as the basis for its modelling to identify the benefits.

Similar to the Canada Line and Expo Line, North Shore SkyTrain would have two off-shoot branches, with an 18 km Gold Line branch running from Park Royal to Waterfront Station via Second Narrows and Hastings Street, and a total of 11 stations that effectively provide new east-west transportation options across the North Shore and within Vancouver.

There would also be a Purple Line branch, sharing the tracks from Park Royal to Hastings Street in Burnaby, and then travelling down Willingdon Avenue to reach Brentwood Town Centre Station and the BCIT Burnaby campus. It would terminate at Metrotown Station — a total distance of 20 km with 10 stations.

north shore connects burrard inlet rapid transit skytrain

Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit concepts of two North Shore SkyTrain lines via the Second Narrows: Gold Line from Park Royal to downtown Vancouver via Hastings, and Purple Line from Park Royal to Brentwood Town Centre Station and Metrotown Station via Willingdon Avenue. (North Shore Connects)

Trains could run as frequently as every 2.5 minutes during peak hours and five minutes during off-peak hours.

With the “significant” travel time savings and high frequencies and reliability of SkyTrain, especially in the face of growing congestion on the existing two bridges, such a rapid transit connection is projected to generate between 50,000 to 60,000 new daily transit trips, with 75% of previous trips made by private car. It is anticipated it would specifically shift 50,000 car trips daily on the bridges to public transit.

For context on what these vehicle traffic reduction numbers mean, the Lions Gate Bridge currently averages about 70,000 vehicles daily, while the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge sees about 120,000 vehicles daily. Both crossings are highly congested and increasingly unreliable.

Altogether with the SkyTrain extension, bus services, and the continuation of SeaBus, it is estimated there would be a total of 110,000 daily transit trips over Burrard Inlet.

$552 million in annual travel time savings by SkyTrain

By 2050, the travel time savings could provide an annual economic return of $552 million for the Gold Line, and $498 million for the overlapping Purple Line.

This is calculated from the time savings of commuters, and the freed up road capacity for commuters who must use a car and for freight and commercial traffic from a large segment of automobile drivers witching to SkyTrain. These new transit users would also free up road space for the growing vehicle volumes to Squamish, Whistler, and other destinations along the Sea to Sky Highway.

Separately, SkyTrain would generate travel time reliability benefits in the range of $55 million to $75 million annually in 2050.

skytrain mark iii edmonds station

A Mark III train at SkyTrain Edmonds Station. (TransLink)

This game-changing investment in regional mobility and connectivity, especially for the North Shore, would generate $4.2 billion in GDP and create $7.6 billion in economic output from opening up economic opportunities, expanding the labour market pool, and improving access to tourism destinations such as to the three North Shore ski resorts. With congested bridges and limited east-west options, economic opportunities on the North Shore are currently artificially suppressed.

“We all want to move from place to place as efficiently as possible. But for too long people on the North Shore haven’t had access to the transportation options they need. That’s why North Shore Connects will make the case for rapid transit across the Inlet,” said Linda Buchanan, the mayor of North Vancouver City.

“With the benefits assessment completed, and willing partners at the table, we will deliver a transportation network that works for all people.”

71,000 new homes around both SkyTrain lines

As a tool to help address the region’s housing affordability and supply issues, transit-oriented developments around the Gold and Purple lines support 71,000 new homes combined, including 27,000 units from the Gold Line and 44,000 units from the Purple Line. Without SkyTrain, only 40% of this new housing supply can be achieved, with the North Shore seeing a greater proportion of the reduction due to the lack of transportation options to handle increased density.

Of the entire total, there would be 10,600 new affordable homes, with 4,000 units from the Gold Line and 6,600 units from the Purple Line.

A substantial portion of these homes would be constructed within the North Shore — 22,700 homes or 32% of the overall total of 71,000 homes, including 3,400 affordable homes.

Much of the housing supply and new employment opportunities on the North Shore could potentially be sourced from new developments on four First Nation reserves served by rapid transit, especially the Squamish First Nation’s 384-acre Capilano Reserve near the north end of the Lions Gate Bridge.

“North Shore Connects will support and enhance the sustainable development of Squamish Nation’s lands and economic growth goals,” said Khelsilem, the chairperson of the Squamish First Nation.

“We will work together to reduce congestion and improve regional access for our community members, providing better connections between our reserves and their associated family and nation services, in addition to providing more connections to regional jobs.”

Capilano Indian Reserve No. 5

Squamish First Nation’s Capilano Indian Reserve No. 5 on the north end of the Lions Gate Bridge. (Google Maps)

While rapid transit is the main objective of North Shore Connects, it also asserts the need to explore a secondary east-west road connector from Park Royal to West 1st across the Capilano River, potentially achieved by a western extension of Lower Level Road. This road extension would help alleviate traffic congestion on Marine Drive, improve the movement of goods from the port, provide improved transit options, and improve walking and cycling connections.

The partnership will also work with the provincial government to develop a long-term plan for the Upper Levels Corridor, the section of Highway 1 from Lynn Valley Road to BC Ferries’ Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal.

The kickoff of North Shore Connects coincides with the recently launched public consultation on the draft plan of TransLink’s Transport 2050 process of creating a new 30-year regional strategy. The draft plan notes a North Shore to downtown Vancouver and Metrotown Station rapid transit extension as a potential priority deserving of exploration of grade separation analysis, which could include technology options such as SkyTrain. The online survey on the draft plan is open until October 29, 2021, and a finalized plan will be sent to the Mayors’ Council in early 2022 for approval.

translink transport 2050 rapid transit

Transport 2050’s rapid transit expansion plan. (TransLink)

 

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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