TransLink outlines options for up to 400 km of new SkyTrain, LRT, and BRT lines

Apr 19 2021, 10:29 am

Metro Vancouver’s public transit authority has outlined ambitious options for expanding the region’s rapid transit network by hundreds of kilometres over the next 30 years.

The second phase of the Transport 2050 planning process is underway as of today, with TransLink seeking public feedback on possible priorities and recommendations for future expansion.

After the currently planned completions of the SkyTrain extensions of the Millennium Line to Arbutus and the Expo Line to Langley Centre, the total length of the SkyTrain system would grow to 100 km. The Millennium Line extension will reach completion in 2025, while the Expo Line extension in the south of Fraser is expected to reach completion shortly after.

Transport 2050’s purpose is to identify the next projects that will follow and be prioritized. At this stage of the planning process, two hypothetical scenarios — networks A and B — have been conceptualized to illustrate how far the two different approaches can go for the same price.

Network A option with more SkyTrain

One option deemed as Network A would expand rapid transit by more than 200 km — a combination of 100 km of additional SkyTrain, and 100 km of street-level light rapid transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT).

The additional SkyTrain extensions in Network A include:

  1. Millennium SkyTrain extension from Arbutus to UBC
  2. 41st Avenue SkyTrain line from UBC to Joyce-Collingwood Station
  3. Hastings Street SkyTrain line from downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale in North Vancouver via the Second Narrows
  4. Willingdon Avenue SkyTrain line as part of the Hastings Street/North Shore line, connecting Brentwood Town Centre Station and Metrotown Station
  5. King George Boulevard SkyTrain extension from Surrey Central Station to Newton
  6. Millennium Line SkyTrain extension from Coquitlam Central Station to downtown Port Coquitlam

The provincial government’s option of a North Shore SkyTrain extension through the West End and Stanley Park via the First Narrows is dismissed in favour of the Hastings Street and Second Narrows route to the east.

Network A includes the SFU Burnaby Mountain Gondola, which is considered as rapid transit.

Overall, Network A moves people more quickly and provides more capacity as it emphasizes options that offer full-grade separation, as elevated and tunnelled routes, also known as SkyTrain.

Full-grade separation generally offers more optimal speed and reliability, compared to surface options that run on the street.

skytrain mark iii train 2020s generation f

December 2020 artistic rendering of the new Bombardier Metro 300 (Mark III) trains for TransLink’s new SkyTrain car order. (TransLink)

Street-level rapid transit such as LRT or BRT under Network A is envisioned for corridors that include:

  1. Downtown Vancouver to West Vancouver and North Vancouver via West Georgia Street and the Lions Gate Bridge
  2. Along Commercial Drive and Victoria Drive to Richmond City Centre
  3. Marine Drive Station in South Vancouver to 22nd Street Station in New Westminster via Marine Drive and Marine Way
  4. Hastings Street from the PNE area (connecting with the new SkyTrain) to SFU Burnaby
  5. 104 Avenue from Surrey Central Station to Guildford
  6. Scott Road Station to Newton via Scott Road, 120 Street, and 72nd Avenue in Surrey and Delta
  7. Newton to South Surrey/White Rock via King George Boulevard
  8. Coquitlam Central Station to Maple Ridge and Langley City Centre via Lougheed Highway, Golden Ears Bridge, and 200 Street

Both network A and B options include various express and interregional route options, such as commuter rail or express buses on highways.

translink transport 2050 network A

Transport 2050’s Network A option of more SkyTrain, with some LRT and BRT. (TransLink)

Network B option with more LRT and BRT

The second option, named Network B, adds 400 km of rapid transit to the region, including 50 km of SkyTrain and 350 km of BRT.

This option downsizes Network A’s SkyTrain extension component, retaining the Millennium Line SkyTrain extension from Arbutus to UBC, Hastings Street SkyTrain line from downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale in North Vancouver via the Second Narrows, and the Willingdon Avenue SkyTrain extension reaching Brentwood Town Centre and Metrotown Station.

surrey lrt

Artistic rendering of the cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT. (TransLink)

The reduced investment on SkyTrain is instead reallocated to a larger network of street level options, such as LRT and BRT. Without full-grade separation, the BRT/LRT routes in both network A and B necessitate repurposing existing arterial road space across the region.

Network B includes all of the BRT and LRT routes and SFU Burnaby Mountain gondola outlined in Network A, plus additional east-west routes in Vancouver along King Edward Avenue, 41st Avenue, and 49th Avenue.

Within Surrey, instead of further SkyTrain extensions after the current Expo Line project to Langley, there would be a new grid network of LRT or BRT — not dissimilar to the 2018 proposal by the City of Surrey for 140 km of LRT.

In late 2018, the Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT was cancelled in response to immense public opposition and a changeover in municipal political leadership in favour of SkyTrain.

translink transport 2050 network B

Transport 2050’s Network B option of less SkyTrain, with more LRT and BRT. (TransLink)

It should also be noted that TransLink has completely excluded the City of Vancouver’s long-term proposal to build a streetcar network along the Arbutus Corridor and the areas in and around the downtown peninsula.

Automated buses and active transportation

Transport 2050 also covers the future of transportation from the potential transformative impact automation could have over the coming decades.

As the technology matures, TransLink’s engagement materials suggest the possibility of automated buses, shuttles, and shared vehicles.

“Automated vehicles could also help reduce collisions and make driving more energy efficient. Shared automated vehicles could serve multiple passengers around the clock. Reducing the number of cars on the road – and the amount of land used for parking,” reads the backgrounder.

More broadly, this public consultation covers how automated vehicles, including private vehicles, will fit into the region’s roads.

TransLink warns that the regional road system is already strained, and automated vehicles could lead to more travel, including longer trips, sometimes without any passengers. All of this could lead to more driving, congestion, and urban sprawl.

Additionally, another pillar of Transport 2050 focuses on expanding active transportation — creating “people-first streets” for walking, cycling, and rolling.

“Some trends will free up road space to achieve this. By 2050, we foresee more people living in compact communities throughout the region. Meaning people will be closer to services, jobs, and amenities. This requires some more coordination on land use, to bring people, shops, and jobs closer together,” continues the backgrounder.

“With more road space available for non-automobile uses, we would have an opportunity to reimagine our streets. We could prioritize some street space for transit or goods movement. We could also prioritize some streets or areas for lower-speed travel.”

Driverless shuttle Vancouver

Driverless shuttle in Vancouver’s Olympic Village. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

There are two online surveys the public can partake in from now until May 14, 2021; one online survey seeks feedback on the general expansion and direction components of Transport 2050, while a second online survey is specifically on the SkyTrain Millennium Line extension from Arbutus to UBC.

Feedback from both surveys will be used to create a draft Transport 2050 plan for further public consultation in Fall 2021, before it is finalized by TransLink and the Mayors’ Council.

“Long-term planning is never more important than in times of uncertainty. The pandemic has prompted Metro Vancouver and urban areas all over the world to reimagine what the future of transportation could look like,” said Gigi Chen-Kuo, the interim CEO of TransLink, in a statement.

“I welcome everyone to have their say on the region’s next major transportation strategy to help make everyone’s communities more livable for years to come.”

The timeline for finalizing Transport 2050 was delayed due to COVID-19. The concepts outlined in the current public consultation are based on the results of TransLink’s first engagement conducted in 2019.

Separately, the provincial government is currently in the process of conducting a study on expanding commuter rail from Metro Vancouver to the Fraser Valley.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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