Vancouver Plan outlines how rapid transit could be expanded

Apr 6 2022, 2:38 am

Improving public transit connections and capacities will be key for the City of Vancouver’s stated densification and growth strategy in its newly released draft Vancouver Plan.

In fact, the level of density to support the forecasted population and employment growth hinges on public transit.

Earlier today, city staff released their draft Vancouver Plan for public consultation, which establishes a vision for how the city will grow and adapt, specifically to address existing housing supply and affordability issues, and accommodate projected population and employment growth.

By 2050, Vancouver is forecast to see its residential population grow to 920,000 from 620,000 today, and its workforce population increase to 630,000 jobs from 337,000 today.

Much of this new density will be located around existing and future SkyTrain stations, public transit hubs, and major bus routes.

The City of Vancouver’s public transit vision generally aligns with TransLink’s Transport 2050 plan of a 30-year transportation expansion and improvement strategy for Metro Vancouver, which was approved by the Mayors’ Council earlier this year.

The SkyTrain Millennium Line extension from Arbutus to UBC is included. Last week, city council endorsed a potential route that enables an on-site station directly serving the future Jericho Lands development, with this routing recommendation sent to TransLink and the Mayors’ Council for further consideration.

However, the Vancouver Plan also provides emerging ideas for other rapid transit routes that cross through the city.

The draft Vancouver Plan’s public transit expansion map shows an east-west rapid transit route along the 41st Avenue and 49th Avenue corridors between the University of British Columbia campus and Metrotown in Burnaby. Of special interest is the envisioned routing that transitions between 41st Avenue and 49th Avenue in the middle of the city, with a diagonal path from 41st Avenue and Cambie Street (serving Oakridge Municipal Town Centre) to 49th Avenue and Main Street.

In an interview with Daily Hive Urbanized, Donny Wong, the City of Vancouver’s engineering lead for the Vancouver Plan, explained that the municipal government wanted to acknowledge Langara College as a destination, which saw its long-term plans to nearly double its campus size to 1.45 million sq ft approved by city council in 2021. A station in the general vicinity would also serve Punjabi Market just to the east on Main Street.

Wong said TransLink’s Transport 2050 map also showed a slight curve in this area for the same rationale.

vancouver draft area plan

Map of potential public transit network in the draft Vancouver Plan, April 2022. Click on the map for an enlarged version. (City of Vancouver)

“We’ve shown the long-term strategy as well, and identified the entire corridor as an opportunity to leverage the regional investment,” said Wong, adding that it would create a loop around the Burrard Peninsula with the Millennium Line extension to UBC.

He also emphasized that the actual routing and alignment will come at a later date in a future planning process led by TransLink, after a decision is made to prioritize the project.

Rapid transit routes are also envisioned west-east along Hastings Street corridor between downtown Vancouver and Burnaby, north-south across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore via both the First Narrows and Second Narrows, and west-east along Marine Drive from SkyTrain Marine Drive Station to Burnaby.

Another route would run north-south along Commercial Drive and Victoria Drive between downtown Vancouver and Richmond, which is highlighted in Transport 2050 as well. Over the interim, possibly later this decade, TransLink has plans to introduce a RapidBus route for this corridor.

TransLink and the City of Vancouver expect most of its regional rapid transit expansion projects will be achieved through bus rapid transit by repurposing existing road space, but it will consider grade-separation (such as SkyTrain) for several regional routes, including the Vancouver route of 41st/49th Avenue.

In its draft Vancouver Plan, the city also suggested special considerations to accommodate rapid transit on Commercial Drive north of Broadway.

“While Transport 2050 does not specify grade-separation on Commercial Avenue north of Broadway, the City will explore compatible alignments and technologies through study and partnership with TransLink,” reads the draft plan.

The draft Vancouver Plan also retains the long-term possibility of the streetcar network within downtown Vancouver, around False Creek, and the Arbutus Greenway reaching the Fraser River. However, the streetcar was not included by TransLink in Transport 2050.

translink transport 2050 rapid transit expansion

Transport 2050 plan for additional grade-separated rapid transit (SkyTrain) and bus rapid transit (BRT). Click on the map for an expanded version. (TransLink)

Transport 2050 highlighted the need to perform major capacity relief measures on the Expo Line and Canada Line over the coming years.

Prior to the pandemic, TransLink forecast the Expo Line would reach its ultimate capacity in the 2040s.

The possibility of major capacity overhauls to the Canada Line, which is challenged by short platforms, are not expected to be feasible until the 2040s — when SNC Lavalin’s ProTrans BC reaches the end of its 31-year operations and maintenance contract, and transfers the operations of the Canada Line to TransLink.

The draft Vancouver Plan elaborates on the potential solutions and scope extent of the capacity relief measures to both the Expo and Canada lines, stating examples such as building parallel lines, double tracking, or increasing service frequency and train capacity.

Also noted in the draft Vancouver Plan are potential new additional frequent transit network routes (FTN) — services that run at least every 15 minutes in both directions throughout the day and into the evening, daily, according to TransLink’s definition of the classification.

Based on potential frequent transit identified through previous area transportation plans or studies by TransLink, the city envisions potential new or upgraded bus routes reaching FTN classification along Dunbar and Alma streets, 54th and 57th avenues, Rupert and Kerr streets, and East 1st Avenue.

An interregional express public transit bus service reaching destinations along the Sea to Sky Highway corridor could also begin from downtown Vancouver via the Lions Gate Bridge.

Transportation is one of several major components within the Vancouver Plan.

The city is now conducting its final public consultation in the Vancouver Plan planning process to gauge the public’s opinion on the draft plan, before it is further refined for city council’s final consideration. An online survey is available from now until April 24, 2022.

City council is expected to review the Vancouver Plan for approval before its summer break. If approved, the plan will be implemented between Summer 2022 and late 2024.

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