A Good Start

Greater Vancouver’s Mayors have finally hashed out their differences and come together to create a reasonable plan for the region’s transportation priorities over the next 10 years and beyond. On top of being reasonable it is considerably more ambitious than I was expecting. I’m going to focus on the changes to Vancouver and Surrey/Langley as those are the locations I know about, and care about the most.

Investments In the Next 10 Years

Red is new rapid transit, green is new or expanded B-Line bus, faint pink shows normal bus lines with increased service

As you can see in the image above, they are proposing a 5km long underground extension of the millennium line extended from the current VCC-Clark station along broadway to Arbutus st. Considering this is currently the busiest bus-route in North America this can’t come soon enough. I’m pretty disappointed they aren’t extending it all the way to UBC but given the political difficulty of spending the extra billion or so to get it the rest of the way, I understand why they are making the compromise. In terms of time, I doubt things will be dramatically improved for UBC commuters, but there will at least probably be fewer full buses passing people.

The rest of the improvements in Vancouver are mostly about improving the connection between Vancouver and the rest of the region. SeaBus capacity is rising, Westcoast Express is getting extra cars and one extra locomotive, the various Skytrain lines are all getting major capacity increases to allow for thousands of extra passengers every day. Altogether the improvements should significantly improve transit access in and out of Vancouver.

Another proposal is 300 km of new separated bike lanes throughout the region as well as thousands of km other forms of bike lanes. I don’t have much experience cycling around Vancouver so it is difficult for me to comment on how much of an improvement this will be, but it sounds to me like a decent start over 10 years.

Surrey will probably see the most extensive improvements with this plan, and deservedly so. As the second largest, and fastest growing municipality in the lower mainland, they need a good transportation system to avoid crippling gridlock. According to the report, 200,000 new people will live within walking distance of rapid transit in Surrey and Langley, which has the potential to take thousands of cars off the road.

Details on the new light rail lines are sparse. They appear similar in length to the expo line which is 30km long. However, I wasn’t able to find any concrete information on implementation. If people are going to switch to light rail the system needs complete right of way and high average speeds. It will also need to stop in dense areas or at major transit exchanges. In many areas along the route to Langley City this is going to be a difficult proposition. The good news is that the Langley route is at least 12 years out so there is plenty of time for both Surrey and Langley to shape development along and around the route.

The plan also includes a replacement to the aging and quite frankly dangerous Pattullo bridge. Thankfully in the end New Westminster won the argument and the bridge will still be four lanes and tolled, providing much needed revenue to fund its replacement, as well as incentivizing people to use the expanding public transit network.

The plan also includes shifting some carbon tax revenue to transit improvements, and slowly introducing road pricing around metro Vancouver. These changes deserve a post of their own which I may try to do in the future but for now I just want to mention that according to the mayor’s report, all the proposed investments alone will not get the region to the goal of 4,250 annual km’s driven per capita. Investments and other measures like road pricing will bring the region closer to the goal.

I’m glad the region’s mayor’s finally completed a comprehensive plan, but the implementation will require the cooperation of both the provincial and federal governments. What could possibly go wrong there? That may be the subject of my next post…

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