TransLink plans rapid bus transit from Park Royal to Metrotown
Over the past few years, several studies by provincial and municipal governments have identified potential concepts for building an extension of the SkyTrain serving the North Shore of Metro Vancouver, establishing a fixed third crossing through Burrard Inlet.
But the possibility of fully separate rail rapid transit like SkyTrain is seen as a long-term possibility, as TransLink now plans to advance bus rapid transit (BRT) in the near term first.
In an interview with Daily Hive Urbanized, West Vancouver Councilor Sharon Thompson expressed concern about the approach, suggesting that planning for the long-term rapid transit solution should begin as soon as possible.
“We don’t know until we know the real cost. We should find a long-term solution rather than something that will last five or ten years, then reinvest and recommit again. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Thompson said.
“We don’t really know what works on the North Shore. When making investments in regional transit, they should be prioritized based on economics, ie cost-benefit analysis.
She wants a feasibility study done on BRT versus light rail transit (LRT) at street level versus SkyTrain, before TransLink lands on BRT, even for the short-term solution . Thompson adds that she personally thinks TLR might be a good choice, while stressing that it needs study.
“Where did rail transport fall? They say that to achieve this they will do some planning and commitment, but they should do this before deciding on the technology. We should do a feasibility study. The problem with the BRT route is that I am not convinced that they can exploit it as they can, ”said Thompson, noting that the three mayors of the municipalities of the Côte-Nord support the new approach of TransLink with buses.
TransLink says it is suing BRT for its significantly lower construction cost and ability to implement it faster than SkyTrain.
BRT is essentially an enhanced B-Line and RapidBus concept with features like dedicated bus lanes, priority at traffic lights, special bus stops with shelters and facilities for passengers, and special buses more big capacity.
Optimal BRT service built at low cost also typically requires the repurposing of existing road space, which was previously a highly contentious issue in 2019 that led to TransLink’s decision not to pursue the R2 RapidBus route extension anymore. west past Park Royal to reach Dundarave in West Vancouver.
According to the transit authority, the BRT costs an average of $15 million per km, while the SkyTrain now costs an average of $400 million per km.
Based on this very broad BRT cost average, the 20km ‘Purple Line’ route designed last year by the North Shore Connects partnership of city governments would theoretically be in the range of $300 million – excluding any notable corridor-specific factors, such as the unique constraints of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.
“Based on the urgent need to improve congestion on this corridor, the Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities plan also proposes to immediately advance planning work for BRT in the near term, while we identify the best possible technology for the long-term corridor through a business case,” explained TransLink spokesperson Dan Mountain.
He adds that the Council of Mayors could direct TransLink staff to create a business case to determine technology for the long-term rapid transit project alongside BRT planning and implementation. In such a scenario, a business case for a long-term technology such as SkyTrain or LRT would be advanced alongside the implementation of BRT.
“That’s because we can run BRT quickly and relatively cheaply, while we explore the possibility of potentially improving the corridor to have tier-separated rapid transit technology like SkyTrain in the future,” he said. continued Mountain.
As part of the first 10-year priorities of the recently approved Transportation 2050 plan, a business case will be completed to help determine what is the best technology for the North Shore-Burnaby corridor, be it BRT, LRT , SkyTrain or a combination of the three technologies.
BRT also allows more ridership to accumulate on the corridor, before the potential for high-capacity rapid transit is taken into account. The B-Line was the precursor to all of the region’s most recent SkyTrain projects, including the original Millennium Line, the Canada Line and Millennium Line Evergreen Extension, and the future Millennium Line Broadway Extension to Arbutus and eventually UBC . The various current RapidBus routes also serve the same purpose of developing ridership for future transit improvements on the corridor.
This area doesn’t have a lot of history with real BRT, but it did have BRT infrastructure for the previous 98 B-Line route. In the early 2000s, tens of millions of dollars were spent to rebuild Route No. 3 between Bridgeport Road and CF Richmond Center with a landscaped median that physically protected two bus lanes for the 98 B line, as well as special bus shelters. But this configuration for Route No. 3 only lasted five years, as the bus lanes were quickly demolished mid-decade for construction of the Canada Line.
TransLink is also considering significant new bus priority infrastructure for part of the R6 Scott Road RapidBus route, scheduled to launch in 2023. As part of the 10-year priorities, the R6 will be further upgraded to the BRT standard later that decade.
But the much higher cost of rail-based rapid transit options will likely increase as the wait gets longer, the Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities plan outlining any rail-based rapid transit option does not will come only in the 2030s at the earliest. The Evergreen Extension built in 2016, for example, was built at a cost of around $120 million per km, while the Broadway Extension in Arbutus would have cost up to $500 million less than the current budget. $2.8 billion had it been completed in 2020 as previously planned instead of the current schedule of 2025.
Planning for rapid rail potential earlier alongside BRT implementation could potentially save at least hundreds of millions of dollars – if not billions – in the longer term, as it would theoretically put SkyTrain or LRT in a ready-to-start position, allowing construction to begin quickly, as soon as funds become available.
In September 2020, the provincial government released the findings of a high-level preliminary study into exploring extensions of the SkyTrain through Burrard Inlet to reach the North Shore. This study considered five route options.
The findings of the provincial government’s study formed the basis of another high-level preliminary study by municipal governments through their North Shore Connects partnership, which released the findings in October 2021. Although the study did not recommend SkyTrain, it used SkyTrain technology for analysis and found that this technology could reduce the number of cars on local roads by 50,000 by attracting new transit riders and catalyzing dozens thousands of new homes. It also reduced the Provincial Study route options to two route options via the Second Narrows – the purple route between Park Royal, PNE/Hastings Park, Brentwood town center and Metrotown, or the Gold route between Park Royal, PNE/Hastings Park, and downtown Vancouver via Hastings Street.
“We have to see where the lines are going to land and imagine the density that occurs along those lines. We need that full picture of what to expect, but continuing to build and not knowing where our transit lines go is not a proper process,” Thompson said.
In January 2022, Burnaby City Council made it clear that it supported the route of the “purple line” serving its municipality over the route of the “gold line” serving Vancouver. The following month, the three municipal governments of the North Shore jointly asked TransLink to prioritize a rapid transit project that directly serves their jurisdictions, and the project was subsequently included in Transportation 2050 and the proposed first 10-year priorities. . The previous public consultation on Transport 2050 made it clear that BRT would play a greater role in the region’s rapid transit in the future.
BRT serving the North Shore would be one of nine BRT routes identified by TransLink for the first 10 year priorities. Over the next decade, TransLink is also planning BRT for the following routes.
- Hastings Street (Upgrade from R5 RapidBus)
- King George Boulevard (Surrey to White Rock)
- Langley–Haney Place (200 Street at Golden Ears Bridge to Lougheed Highway)
- Lougheed Highway (Upgrade from R3 RapidBus)
- Lynn Valley – Downtown/Lonsdale (Lions Gate Bridge)
- Metrotown–Park Royal (Second Narrows)
- Marine Drive Station – 22nd Street Station (Marine Way)
- Richmond Center – Metrotown (Knight Street at Victoria Drive to 49th Avenue)
- Scott Road (upgrade from R6 RapidBus)
These BRT routes are also in addition to other RapidBus routes.
TransLink recently concluded public consultation on its 10-year priorities, which include extending the SkyTrain Millennium line to UBC, the Burnaby Mountain Gondola to SFU, and exploring other potential SkyTrain extensions to Port Coquitlam and Newton.
The 10-year priorities state that the UBC SkyTrain project will not proceed until the nine-route BRT plan begins implementation.
The Council of Mayors should deliberate and decide on ten-year priorities in a few weeks.
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