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Kenneth Chan, in Vancity Buzz, asks a question we’ve all wondered about when standing on a crowded platform in the Canada Line:

Could it become a victim of its own success?

If you have used and compared the Canada Line with the train systems found in other major metropolitan areas around the world, there is no mistaking that it was built with bare bone station designs consisting of jarringly short and narrow platforms for seemingly ‘toy trains.’

The usual answer with respect to capacity is, sure, no problem:

According to TransLink, with 50 metre platforms permitting three-car trains, this means the Canada Line has a ultimate design capacity of 15,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd).

“The current capacity offered by the Canada Line is about 6,100 people per hour per direction in the peak periods,” TransLink spokesperson Jiana Ling told Vancity Buzz. “Recent measurements show at the busiest point, the line currently carries around 5,500 pphpd. Thus, the current ridership has not exceeded the maximum capacity in peak periods.”

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But Kenneth, with his usual thoroughness, explores the complications and variables:

Even if the Canada Line train system were to have the same ultimate design capacity as the Expo Line’s present peak capacity, therein lies the other major problem of getting higher volumes of passengers in and out of the small station footprints efficiently. …

Service reliability and train frequency is also impaired by the short-sighted decision to single-track the final 640 metres of elevated guideway before both terminuses at Richmond-Brighouse and YVR-Airport Stations.

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He explores how the system can be tweaked to handle more ridership, and, most interesting of all, the politics and processes behind the decision-making, concluding that:

The decision makers and planners of the day lacked the foresight needed to ensure the system would be designed with excess buffer capacity to allow for both planned and unplanned growth – or at the very least, be given the capability of significant expansion.

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Right at the end (probably further than most readers will get) there’s this topically relevant observation:

In the distant future, when Canada Line capacity is completely maxed out, a secondary north-south light rail or fully grade separated system could be built on the Arbutus Corridor to complement the Canada Line.

However, the availability of the Arbutus Corridor for such a future use is up in the air. The Canadian Pacific Railway wants to utilize the railway for its development potential while the City of Vancouver wants to maintain it as a greenway for purposes that include a future light rail line.

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In other words, the Arbutus corridor may well be needed in the future as a relief for the Canada Line, at a time when the city is ready to densify that part of the city.

Unimaginable?  Remember that “Kerrisdale” is a short form for “Kerry’s Dale” – the name of the interurban stop at 41st Avenue, opened in 1905, when the B.C. Electric Railway made the real-estate viable as a whole new neighbourhood.  That’s how cities grow – and redevelop.

No matter how the issue of the Arbutus corridor is bandied around during this election, all parties and candidates should commit to this essential principle: the right-of-way will continue to be maintained for the purpose for which it was built, for which it is zoned and for which it will be needed in the future.  It will be a corridor for trains.