North Shore Dreams

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 From North Shore News: 

North Vancouver-Seymour Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite (has) drawn up a proposal including hypothetical transit map featuring a SkyTrain connection over the Second Narrows with stops across the North Shore, from Cates Park to Dundarave. And she’s started consulting with local MPs and the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. …

Thornthwaite said she was inspired to lobby for a North Shore rail link because constituents in North Vancouver-Seymour have very little coming to them in terms of transit improvements. …

Funding is in place currently for a new SeaBus, which will allow 10-minute service during rush hour, a 30 per cent increase in regular bus service and new B-Line buses for the North Shore.

Thornthwaite said she hasn’t done any back-of-the-envelope calculations on what such a plan would cost although she conceded it would be in the billions.

“But the only way we can get an assessment going and the interest from the decision-makers like TransLink and the mayors’ council is to start talking about it. That’s what I’m trying to do. Everybody I’ve talked to thinks it’s a good idea.”

Such a rail line could even be connected to Squamish and Whistler over the longer term, Thornthwaite added.

Gordon Price, fellow with SFU’s Centre for Dialogue and former head of the university’s city program, said it’s refreshing to see the discussion of a fabled “third crossing” return but centred around mass transit for a change.

“It’s certainly doable and it could certainly be doable faster than what dreamers might think at this point. That’s a political and financial commitment,” he said.

But before North Vancouver and West Vancouver can pursue a rail link with any seriousness, they have to be able to answer some existential questions about the kind of communities they aspire to be. To justify a SkyTrain, our urban planning would have to become much more centred around transit over the long term than it currently is.

“If you’re going to be looking at something like SkyTrain rapid transit, and you should, it’s a long-term solution. We’re talking over 100 years. And it means a fundamental change in the scale, and for some parts of your community, a fundamental change in character. You’re building transit-oriented, concentrated communities with both work and play and all the rest of it,” he said. “Because otherwise, why build rapid transit?”

Park Royal would have to look more like Burnaby’s Brentwood neighbourhood, Price used as an example.

“North Van and West Vancouver would have to commit themselves to having a different kind of long-term vision for themselves, and I’m not sure that the population is yet ready for that,” he said.

But, Price noted, if the hope is that a North Shore SkyTrain would be the silver bullet to solving the bridge congestion problem, there are much cheaper and faster options within reach, namely mobility pricing. The technology to track usage of the roads and transit system in real time exists in most anyone’s smartphone, meaning it would not be difficult to charge tolls based on usage. That would be the most effective incentive for getting people and cars off the road, and speeding up the daily commutes, Price said.

“That’s going to be so much easier to do in the world we’re moving into. We’re not quite there yet but it’s happening,” he said.  “The politics of that? Brutal. But it could be done.”

10 thoughts on “North Shore Dreams”

  1. You wouldn’t run Skytrain on an alignment with limited dual-side catchment. All you’ve got on the south side of the 3rd/Marine corridor is some apartments, Squamish Nation land, and water. Destinations are good, yes, but these constraints will not pass any benefits analysis. You see this in New Westminster, but that’s a necessary line of stops between Surrey and Burnaby. A less-expensive and more feasible option for the 3rd/Marine corridor is BRT and/or light rail.

    If you’re going Fully Monty with an east-west Skytrain option on the North Shore, you’ll unfortunately have to hit up a number of oddly-aligned major destination/growth areas: Maplewood, Capilano U, Lynn Valley, Lonsdale, Park Royal. A Canada Line extension under the Burrard and up Lonsdale makes more sense on paper. Not sure how much you would save by ditching the Seabus, but there’s off-set in there.

    But ultimately this is not the best investment either. If you want rapid transit on the shore that responds to actual and forecast travel demand, it needs to bring people to/from the shore, not just along its south edge. That means connecting East Van/Burnaby/Tri Cities to the shore via single-trip Skytrain rather than a series of wonky bus transfers. Extending the Millennium/Evergreen Lines from Brentwood or Gilbert under the 2nd Narrows to some alignment on the shore would improve the non-downtown commutes that constitute the majority of area work trips.

    • Colin Brander said:

      Well stated. Obviously, the biggest cost is the crossing of Burrard Inlet. To me, extending from downtown would be the best option and I would think that extending the Expo Line would give the best connectivity to the rest of the region. I wonder what the costs/benefits to extending the Expo Line to Lonsdale Quay and potentially Park Royal (with potential future expansion or connection to a new LRT line) would be and what time frame would make the most sense.

    • In the early 1990s (about the time the Scott Rd extension opened) The Province newspaper ran an article with the then head of BC Transit (i.e. before TransLink) and he mentioned at the time that they were studying a North Shore SkyTrain route in the vicinity of Second Narrows and a Boundary Rd. line, because it provided more connectivity to the region.
      Also mentioned at the time was rapid growth on the Expo Line, causing them to consider a separate line to Coquitlam, rather than the then-planned branch off the Expo Line from Edmonds.

  2. Barry Rueger said:

    It would have been nice if our MLA had championed this level of transit improvement when her party was in power. As far as I know Thornthwaite never so much as made a peep while the Liberals underfunded transit in favour of bridges.

  3. Alex Botta said:

    I agree with Dan about the straight line. However, a loop may offer some potentially charged up networking.

    If a line was established on the North Shore parallel to the shoreline (with improved bus service / connections up Lonsdale), and that line was reflected with a parallel line across the Inlet on Hastings, and the gap at the ends looped closed, you’d have a pretty significant population and job centre foundation upon which to build.

    Extensions under Burnaby Mountain to the Evergreen Line and and, as mentioned, to the Millennium Line, and possibly down Willingdon to Metrotown will provide direct connectivity to three rapid transit lines. The North Shore will never be the same.

    My preference would be to bridge the gaps at the ends at Second Narrows and Lions Gate, each with separate structures. First Narrows could be designed to reflect the heritage Lions Gate Bridge with a twin brdge, then the tracks could descend below the causeway through to downtown where it would connect to the Expo Line and Canada Line at Waterfront, and from there undergrounds on Hastings to Hastings Park and beyond.

    This is decades out, but I would disagree with Gord that it’s a century out. We need this kind of long-range planning well before mid-century with a phased urban build-out following in the period 2050-75.

    What other choice do we have considering our urban constraints and climate change?

  4. We need big dreams when it comes to transit. Rapid transit to and through the north shore is only one of a few key projects we need to start working on asap. We have meek leadership on this vital topic. Because of it, our sprawl will continue and the ALR is next.

  5. Barry Rueger said:

    It would be lovely if the train ran to Horseshoe Bay, making transit a lot more fast and comfortable for people commuting from the Gulf Islands, or just travelling. There’s also a growing population of Squamish commuters coming downtown.

    As GVRD real estate becomes prohibitively expensive (arguable we’re already there) more and more people will buy homes in the far-flung regions north of Vancouver instead of deep in the Fraser Valley. And of course the British Properties corporation will keep building new developments above West Vancouver.

    • Alex Botta said:

      CN (formerly BC Rail) has a track from Lonsdale above the Quay through to Whistler-Pemberton, then further on to the Interior.

      It doesn’t take a caffeined-up transit geek with a collection of pocket protectors ….

  6. We should seriously consider a gondola. The distance is very similar to the peak to peak from whistler to blackcomb. The upfront cost of the peak to peak is equivalent to 1.5 sea-bus. The operating costs are much less than the seabus and the energy use is much less. Service levels could be every 30 seconds. The peak to peak takes 11 minutes to cross. The gondola could have multiple stops including up the mountain in North Van and more central downtown rather than just the waterfronts.

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