Transit a hit-and-miss affair in B.C.A?ai??i??ai???s Lower Mainland

Shuttling sleekly between Richmond and downtown Vancouver, the $2-billion Canada Line has been a hit since it opened in 2009. But while the Canada Line whisks hundreds of passengers a day to their destinations, hundreds more huddle at bus stops or fume in their cars. Transit is a hit-and-miss affair in the Lower Mainland, with some neighbourhoods well-served and others out of the loop.

The patchy coverage reflects geography, history and financial constraints. TransLink, the Lower Mainlandai??i??s regional transit authority, serves an area that covers nearly 3,000 square kilometres, has more than 2 million residents and takes in 21 municipalities, including Bowen Island. Modes of transit include buses, the SkyTrain light rapid transit system, a SeaBus that links the North Shore to downtown and the West Coast Express, a weekday commuter rail service between Vancouver and Mission. In addition, TransLink shares responsibility for major roads and bridges with local governments.

Over the past few decades, the regionai??i??s population has outpaced transit development. Major new projects have been few and far between. SkyTrain debuted for Expo 86. The proposed Evergreen Line ai??i?? a $1.4-billion SkyTrain extension that would link Coquitlam to Vancouver ai??i?? has been on the drawing board since the 1990s, but has stalled repeatedly over money problems. South of the Fraser River, cities like Surrey, Delta and Langley are forecast to have some of the biggest population increases in the region over the next 30 years but at this point argue that they havenai??i??t seen their share of transit cash, or service.

Last year, TransLinkai??i??s mayorsai??i?? council turned down a plan that would have relied on property tax increases to fund several major projects, including the Evergreen Line.

Provincial and federal dollars for the project have been lined up but TransLink still needs to come up with its $400-million share of the tab.

ai???The supplemental plan didnai??i??t go anywhere because their ai???planai??i?? was to put more of a burden on property taxes,ai??? says West Vancouver mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, who is vice-chair of the mayorsai??i?? council. ai???And we as mayors have been very clear that is not

The province and mayors in 2010 signed a memorandum of understanding that both sides would look at ai???all optionsai??? for future transit funding. TransLinkai??i??s current revenue sources include property, fuel and parking taxes. The agency also has the authority to impose a vehicle levy and an ai???area benefiting taxai??? ai??i?? a levy that would be paid from property owners that stand to benefit from transit improvements.

TransLinkai??i??s funding bind has been an issue for more than a decade, says Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini.

ai???It hasnai??i??t gone away ai??i?? it has gotten worse. And the delegated funding sources that TransLink was given are not enough to sustain the plan,ai??? he says.

In the meantime, urban planning in Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Coquitlam has been based on the belief that ai???some day the train will comeai??? ai??i?? a belief that is at times difficult to maintain.

ai???Business wants certainty. Investment in our sector is suffering because of skepticism about rapid transit,ai??? Mr. Trasolini says. ai???Business suffers when you donai??i??t have efficient transportation systems and you have things left in the air without any

Future fixes

For transportation planners, big sports or cultural events can be virtual laboratories, ripe with possibilities for experiments and innovation.

After monitoring transportation and travel patterns in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympic games, Tarek Sayed has one overriding conclusion.

ai???We can set the bar much higher than what we are doing right now,ai??? says Mr. Sayed, who oversaw a study, commissioned by the city, that dispatched squads of University of British Columbia student survey teams to monitor people coming in to or leaving downtown. ai???We can expect a larger per cent shift in sustainable modes, including

The study found that trips by ai???sustainableai??? modes ai??i?? transit, walk or bike ai??i?? more than doubled during the games and accounted for 79.5 per cent of spectator travel to event venues.

Faced with the closure of major roadways into downtown, people adjusted ai??i?? walking, taking the bus or working from home. That adjustment holds lessons, including the potential to use a ai???carrot and stickai??? approach to transit and travel planning, says Mr. Sayed.

A ai???carrotai??? might be a speedy new transit line, while a stick could be costly parking fees or road closures ai??i?? all designed to encourage ai???compactai??? living.

In Vancouver, planners are weighing proposals for higher-density developments along the Cambie Corridor travelled by the Canada Line. Richmond, too, is pursuing transit-oriented development.

Cities can also woo passengers through technology, such as electronic fare cards ai??i?? names in the running for TransLinkai??i??s planned smart card include Tpass, Compass and Starfish, along the lines of Londonai??i??s Oyster ai??i?? and other changes that make transit more convenient and efficient, such as traffic systems that provide green lights for transit vehicles.

TransLink is trying to build on its Olympic legacy, which includes higher-than-forecast ridership for the Canada Line, with TravelSmart, a program that encourages people to use sustainable options to travel around the region.

Outside of Vancouver, that concept can be more difficult to embrace.

TransLink has boosted bus service in Surrey, but thatai??i??s not enough for many people to give up the convenience and comfort of their cars, says Surrey mayor Dianne Watts.

ai???That SkyTrain is called the Expo line because it was built for Expo, with four stops,ai??? Ms. Watts says, referring to Surreyai??i??s four SkyTrain stations. ai???The population at that time was about 240,000 people. Today we have about half a million people and we have the same four stops.

ai???The situation south of the Fraser just exacerbates the problem of people getting in their cars. South of the Fraser we are going to take 70 per cent of the regionai??i??s growth over the next 10, 15, 20 years ai??i?? and there has to be infrastructure put in

Ms. Watts, like many of her counterparts, says TransLink needs a different funding mechanism that would allow the agency to put together an integrated, long-term plan.

For Surrey, she favours a light rail systems that would link different ai???nodesai??? of Surrey to SkyTrain network.

SkyTrain is great for linking two urban centres but is far too expensive to run through sprawling Surrey, she says.

ai???That kind of money is just not sitting in a pot


2 Responses to “Transit a hit-and-miss affair in B.C.A?ai??i??ai???s Lower Mainland”
  1. John Buker says:

    Glad to see Mayor Watts continue to stand up for sanity and building light rail!

    The question is whether she can influence the new premier….

  2. Evil Eye says:

    Ha, ha, ha, – the Canada Line is successful?

    Many reporters confuse TransLink’s ridership numbers as TranLink reports boardings, not passengers, thus 110,000 boardings a day = less than 55,000 actual people customers using the metro.

    Then one must subtract the 35,000 bus customers who now are forced to transfer onto the metro and again subtract, the over 10,000 YVR employees who drive to and park at Sea Island for free, then ride the Canada Line for free, one or two stations to their actual places of work. Then subtract the many thousands of U_Pass students who make up to 8 trips per day on the Canada line to go to classes, then the mall, then to clubs in Vancouver, then home.

    Subtract all these, then one is left with less than 5,000 new customers to the Canada Line. Nowhere near the 200,000 car trips a day that the Canada line was to eliminate!

    We spent, or should i say the government spent over $2.5 billion to attract fewer than 5,000 new customers onto the Canada line!

    That is the real problem with TransLink and the regional transit system.