Rapid Bus to Maple Ridge study starts in fall

TransLink says nothing assumed as connection sought to Evergreen SkyTrain

TransLink is looking at hooking Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows into the new Evergreen SkyTrain line by studying the feasibility of Rapid Bus line or B-line service from downtown Maple Ridge to Coquitlam Centre.

“We want to make sure that we design the route in a way that’s efficient for passengers,” Tamim Raad, TransLink’s director of strategic planning and policy, said Tuesday.

Raad said the study will determine if Lougheed or Dewdney Trunk Road is more suitable, and if the service would use its own dedicated traffic lanes. The goal is to whisk commuters westward on a direct route with two or three stops in each city, then deliver them to the Evergreen Line at Coquitlam Centre.

A Rapid Bus line into Maple Ridge is identified in the Regional Transportation Strategy, released by TransLink in July 2013. The study could take one-and a half to two years to complete. If money’s available, a Rapid Bus or B-line service could start two to three years later.

But nothing’s been determined, from the route it will take to the number of stops to the amount of dedicated lanes for such a service, said Raad.

“It’s really about an extension of the rapid transit network,” and about feeding commuters into the new SkyTrain system.

“It’s very frequent, limited-stop service that moves people across the region.”

Raad said TransLink has done well in improving transportation in Metro Vancouver.

“As a region, we’ve done better than most in North America in the last 15 years.”

B-line service entails using big buses on a route with limited stops and some control over traffic signals.

Rapid Buses offer better vehicles and comfort to commuters, larger stations and shelters, separated bus lanes and have a “much higher level of traffic priority.

“So it’s just a much more intensive service.”

The study came after the mayors of Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge met with TransLink earlier this year, asking for a Rapid Bus connection to Evergreen.

Daykin, though, wants to speed the process along.

“We’re going to push them on that,” he said, commenting on the time frame for the study and for starting the service, if approved.

Daykin said his vision is have a Rapid Bus system from Maple Ridge to Coquitlam “ready to go by 2016.

“My reality may not be that.”

Complicating the issue is the looming referendum on TransLink funding. The Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation’s  vision and investment plan will form the basis of the referendum question.

If the referendum, yet to be scheduled, is defeated, “that doesn’t mean we give up,” Daykin said.

He first learned about the study in March or April.

“I’m delighted. It’s another step. It’s keeping the ball moving forward. They listened to us.”

Daykin said he told TransLink that Maple Ridge was trying to do things the right way, by growing the downtown core to about 20,000 people and having West Coast Express (which runs only five times each rush hour) or Rapid Bus within a five-minute walk.

“We’re trying to do it right. We should be given consideration for that.”

In the long run, a Rapid Bus route could be the predecessor to a light rail transit route.

“The Pitt River Bridge was built to light-rail standards,” Daykin said.

But that’s way down the road, he added.

A Rapid Bus network “will be laying the ground work for the future.”