TransLink is pitching a bold vision for the future of transit in Metro Vancouver over the next decade unlike anything the region has seen before.
In an announcement Wednesday (April 20), TransLink said it plans to spend the next 10 years doubling its regional bus service, rolling out a new bus rapid transit system, and completing the majority of its new bike and walkways.
These priorities are outlined in TransLink’s Transport 2050 strategic plan, which was unanimously adopted by the TransLink Mayor’s Council in January.
Within the decade, TransLink said 75 per cent of planned major bikeways and 66 per cent of the walkways will be completed, along with upgrades to the B.C. parkway and the addition of bike lockers and bike parkades. TransLink anticipates building 450km of traffic-separated cycling paths.
TransLink has announced that over the next 10 years they’ll be doubling regional bus service, expanding rapid bus service, building 75% of the planned 2050 bikeways and 66% of the planned walkways.@BlackPressMedia pic.twitter.com/Je8Y1EkFFQ
— Cole Schisler (@SchislerCole) April 20, 2022
The major focus of the next decade is on bus rapid transit — buses that operate in fully separated lanes with signal priority designed to keep buses moving.
This differs from TransLink’s existing rapid bus services on King George, Marine Drive, Loughheed Highway, 41st Avenue and Hastings Street.
TransLink said the bus rapid transit routes will be serviced by zero emissions or low emissions vehicles. Riders will prepay before boarding and buses have more spacious interiors to allow higher passenger capacities — similar to a rapid light rail experience. It is significantly cheaper than SkyTrain investments at $15-million per kilometre, versus $400 million per kilometre for the train.
Focusing on bus rapid transit will allow TransLink to move more quickly to expand rapid transit options to more areas rather than waiting for SkyTrain expansions. For contrast, it has taken 40 years to build 100km of SkyTrain, but TransLink is proposing 130km of bus rapid transit in a decade.
The new system is expected to be implemented on Hastings Street, King George Boulevard, Langley-Haney Place, Lougheed Highway, Lynn Valley, Metrotown-Park Royal, Marine Drive Station-22nd Street Station, Richmond Centre, and Scott Road.
In some areas, existing road space may be repurposed or reconfigured to allow for bus rapid transit. Projects will focus on working within existing road right of ways, but TransLink said the details still need to be fleshed out.
“We will bring rapid transit to the North Shore. We will build the Burnaby Mountain gondola to SFU and extend the Millenium Line all the way from Arbutus Street to the University of British Columbia,” TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn said.
TransLink will also look at bus connections between Coquitlam Centre and Port Coquitlam, as well as Coquitlam Centre to Surrey Centre via the Port Mann bridge.
The Surrey SkyTrain extension to Langley was not much discussed in the 10-year priorities as it is already a funded, committed project. However, the plan does call for exploring a possible SkyTrain extension to Newton.
TransLink didn’t offer an estimate on how much the work will cost, but said it will require an “ambitious” investment and partnerships with all levels of government — they also hinted that investment from developers and other forms of private investment may be required to deliver on the priorities.
“We recognize the traditional way we fund public transit in the region is likely to make it very difficult to achieve our vision and plans to improve public transit,” Mayors Council chair Jonathan Cote said. “We need to look at creative funding solutions and partnerships with potential developer contributions. Transit investment leads to more development and I think this region needs to do a better job of capturing the wealth that comes from that.”
Municipal elections are coming up in the fall. Cote said he expects the transit plan to be a hot-button issue as it touches on climate change, affordability and congestion. Despite the looming election, Cote said all levels of government are coalescing around the need to improve transit.
“I’m feeling confident that all three levels of government seem to be aligning their priorities and now we have the roadmap. I’m certain that after the municipal election we’ll be able to hit the ground running and very quickly work on implementing the priorities.”
After public feedback is received, the 10-year priorities will need to be voted on by the Mayors Council.