Metro Vancouver’s small towns raise concerns over funding rail to ‘wealthy’ UBC

But Vancouver, Surrey mayors say it’s key to get the line built and grab senior funding

Mayors from Metro Vancouver’s smaller communities are raising concerns about a major transportation investment in a part of the region already well served by rapid transit.

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation received a TransLink staff report during Thursday’s meeting on three potential options for rail to the University of B.C.

The report recommended using SkyTrain to connect the planned Broadway Extension to UBC, rather than light rail from either Main Street-Science World or the extension.

(The $2.83 billion Broadway Extension will connect the current Millennium Line to Arbutus along Broadway and is scheduled to be completed by 2025.)

READ MORE: TransLink lays out costs for light rail, SkyTrain to UBC

It’s the most expensive of the three options, likely totalling around $4 billion by its estimated completion time of 2030, but TransLink vice-president of policy and planning Geoff Cross said it was the only one that made sense.

“We would have overcrowding on most of the parallel corridors [with light rail], the lone exceptions being the SkyTrain to UBC,” Cross said.

There is no funding set aside to build the line itself yet, but $3 million was put forward last year to study possible routes.

Both light rail options would be at or over capacity by 2045, Cross noted, while “SkyTrain capacity can be double on that line from opening capacity, more in line with what we’re looking at with the Expo Line today.”

But Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West questioned the logic of building more rapid transit in an area already well served by TransLink.

“We have an area, one of wealthiest in Metro Vancouver, that has some of the best transit service already… and we’re going to make an improvement to that service?” West said.

According to West, he “chuckled” at another mayor’s questions about the “lifestyle impacts of elevated versus underground” routes.

“The lifestyle impacts of not having rapid transit is also something interesting we could consider,” West said.

District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little agreed.

Much of the North Shore, he said, has “half hour bus service and very limited route options” due to the two fixed crossings to the rest of the region.

“How are we dealing with the congestion issue of getting on and off the North Shore?” Little asked.

“Congestion today is stopping people from getting to work.”

But big city mayors were united in believing rail to UBC stood a good chance of bringing in senior government funding to the region.

“Other competitor regions like Toronto are in considerable disarray,” Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said, citing disagreements between municipal and provincial governments.

“The time to act is now.”

Kennedy met with Premier John Horgan earlier this week and said although discussions are preliminary, “you saw the grins around the table.”

Kennedy and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum will be among other big city mayors meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the coming days, where McCallum said he would be playing up the region’s accomplishments.

“We have solid figures on how our ridership has increased over the next few years,” McCallum said.

“We do have a golden opportunity right now that other cities in Canada don’t really have… which is to get people out of their cars and onto rapid transit.”

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver mayors vote to ‘develop’ $1.65B in Fraser Highway SkyTrain

READ MORE: TransLink will bring free WiFi to buses, SkyTrain and Seabus by 2020


@katslepian

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