Vancouver moves forward with massive LRT construction

By 2040, the population of Metro Vancouver will increase by another 1 million residents. Additionally, 600,000 jobs will be created which, for the transport system, means 3 million more personal vehicle rides. In order to eliminate traffic congestion problems and the negative environmental impact, the authorities elaborated a Vision for the next 30 years to meet all mobility needs. The strategy is divided into three distinctive phases. This year, Vancouver launched the implementation of the 10-year vision by boosting public rail transport services and optimise the other transport systems. This first phase of the Vision stresses the development and improvement of the light rail system which would result in a 20% increase of services and the construction of new lines or extensions.

The Metro Vancouver Vision for the next 3 decades is the most advanced mobility strategy in Canada including investments in the transport system development around the whole region. The project includes three phases, each of 10 years, and could be implemented by 2030.
Developed by the Mayors’ Council, which includes representatives of the 21 municipalities in the region to meet the transport system optimisation objectives, the first phase focuses on three pillars: investment, management and partnership. The vision includes plans for projects of over USD 5 billion (CAD 7.5 billion) in capital costs, while total operation and financing costs per year will increase the annual budget of TransLink (the authority responsible for Vancouver transport network) from USD 990 million to USD 1.55 billion. In terms of financing, various sources are mentioned: governmental, increase of transport revenues, Pattullo Bridge Tolland and the proposal for new financing resources. Total federal, provincial and partner government contributions will stand at USD 2.8 billion, one third of the value of each large infrastructure project will be financed through the contribution of federal and provincial partners and over USD 86 million a year will be allocated through federal gas tax funds. Almost USD 354 million will be covered by new transit fare revenues as a result of increased ridership, while with the new financing sources, it is estimated that USD 77.8 million per year will be supplied and the increase of the amount to USD 276 million/year.
The Vision will provide much more frequent transit services for 70% of Vancouver’s residents (or 1.5 million) thus reducing the number of personal vehicles and saving money and time – the users of transport services could save around 30 minutes/day after traffic congestion on large corridors is reduced. Beside these aspects, the number of accidents will be reduced, as well as the environmental impact and a sustainable economy will be developed.
As regards the transit lines, these corridors are essential, especially the Expo Line, travelling through the geographic centre of the region and continuing to carry most passengers compared to the other lines. As the population and the mobility demand will increase, it is necessary to upgrade the existing network, including the rolling stock and the stations, on the Expo Line, the Millennium Line and Canada Line. Recently, TransLink has upgraded part of the stations to improve accessibility, capacity and ticketing systems. 7 of the Expo Line stations have been modernised and, according to the Vision, the same improvements are considered for the other above-mentioned stations too. The modernisation of the West Coast Express is also underlined in the strategy and projects need to be drafted following the placing in service of the Evergreen extension in December 2016. The 11-km section with 7 stations will provide transport services for 70,000 passengers/day until 2021. It pertains to the public rail transport network, SkyTrain.

The first step

The Vision’s first phase is implemented starting with 2017 being launched by placing in service several SkyTrain and SeaBus services to reduce the waiting time and transport network agglomerations. “I’m thrilled to kick off transit improvements with the first phase of the Mayors Council’s 10-Year Vision, turning words into action in launching the most advanced, integrated and sustainable transportation investment plan in Canada,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chair of the Mayors’ Council.
Over the following months, TransLink will continue to implement this phase by expanding bus transport services and will consult with the communities to set the priorities for the optimisation of the road network. As regards rail transport, the second phase of public consultations for the extensions of the light rail Broadway and Surrey-Newton-Guildford projects will be launched.
For rail transport, the first phase of the Vision stipulates an increase of services on Expo, Millenium, Evergreen Extension, Canada lines and West Coast Express and the initiation of the pre-construction and consultation phase for Broadway metro and Surrey LRT. Apart from these projects, there are plans including the maintenance of rail infrastructure systems and vehicles. The authorities also plan to procure 28 coaches for the Expo Line, 22 coaches for Cana Line, to procure more vehicles for the SkyTrain fleet and replacement coaches to maintain and modernise the existing fleet. Also, 5 coaches and a locomotive for the west Coast Express will be procured.
Surrey city and its surroundings have the fastest growth in the region. Estimates show that by 2030, it will attract over 25% of residents and will create new jobs. Under the strategy, the construction of three LRT corridors – 104 Avenue, King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway – is considered. Although design details are necessary to determine the best alignments, locations of stations and financing sources, the objective is to place in service the first two lines in the first 7 years of the Vision and the design and construction of line 3 (Fraser Highway) would be implemented in the first 8 years and commissioned in 12 years’ time. In order to implement the projects, the Mayors’ Council committed to collaborate with the municipalities to establish Partnership Agreements on the allocation of lands, of infrastructure investments and the supply of direct financial contributions.
By announcing the 10 Year Investment Plan and providing the initial financing in December 2016, the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT project continues planning and public commitment.

by Pamela Luica

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