Tuesday, January 15, 2008

BC Transit Plan

The government released their Transit Plan yesterday and I am impressed. Kevin Falcon is showing himself to be a politician that can think beyond the single election cycle and think longer term. Yesterday he announced the biggest expansion of transit in Canadian history and did it in the context of why we need to have the transit

Most of the money is going in rapid transit expansion in Metro Vancouver which is not really very surprising as this is where most of the people of BC live and where the biggest demand for better transit. What also is interesting is how realistic the numbers look. Each line is projected to cost more per kilometre than the latest Canada Line.

The Evergreen line finally has a clear green light to go ahead. What I hope is that the plans for the line shift it from an at level system to a SkyTrain line. I would think in an ideal world the line would be able to be an extension of the existing system and allow a train to run from Coquitlam all the way downtown. What would be a shame would be if this was something like the Scarborough LRT, a half assed approach to rapid transit. The tri cities are better off with more express buses than an at level light rail system.

The Expo line is to be doubled in capacity - it would seem much of this means allowing longer trains to run on the line. They also announced an extension of the line a further 6 km into Surrey with the end somewhere around 160th and the Fraser Highway. Not only will this allow more people to have their whole trip be on the SkyTrain, it also opens up realistic intra-Surrey use of the SkyTrain system.

The Millenium Line is to be expanded out to UBC. UBC is a huge destination for traffic and will make use of the system, the problem is that the 12 km westward expansion will cost a huge amount of money and transverse a region of Vancouver that is lower in density and unlikely to see any dramatic increase in density. Still, this is an important because the daily traffic out to UBC each and everyday is high enough to warrant the line.

By 2020 Vancouver will have close to 100 km of rapid transit in place, a significantly larger amount than anywhere else in Canada. All this rapid transit also means that only Metro Vancouver is putting in the infrastructure for the city to allow for serious increases in density and a decreasing demand for sprawl.

The plan also calls for an expansion of the successful B-Lines in Vancouver. While buses are not sexy, they get the job done. The B-Lines have worked very well in making buses effective and quick ways to get around.

I remember in Vancouver the pointlessness of taking the Broadway bus for any distance because of how slow it was. A friend pointed out that it was faster to get to anywhere in East Van from Kitsilano by going to downtown to take the SkyTrain for part of the trip. the 99 B-Line was a huge improvement.

The concept is being suggested for Victoria and Kelowna as well and I believe that this is an important addition for these communities.

The biggest question for the plan relates to funding - BC has come up with their share but will TransLink, the Feds or others come up with their part of the money needed?

A smart opposition in Victoria will come out and praise this plan and buy into it 100%. There will be enough opportunities for criticism later when there are problems in building the lines.

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