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BC Government looks to next phase of SkyTrain link from Vancouver to North Shore

September 9, 2020 saw the release of the long awaited Stage 2 of the Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit Study.

The project, started in 2018 and funded by the BC Ministry of Transportation, looks to address a subject of long standing interest among Lower Mainland transit users, urban planners and public transit activists: the feasibility of extending the regions fast-growing above ground SkyTrain Intermediate Capacity Transit System from the Burrard Peninsula (Downtown Vancouver) to the North Shore.

The Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit study will form a key component of the Lower Mainland Transport 2050 Plan involving TransLink and the Mayor’s Council. The initial stage of the project was led by North Vancouver MLA (and currently candidate in the BC election) Bowinn Ma, a professional engineer and Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink. As far back as the 1960s plans were made to examine the possibility of a tunnel from Brockton Point in Vancouver’s iconic Stanley Park to the North Shore as a complimentary route to the existing Lions Gate Bridge and the (recently renamed) Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (IWMB).

Changing priorities, climate change, and changing public opinion have converged on the notion of shifting away from increased vehicle traffic in and out of Vancouver, to increasing passenger transportation on public transit instead.

“People living in North Vancouver are eager to embrace socially, environmentally responsible ways to travel that allow them to beat the traffic.”

Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale

The new study digs deep – no pun intended – into the engineering aspects of extending the SkyTrain system to the North Shore, without looking at the actual connections between the new proposed routes and the existing network – preferring to leave the logistics of system operations to the Transport 2050 planning process.

The study proposes three colour “options”; a Blue Zone running from Burrard Station on Vancouver’s downtown waterfront through either Stanley Park or Brockton Point and tunnelling over to either West Vancouver “Option 2A Eastern, Mid, Western” or to North Vancouver “Option 3”. All four proposed Blue Zone routes continue on to central Lonsdale in North Vancouver.

North Shore SkyTrain route options (Mott MacDonald / Government of BC)

The Green Zone option is the shortest proposed route, running under the deepest section of Burrard Inlet from Waterfront Station to North Vancouver and continuing on to the popular Park Royal shopping centre in West Vancouver.

A more involved Purple Zone proposes several possible alternatives with one running from Waterfront Station, along the Vancouver waterfront and across the Burrard Inlet at the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (ruling out running under the bridge itself due to safety and structural incompatibilities with the bridge’s older construction) and then doubling back on the North Shore to downtown North Vancouver and/or an additional route from the fast growing Burnaby/Brentwood SkyTrain route (now extended out past Port Moody to Coquitlam) across the Burrard Inlet at the IWMB to downtown North Van.

While the proposed Purple Zone links in the area around the IWMB would be by bridge, the downtown and Stanley Park routes involve tunnelling – a major challenge in Vancouver given the seismic issues as well as nature of the geology in the Burrard Inlet. The BIRT Stage 2 study takes a close look at the types of rock and sediment present on the North Shore and what that mean for engineering and cost issues related to the project. The study concludes with an comparative analyses of the proposals – suggesting the Blue Zone routes would have the largest impact on reducing use of personal vehicle traffic between the North Shore and Vancouver.

The study can be found at https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/9-15_Burrard_Inlet_study.pdf

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