Mussatto calls on TransLink to study viability of SkyTrain tunnel from Downtown to Quay
Kevin Kapenda // News Editor
Uninspired by plans to expand North Shore roads and hourly Seabus service across the Burrard Inlet,, as well as musings of building a third bridge, City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto is calling on TransLink to study the feasibility of building a SkyTrain tunnel from Waterfront to Lonsdale Quay.
“As the North Shore grows, but also as the Sunshine Coast,, Squamish and Whistler grow too,, there’s going to be more and more traffic through the North Shore.. The question is, how do we deal with that?? Do we build another bridge or invest in better public transportation?” said Mussatto. “Transit is the most critical issue in any city. Unfortunately, we’ve built a region focused on the automobile, so we’re having to retrofit, which makes it more difficult. But we can do that and invest in good transit.”
Mussatto believes rapid transit from Vancouver to the North Shore is the only way bridge gridlock can be addressed in the near future, and reduced for future generations. Furthermore, he doesn’t believe building another bridge is the best option, as with many recently built routes, they clog up shortly after opening.
“Number one is that the North Shore is facing major traffic tie-ups and significant congestion, which has intensified in the last couple of years and is not getting any better,” said Mussatto. “Building another bridge, in my mind, is not the best transportation policy, because you build it and a few years later it’s full again. All it will do is bring in more cars and congestion into the city. We need to look at more alternatives, which is public transportation.”
The main cause of congestion on the North Shore, for Mussatto, is quite clearly its two mid-20th Century bridges, which have not had their capacities increased for decades. “Even with the improvements down at the bottom of Mountain Highway and the other intersections near Capilano, the capacity over the Ironworkers and Lions Gate [bridges] is the same. It’s been the same for 50 years. Something has to be done.”
In phase one of TransLink’s 10-year plan, the transit provider has promised to purchase an additional Seabus, run the vessels every 10 minutes during weekday rush hour and increase trip frequency on Weekends and Holidays, with sailings every 15 minutes (often every 30 before).
While these improvements are welcomed by Mussatto, he believes that the total trip time including waits and sailings is still too long for riders, something that could be addressed by a SkyTrain tunnel the length of the Inlet.
“At the end of the day, it’s still 10 minutes between Seabuses, plus 15 minutes’ travel time, so once you get out [at Waterfront or the Quay] it could be 20, 25 minutes total, whereas a SkyTrain could be four minutes,” said Mussatto. “My view is that we invest in better public transportation. Maybe we do a study of a SkyTrain tunnel the length of the Seabus [route] or a track the length of the Second Narrows bridge. You do these feasibility studies to make long-term decisions, because this is not something that’s going to be done in the next couple years. It’s eight to 10 years out.”
As for why a SkyTrain to and from the North Shore would be a better use of public resources than a third bridge, Mussatto notes that it would have a significantly lower carbon footprint and be possibly quicker than driving, freeing up bridge space for people driving through the North Shore to Vancouver. “It’s more sustainable from a number of different points. Less vehicles on the road, more road space, less air pollution, it’s just much more sustainable to [extend the SkyTrain]. All great cities in the world have great public transportation systems.”
For Mussatto, a SkyTrain from Vancouver to the Lonsdale Quay would be game-changing for the entire North Shore, as it could link up with other planned rapid transit projects expected to run from Deep Cove to West Vancouver in quick intervals.
“What is also happening concurrently now is that the three North Shore municipalities are focusing on an East-West connection from Maplewood, Sealynn, which includes Cap University, Moodyville, Lower Lonsdale, Marine Drive, Ambleside, Dundarave,” said Mussatto. “So, if you had a rapid bus route, one bus every five minutes, or a light rail traffic or car, you could then have a rapid transit connection from the Lonsdale Quay, to rapid transit on the East-West, in perhaps a dedicated lane.”
Whatever comes of the mayor’s feasibility studies, the governing BC Premier Christy Clark has repeatedly said there will be no funding for mass transit without a referendum, meaning it could be a long time before you can get from Waterfront to Lonsdale in the time it takes to listen to your favourite song.