The North Shore wants a SkyTrain? Get in Line

Fixing notorious traffic congestion will have to come from alternative solutions

Madelaine Dawson // Contributor

Talk of a North Shore SkyTrain has been circulating for years, but the need for an additional crossing between the North Shore and the rest of the Lower Mainland is drastically increasing. North Shore residents are understandably frustrated, and it isn’t uncommon to hear of Capilano University students missing entire classes due to gridlock.

Traffic to and from the North Shore has become some of the worst in the Lower Mainland due to one thing: bridges. The problem isn’t commuters attempting to get from one side of the North Shore to the other, it’s getting to and from the other side of Burrard Inlet. This fundamental issue must be tackled first before undertaking an immense construction project, which would only exacerbate the problem.

With frustrating traffic problems, it’s not surprising that North Shore residents are looking for a solution, however far off it may be. North Vancouver-Seymour Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite has taken advantage of this by releasing a map of the proposed SkyTrain across the North Shore, extending from Dundarave to Cates Park. Thornthwaite’s map includes a diversion of the SkyTrain line to run alongside the Second Narrows Bridge, pass through Kootenay Loop and terminate at Gilmore station, linking the North Shore to the rest of the SkyTrain network.

Unfortunately, what people love about the North Shore is also what causes its challenges. The diverse landscape attracts visitors and makes it home for residents, however, these natural obstacles present significant challenges for the construction of a rapid-transit line. TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond recognizes the push for improved transit on North Shore but told the North Shore News that it is far down the line, with multiple projects ahead of it. The City and District of North Vancouver would have to fundamentally change the formation of communities to serve these transit hubs.

Another key factor in how transit decides who to wave their magical SkyTrain wand over next, is population density. According to Statistics Canada, the population of the City of North Vancouver has increased 9.8 per cent since 2011, but the District of North Vancouver has only increased 1.8 per cent (the overall population of North Vancouver is projected to increase 35 per cent from 2006-2041.) So, while the significant population increase in the City of North Vancouver may qualify for a SkyTrain, it’s geography does not.

North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto believes another bridge would simply be a band-aid solution. He was quoted by CBC saying, “When you build new bridges, it’s like buying new pants and loosening your pants to deal with the obesity — it doesn’t solve the problem.” Charming. Mussato supports a SkyTrain well into the future, but as the Capilano Courier reported this past March, the mayor is more focused on the construction of a train tunnel beneath Burrard Inlet.

The tunnel would link Lonsdale Quay and Waterfront station, eliminating the need for the SeaBus, which TransLink has invested in considerably. The terminals are currently undergoing upgrades and as of May 2017, services have increased to almost double the sailings on Sundays, holidays and evenings. This efficient form of transit serves not only daily commuters, but is also a major draw for visitors to the North Shore and the Lonsdale Quay. Around 16,000 passengers a day get to experience most of Vancouver’s iconic landmarks with this cruise, all for half the cost of your seasonal Starbucks beverage.

North Vancouver would benefit from a rapid-transit system well into the future, but sadly, it is not our turn. With TransLink focusing their energy and funds elsewhere, it is up to us to find a solution to our transportation issues and to find healthy outlets for our road rage.

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