Jane Thornthwaite produces map of rail system route that could ease traffic congestion
Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor
Better access to public transit and more efficient transportation are among the chief concerns of North Shore residents. MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour, Jane Thornthwaite, has spent the last eight years of her time in office getting a $198 million project off the ground that when completed, will separate bridge traffic from local traffic. “But that’s not going to help us in the long term. And what we need is rapid train services that connects the North Shore to Vancouver or Burnaby or both,” she said.
Instead, Thornthwaite has made a more radical proposal – a SkyTrain across the North Shore that would run from Cates Park to Dundarave Beach, and connect with Gilmore Station in Burnaby. She noted that the SkyTrain would pass over the Burrard Inlet where the rail line currently travels over the CN Second Narrows Bridge, which was built in 1968 and is due for replacement in the near future, and travel along the shore where the Canadian Pacific Railway lines currently are to make use of existing tracks.
Currently, the North Shore lacks efficient public transit. Under Mayor Gregor Robertson’s 10-year-plan for the future of transportation in the Lower Mainland, several buses that travel across the North Shore and the SeaBus between Lonsdale Quay and Waterfront Station would see increased service. A new B-line on Marine Drive and Main Street would also begin running. Those service increases wouldn’t include the 212 between Deep Cove and Phibbs Exchange though, which passes the Capilano University residence, and the 211 between Seymour and Vancouver. “My issue is that there’s virtually nothing for my constituents east of Seymour – the majority of the District of North Van,” said Thornthwaite. “The only things in that 10-year-plan are for the City of North Van.”
Thornthwaite believes both of these lines would benefit the most from increased service, which neither will see because they service the District of North Vancouver instead of the city. “We pay the highest property taxes arguably in the region with very little service devoted to transit. The only region that gets a pretty good level of transit is in the City of North Van,” she said.
The North Shore is also a major commuter route for people who don’t necessarily live in the area but still have to get to work. Residents from Whistler and Squamish, which Thornthwaite noted is a rapidly growing community, and ferry traffic coming from Vancouver Island via Horseshoe Bay commute through the area to get to the rest of the Lower Mainland. As a result, residents get stuck in the commuter traffic trying to travel back and forth. She hopes that there will one day be the possibility of extending a SkyTrain line on the North Shore as far north as Squamish as the community continues to grow.
However, Thornthwaite’s aide, Nick Hosseinzadeh, added that a Squamish extension would require a rail traveling at up to 100 kilometers an hour considering the distance between Squamish and the rest of the North Shore. The SkyTrains currently travel at 60-65 kilometers an hour. In the meantime, the Mountain Highway and Lower Lynn improvement project is supposed to make commuting across the North Shore easier.
The first phase, which is currently underway, is a Mountain Highway interchange that will provide westbound access to Highway 1 and include an additional lane in each direction going over the Mountain Highway overpass towards Lynn Valley.
The second phase will include a new overpass connecting Mount Seymour Parkway and Keith Road, as well as two new bridges by the Lynn Creek Bridge, one going westbound and another eastbound. The eastbound bridge will give drivers travelling along Mountain Highway direct access to the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, and the westbound bridge will separate traffic towards Lynn Valley and reduce the amount of weaving in and out of the lanes.
Finally, the project will shift towards Dollarton Highway and Main Street, where commuters often get stuck in traffic mid-afternoon. Phibbs Exchange will also see an overhaul after the year 2020, and Thornthwaite would like to see at least the possibility of including a SkyTrain station in the upgrades.
Thornthwaite is not expecting a rapid transit line on the North Shore for at least a decade. The North Shore doesn’t have the population density to warrant one. “But if you recall, the Evergreen Line and the Canada Line [were] built first and then density came after,” she said. “What we’ve been told on the North Shore is ‘you’ve got to build density, then you’ll get the transit’.” Even though TransLink has stated that they won’t consider a SkyTrain until the completion of the 10-year-plan, Thornthwaite hopes to interest TransLink and the Mayor’s Council and put the North Shore in their sights, because for the time being increased bus service won’t make the difference that is needed.