Oct 30,2004

Goodbye Skytrain, Hello Light Rail

By Leneen Robb - Staff Reporter(Now News)
Oct 30 2004

TransLink's decision Friday to move toward a light rail system for the Tri-Cities took about five minutes - but it put an end to the countless hours spent at local city councils debating the merits of SkyTrain and other rapid transit technologies.

In a unanimous decision, TransLink directors - including Coquitlam Mayor Jon Kingsbury - approved in principle a recommendation that rapid transit to the Tri-Cities should take the form of light rail and follow a "northwest corridor" alignment from Lougheed Mall to Coquitlam Town Centre, via Port Moody.

The recommendation includes a qualifier that the line be built for $800 million or less, including interest during construction.

The board also directed staff to set up a meeting with northeast sector municipal councils by Nov. 30, and to report back to TransLink in December with specific recommendations for a project development budget and implementation timeline.

At Friday's meeting, which took place at Port Moody City Hall, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan described the consultation process TransLink has undertaken on the proposed light rail line as "very thoughtful, very inclusive."

Friday's vote essentially put an end to the possibility of SkyTrain being extended to the Tri-Cities, but Corrigan said speed is not the most important factor when it comes to choosing a rapid transit technology.

SkyTrain along the northwest corridor would take about 12.7 minutes to travel from Coquitlam Town Centre to Lougheed Mall, while light rapid transit would take between 20.9 and 22.2 minutes, according to TransLink estimates.

Referring to an Ipsos-Reid poll conducted last summer for TransLink, Corrigan said safety, frequency and reliability - rather than speed - are the key factors most people consider when it comes to favouring one rapid transit technology over another.

The survey, which polled about 900 people, including residents of the Tri-Cities, New Westminster and Burnaby, as well as West Coast Express riders, indicates that "security from crime" is the most important factor when choosing a rapid transit technology.

Eighty-two per cent of those surveyed listed "security from crime (onboard and at station)" as "very important, while 78 per cent gave "impact on traffic" the same ranking.

Seventy-four per cent of respondents ranked "ease of boarding for seniors/disabled, etc." as very important, while 71 per cent chose "frequency of service," 69 per cent chose "routing and station locations," 66 per cent chose "number of riders the service would attract," 61 per cent chose "fast trip to downtown Vancouver" and 57 per cent chose "travel time to destinations" as very important.

Other than Corrigan, only Coun. Marvin Hunt (Surrey) and Mayor Malcolm Brodie (Richmond) spoke on the issue of rapid transit to the northeast sector.

Both raised concerns over funding for TransLink projects.

TransLink directors Mayor Wayne Wright (New Westminster) and Coun. Barbara Sharp (North Vancouver City) were absent.