North Shore to SkyTrain express bus service could hit the road next year

Vehicles slowly wind their way onto the Second Narrows Bridge from North Vancouver during early morning rush hour. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody

The TransLink Mayors’ Council is expected to free up money for an express bus service that would link the North Shore to SkyTrain service on the mainland.

A proposal set to be debated Thursday would shift funding to the new route, which would run from the Phibbs Exchange in North Vancouver across the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge to an existing SkyTrain station in Burnaby.

The plan has been pushed by both the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver, with both councils unanimously endorsing it earlier this year.

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It was also one of several recommendations outlined in a report on the future of transit on the North Shore that was released last year.

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That report, from the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project, listed the service as a key short-term action for the region.

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Both councils suggested Metrotown Station as a possible destination for the route, but Brentwood Town Centre has also been floated. Both stations could also be included in the route.

The proposal in front of TransLink doesn’t have many details, but the transit authority is working with the city and district to review possible alignments for the route.

The route is expected to be funded to the tune of $650,000 per year, money that would be taken from a planned expansion of the 231 Harbourside bus service in North Vancouver, which was allocated in the Phase Two Investment Plan.

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That expansion was meant to service a planned mixed-use community in the area by 2020 or 2021.

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But TransLink said the community “has not developed at the rate initially anticipated,” and is looking to shift the funding to a more urgent need while keeping the Harbourside route as it is.

“An express bus service from Phibbs Exchange to the SkyTrain network may make transit more competitive and reliable,” the TransLink briefing read.

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If funds are moved, the city and district anticipate the service could be up and running as early as the spring of 2020.

Congestion has been an issue on the North Shore bridges for years, but solutions on how to fix it with public transit have been slow to materialize.

The B.C. government said last month it is working with TransLink and municipal funding partners to explore a potential rapid transit crossing from North Vancouver to the mainland.

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The feasibility study came after the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project proposed a connection between Lonsdale City Centre and downtown Vancouver.

The project also recommended a review to determine transit priorities around the Lions Gate and Ironworkers bridgeheads and increased SeaBus service.

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The bus route from Phibbs Exchange to the Burnaby SkyTrain stations was one of six proposed B-Line routes said to be in the planning stages at TransLink last March.

—With files from Richard Zussman

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