Metro Vancouver commuters will remember 2009 for the completion of key mega-projects in the region — especially the long-anticipated Canada Line, which is already transforming travel patterns in the region.
But there were other significant transport breakthroughs as well: The June opening of the Golden Ears Bridge, and, of course, the controversial Burrard Street Bridge bike lane trial. And given the huge crowds that showed up for some of the openings, it seems people-moving infrastructure is — deserved or not — more popular than the Beatles.
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The coming year should also be memorable in terms of impact. That’s in great part due to the looming Winter Olympics and the intensive transportation plan that accompanies the event.
But even before the Olympic cauldron is lit at B.C. Place Stadium, some Games’ transit legacies will already be rolling. A case in point is the False Creek streetcar demonstration, otherwise known as the Olympic Line. Earlier this month, the sleek Bombardier-made streetcars — which are on loan from Belgium — arrived in Vancouver.
The free service, which gets underway in January, will attract plenty of fanfare before and during the Games, but the big question is what happens afterwards? The city has high hopes for the project, and is hoping to extend it to Gastown, Yaletown and even Stanley Park in the long run. Let’s hope TransLink finally embraces this sustainable and people-friendly mode of transport, which to date has been championed almost exclusively by the City of Vancouver.
Questions are also swirling around another transportation development connected to the Olympics: The second Amtrak train connecting Vancouver to Seattle. The trial service was launched in anticipation of Olympic traffic from Washington state, but afterwards it’s uncertain whether the passenger rail service will carry on. For the sake of tourism and economic growth in B.C. and Washington, our government and tourism agencies must find a way to keep this expanded service intact.
Speaking of services with a foggy future, TransLink’s long-promised third SeaBus sailing was “un-promised” by the agency earlier this year. But three SeaBuses will still operate during the Olympics, and that has some observers wondering whether the more frequent sailings will continue post-Games.
But if TransLink does pull one of the SeaBuses out of service for good, don’t expect the savings to be passed on to customers.
Quite the opposite, TransLink plans to raise fares on April Fool’s Day. And that’s no joke.