Hey, Vancouver, you’re looking good. And it’s killing me.
The Canada Line, a new $2-billion rail link between downtown Vancouver, Richmond and the airport, went into service last Monday, and as locals lined up for their introductory free rides, I came down with a virulent case of transit envy.
No other city in Canada has a light rail connection to the airport. Vancouverites can now zip down there in 25 minutes for $3.75.
My gnawing jealousy of Vancouver is somewhat mollified by our access to good, affordable bus service to the airport, an amenity many cities don’t enjoy, but it just doesn’t have the same Jetsons-style sex appeal as light rail.
More shockingly, the Canada Line was built in just four years — and completed three months ahead of schedule! The desire to spiff up for the 2010 Olympics certainly helped move things along.
Meanwhile, our own light rail plan is being, uh, planned.
After the cancellation of our original $1-billion LRT project, we’re now looking at a new $4-billion model, but the federal and provincial governments tend to avoid eye contact when asked about funding. Even if the money is forthcoming, by current estimations, the first passenger won’t be boarding until 2016. The whole LRT system isn’t expected to be complete until the sci-fi year of 2031.
And I wouldn’t mark my calendar quite yet. These dates presume a level of co-operation and purpose unfamiliar to regular watchers of our municipal government.
The Canada Line wasn’t without its troubles. Businesses along the route struggled mightily to stay afloat during the construction, and a maternity shop owner successfully sued the city for $600,000 in damages for lost business. Of course, we got slapped with a $200-million breach of contract suit from Siemens for doing nothing when we cancelled the old LRT plan, and still no trains. Advantage: Vancouver.
Advantage friggin’ Vancouver.