UPDATE: PoCo mayor calls for Rapid Bus service along Lougheed Highway
Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore is calling on TransLink to build a Rapid Bus line down the Lougheed Highway corridor that he says would be a cheaper and more efficient way of connecting commuters from his city and beyond.
The route would operate similar to a light-rail transit (LRT) line, with special station platforms and a dedicated lane connecting PoCo, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.
"They can hold the same capacity as light rail and, if done right, they often have a higher capacity," he said. "You can get the same quality of service for a much cheaper rate."
Moore envisions a system that has fewer stops than a regular bus line but runs on a more frequent basis. He believes there are enough commuters along the stretch of road to merit a bus every two to three minutes during peak hours and every five to six minutes during non-peak hours.
Because the Rapid Bus would have its own lane, it would move quickly through the community, unlike B-Line services, which can get bogged down in traffic.
The system would also be cheaper than LRT because it does not require the construction of tracks and the movement of utilities that run underneath the road.
"When you put in a rail service, you have to move all of the infrastructure underneath it: water pipes, sewer pipes," he said. "With a rapid bus service, you can leave that infrastructure in place. [If there is a problem], the bus is able to detour around it."
The next step is getting TransLink on board and assessing the feasibility of the project.
Moore has been in discussions with Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin and Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters since December and said the three cities want to share the cost of a study with the region's transportation authority.
The three mayors represent cities with some of the longest commute times in Metro Vancouver.
According to 2011 census numbers, Port Coquitlam residents spend an average of 33 minutes behind the wheel during their commute while Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows commuters spend about 35 minutes. The average commute time in Metro Vancouver is 28 minutes, according to the National Household StatsCan survey.
With construction commencing on the Evergreen Line, which is expected to be completed in 2016, Moore said TransLink should be looking at ways to improve connections to the rapid transit system.
TransLink's 30-year Regional Transportation Strategy does call for RapidBus on the Lougheed Highway operating between the three communities.
Part of the challenge will be finding enough room for a Rapid Bus lane, which can have either its own lane or traffic signal priority in a space shared with cars. Moore also noted that the Pitt River Bridge was built with extra capacity to hold rapid transit in the future.
Brian Mills, TransLink's director of systems planning and research, told The Tri-City News in an email that aa area transport plan was currently being developed for the northeast sector, which includes the Lougheed Highway corridor.
"These are also used to identify local funding needs to meet the transport objectives," he said. "These plans are the first step in identifying what the region needs."
However, Mills noted that while the process of developing a plan is underway, there is no timeline for when it will be completed.
– with files from Monisha Martins