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Will there be SkyTrain? Port Coquitlam councillors grill Metro Vancouver over 30 year vision

New Metro 2050 regional plan supposed to be a road map for absorbing a million more people over the next 30 years but councillors raise concerns about how Port Coquitlam fits into the big picture
Metro Vancouver Port Coquitlam
Port Coquitlam has significant industrial lands, according to Metro 2050.

Port Coquitlam councillors are eyeing a regional plan for Metro Vancouver with hopes the city could one day have an urban centre and even a SkyTrain.

The issue came up Tuesday (Sept. 28) when Metro Vancouver planners presented a draft plan for the region called Metro 2050, a road map for absorbing what could be one million more residents to the Lower Mainland over the next 30 years.

For the Tri-Cities, the plan envisions strategies for accommodating as many as 133,400 more people — a 50 per cent increase in population to nearly 400,000 residents by 2050.

Region wide, forecasts suggest Metro Vancouver would add 35,000 people a year mostly through immigration — the equivalent of the city of Port Moody moving to the region annually.

If approved, Metro 2050 would guide Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam and Port Moody councils to develop in a sustainable way, including focused housing, transit and jobs in core areas while protecting natural areas, farm lands and slowing climate change.

Port Coquitlam councillors got their first look at the plan at council in committee and raised a number of hot-button issues as they looked to get more information on how the city should accommodate its share of new residents.

Currently, the plan envisions a 15 per cent target for affordable housing, including rental housing, along major transit growth corridors.

But some PoCo councillors wonder how that will work along Lougheed Highway — identified as a major transit growth corridor — where opportunities for more density are limited by the CPR tracks to the south.

“Without SkyTrain coming to downtown Port Coquitlam where we have tonnes of possibilities it would be a struggle to reach the percentage [of affordable housing] close to those transit corridors,” noted Coun. Glen Pollock.

Councillors expressed concern the plan would lock the city into putting affordable housing along Lougheed Highway where the rapid bus now runs instead of guiding the city to adopt density requirements to justify becoming a future urban centre.

“If we sign onto a document and then change it, municipalities have to make an application to change it,” noted Coun. Darrell Penner, “I don’t want us to get into a pickle with that.”

With Lougheed Highway already busy with traffic from new development on Burke Mountain, new solutions are required, said Coun. Steve Darling.

“Lougheed Highway’s a challenge,” he said, “on a weekend you can’t get by there without a lot of traffic.”

Some councillors aren’t happy with rapid bus and would like to see SkyTrain.

Coun. Dean Washington, who was acting mayor in Mayor Brad West’s absence, said most people prefer the SkyTrain over light rail and suggested the city would increase density if it knew long term plans anticipate a future station for PoCo.

“How do we plan for that if we don’t know what’s coming,” Washington asked.

“Downtown PoCo needs to be identified as an urban centre,” agreed Pollock.

Coun. Darrell Penner expressed concern that planning for transit is based on pre-pandemic transit ridership and with ridership down and people back in their cars, the future of bus ridership is uncertain.

“I am really concerned about having a plan moving forward that isn’t going to be able take those things into consideration because it’s still evolving.”

Coun. Washington noted that ridership on West Coast Express is still down with only a few cars in the Port Coquitlam station parking lot.

New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté, who is chair of TransLink Mayors' Council and participated in the meeting, said future technology for the Lougheed Highway major transit corridor is still up for discussion.

“From Port Coquitlam’s perspective definitely that Lougheed corridor that touches on your town centre is connected there. That is the link that is supposed to help the cities connect their land use plans with their projections, and sure, right now it’s a rapid bus line but it could mean higher technology, light rail or SkyTrain.”  

Metro Vancouver officials who spoke told councillors the 15 per cent target for affordable housing along transit lines was regional, not city-specific, and affordable housing could be built in other areas as well.

As for the city’s SkyTrain ask, that would be better targeted toward TransLink, which is doing its own long-range planning with Transport 2050, councillors were told.

PoCo is expected to provide further comment to the plan in the coming days before eventually voting on it. 

The public meanwhile can also weigh in via online feedback until Nov. 26.

“We want to continue to collaborate on these policies,” said James Stiver, Metro Vancouver’s division manager for growth management and transportation.