Vancouver falls short of transit goal

It’s been a big month for the Kwantes boys. My son Evan started his first day in Grade 3. I experienced the first taste of my new commute.

It’s been a big month for the Kwantes boys.

My son Evan started his first day in Grade 3. I experienced the first taste of my new commute.

Getting to his elementary school is fairly straightforward for Evan: open the front door and walk 30 paces across the street.

My commute is slightly less convenient: it just went from bike-bus to bike-bus-train. The occasion was the opening of the new Canada Line rapid transit route linking the airport and downtown.

Construction was driven by the pending arrival of the 2010 Olympic Games and designed to make it easier to get around. But for myself and others who live in the southern ‘burbs, the Canada Line makes commuting downtown seem like a suburban version of the Steve Martin movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

On the first day:

10:35 a.m.: I leave my home by bike.

10:55: I arrive at the park-and-ride and lock my two-wheeler into a bike locker.

11: The bus arrives — the one that used to take me all the way downtown.

11:30: My bus arrives at the Richmond Canada Line station. I shuffle off the bus with the other commuters and up to the platform.

11:34: A shiny new train pulls up. I board.

11:55: After a mostly underground ride, I arrive downtown, at precisely the time I would have on my discontinued bus.

On the way home, it’s more problematic because the buses don’t run as often.

The new Canada Line is great for tourists flying into Vancouver airport, as well as people who live in Richmond, Vancouver and points in between. I hear people rave about it every day.

But I’ll miss the 55-minute ride on an express bus with cushioned, high-back seats.

It was great for snoozing, reading, listening to tunes or working on a column.

The area of Surrey in which I live is consistently ranked one of the fastest-growing in Canada. Yet it’s under-served by SkyTrain to the north, and the southern commute to downtown Vancouver just got more complicated.

The unintended consequence? More people throwing up their hands and getting back into vehicles for all or part of the drive downtown.

Ridership numbers have already proven the demand for the Canada Line, and it’s a key piece of infrastructure ahead of the 2010 Games.

But it’s also symptomatic of a growing divide in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, a split that is puzzling those who are planning transportation systems in these fiscally tight times.

On the one side are those who live in Vancouver and neighbouring cities and who are well-served by public transit.

On the other side are the faster-growing numbers of people who live in more affordable, more remote suburbs and who are under-served by the current rapid transit systems.

James Kwantes is a former Advocate copy editor. He can be reached at gone-coastal@hotmail.com.

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