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North Shore, Coquitlam mayors join Vancouver election campaign to talk transit

Mike Little, Richard Stewart held news conference Tuesday with Vancouver mayoral candidate Ken Sim
The Ironworkers' Memorial Bridge during rush hour Tuesday morning.

Ken Sim wants to see a day that he can take the SkyTrain to the Pacific National Exhibition at Hastings Park.

The ABC Vancouver mayoral candidate joined Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little Tuesday to state his support for the expansion of the region’s rapid transit service to the Hastings and Renfrew streets neighbourhood.

“It’s fairly easy to get here by car, but not so much by transit,” said Sim, speaking from a lectern at Hastings Racecourse, with the North Shore mountains serving as a backdrop. “I’d like to see a SkyTrain line here — coming across the Second Narrows and then continuing to downtown Vancouver.”

But whether that ever happens is unclear because there is currently no concrete plan to build a station at Hastings Park or extend a SkyTrain line to the North Shore, which is what Sim and his two counterparts advocated for Tuesday.

ABC mayoral candidate Ken Sim with councillors Lisa Dominato, Sarah Kirby-Yung and Rebecca Bligh. By Mike Howell

'Making stuff up'

In June, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and TransLink’s board of directors approved a plan called Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities, which is a road map for future transit improvements in the region.

In that plan is a commitment to make a business case to determine the best rapid transit technology on the Metrotown to Park Royal corridor, while delivering better bus service in the short term.

No specific route has been finalized and an expansion would require funds from the provincial and federal governments.

But the North Shore and Coquitlam mayors, along with Sim, are concerned other mayors will lobby to advance projects that benefit their communities, not the region.

“We have a mayor [in Kennedy Stewart] right now that is making stuff up saying he's going to make modifications to the plan — without consulting all the other partners,” said Sim, referring to an announcement Stewart made Sept. 26 regarding SkyTrain expansion to South Vancouver.

'Vancouver Loop'

A spokesperson for Stewart sent an email Tuesday to Vancouver Is Awesome saying the mayor is already on record — along with other mayors in the region — as approving and supporting the transit projects contained in the 2050 plan. 

Stewart wants to accelerate what he called the “Vancouver Loop” SkyTrain extension. He pointed out that a new UBC to Metrotown grade-separated line along the 41st and 49th Avenue corridor is in the planning stage as part of the 2050 plan.

The “loop” would incorporate the Expo Line, the soon-to-be-completed Broadway Subway, the approved extension to UBC and “a new line” in South Vancouver along the 41st and 49th avenue corridor.

It would connect Metrotown to UBC and serve Langara College and Oakridge Centre along the way, said the mayor, who promised to push to make the loop a reality, if re-elected.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart with Vancouver councillor Lisa Dominato and ABC Vancouver mayoral candidate Ken Sim. By Mike Howell

'Don't have to be parochial'

Richard Stewart, who is seeking re-election in Coquitlam, said he wants the SkyTrain expansion to the North Shore moved to the top of the priority list. Coquitlam has the Evergreen Line and the West Coast Express train service runs through the community.

“I’d love to see it moved up and I’m not a North Shore mayor,” Stewart said after the news conference. “We don't have to be parochial about these things. We can contemplate the possibility that once we get [SkyTrain expansion] to UBC, we should be going to the North Shore.”

Stewart said it would seem logical to incorporate SkyTrain and the West Coast Express into one central station in the Hastings Park area and have a link to the North Shore, whose residents often endure long and congested commutes across the Ironworkers’ Memorial and Lions Gate bridges.

SeaBus has been a constant for residents on both sides of the water and buses travel regularly across the spans. Over the years, improvements have been made to both bridge decks for pedestrians and cyclists, but there has been no expansion of traffic lanes on the crossings since 1968.

Little said the North Shore’s five local governments, including the Squamish and Tseil-Waututh nations, have set expansion of SkyTrain to the community as a top priority. The North Shore’s population continues to grow and congestion is getting worse, Little said.

“Now it’s time for all levels of government to come together and work together and make this project a reality,” he said. “For our community to move forward and grow to support the region, we need a firm commitment to this project. It’s the only way that we can re-orient our town centre plan to be able to rely on transit-oriented services to those areas.”

District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little at a news conference Tuesday organized by ABC Vancouver. By Mike Howell

'Effective politicking'

In an interview after the news conference, Little emphasized the need for mayors to take a regional approach to the greatest transit needs identified across the Lower Mainland. He noted the original 10-year vision for the region did not contemplate a SkyTrain extension from the VCC-Clark station in Vancouver to Arbutus.

“It was not on the 10-year vision list, but somehow through effective politicking ended up being incorporated as a higher priority project than the ones that were agreed upon by the region,” Little said.

“So I think the concern expressed today was that we now have a new 10-year vision and while the ink is still drying, we have major players in the region trying to propose other projects as higher priority.”

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has promised a SkyTrain extension to Newton, if re-elected.

Having two incumbent mayors join a mayoral candidate on the campaign trail was a rare, if not unprecedented event in Vancouver politics. Various public opinion polls have shown Sim as the main challenger to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who is seeking a second term.

Sim’s campaign team organized the event.

Little wouldn’t say if his participation in the news conference was an endorsement of Sim, saying instead that it was a broad endorsement of the mayors’ council’s plan for the future of the region.

In answering the same question, Stewart said he has never been invited to a discussion in Vancouver regarding transit. But, he said, he’s participated in meetings in the Tri-Cities, on the North Shore and south of the Fraser River.

“I'm not endorsing anybody — I'm not doing that,” Stewart said. “But [Sim] reached out and I said, ‘Of course — you want to talk transit, I’ll be there.'”

In 2020, the BC government released the Burrard Inlet Rapid Transit report, which identified five rapid transit crossing options across the Inlet to help inform the Transport 2050 plan.

“The Province continues working with local governments to examine options for a more reliable, efficient and sustainable transportation network on the North Shore,” said an emailed statement Tuesday from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation.

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