Evergreen Line – how many stations

With a pending announcement about funding for the $400M shortfall in funding for the much delayed Evergreen Line on the horizon, there’s been a little more news and blogging about the line.  I hadn’t really followed the Evergreen Line news for quite a while.

An old graphic of the original LRT plan reveals 12 stations within easy walking distance to most of the Tri-Cities communities along the route.  The now inactive Pacific Metropolis blog has a brief summary of the original LRT plan.  There are 3 stops along the North Road corridor, 4 stations in Port Moody and 5 stations in Coquitlam.

One of the original Evergreen LRT plans (from Pacific Metropolis)

In contrast, new plans on the provincial government’s website suggest there will only 6 stations.  That’s half the number.  The new plans involve the use of SkyTrain technology.  Usually stations are fewer in order to keep the train’s speed up and reduce dwell time within stations.  However, that does mean that less neighbourhoods will benefit from the Evergreen Line.

Current Evergreen SkyTrain plan

The City of Coquitlam is very aware that less stations will mean less development opportunities, and in my opinion, less smart growth Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in the Tri-Cities.  The Tri-City News recently reported on Coquitlam’s need for at least a third station within its city limits.

Not building the station could have negative impacts on future development activity in the Coquitlam city centre the report states. That’s because people will only walk 400 metres to take public transit. There would be fewer riders with only two stations because only people near those stations would take the Evergreen Line. Everyone else is more likely to stick with their cars. “This could result in premature failure of the road network in and around Coquitlam,” the report states.

The City report also outlines some of the economic benefits of a third station.

More people would mean more riders and potentially $55 million in extra revenue to help fund the line. According to the report, a three-station scenario would increase ridership by 2.3 million in 2021 and 3.7 million in 2031, and if a park and ride at Douglas College was also implemented, ridership would increase by an extra 2.9 million in 2021 and 4.2 million in 2031. Under those scenarios, ridership would be between 20.4 million and 23.1 million compared to 18.1 and 18.9 million riders in the two-station scenario in the 2021 and 2031 forecasts.

There’s also money attached. New development surrounding the station would pump $12.9 million into provincial coffers through property purchase taxes and $76.1 million in residential and non-residential property taxes — more than covering the $20-million cost of the third station, the report notes.

Canada Line map

If we look at the example of the Canada Line, we can see some neighbourhoods that have not benefited from the train’s existence.  Most notably, the Cambie Village suffered the most financially during the cut-and-cover construction of the Canada Line.  However, the Cambie Village benefits the least from the rapid transit line’s subterranean existence.  Riders enjoy a quick ride, but business in the Cambie Village will see very little of this ridership inside their stores.  An additional station at 16th Avenue may have given direct access for Canada Line riders to Cambie Village businesses, but that would have slowed the train down and added more money to the total cost of the project.  The Cambie Village lost out in this particular cost-benefit analysis.

Another loser, although not as marked, is Richmond.  The original Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) plans were to have 5 stations in Richmond – Bridgeport, Cambie Road, Alderbridge Way, Westminster Highway, and Richmond Centre.  Partly to save costs, the Westminster and Richmond Centre stations were merged to become Richmond-Brighouse.  That forced the Alderbridge Station to be moved further south to Lansdowne Road to improve spacing.

Original RAV Line Map

The additional spacing makes rider access to some locations on No. 3 Road less desirable.   For example, Alexandra Road is smack dab in the middle between Aberdeen and Lansdowne Stations.  Alexandra Road is known to the Chinese community as Richmond’s Eating Street because of its many restaurants.  However, these businesses are no less car dependent because the Canada Line Stations do not easily serve this section of No. 3 Road.  It also means less opportunity for economic development and TODs in the area.

These examples can be generalized to the pending situation with the Evergreen Line.  Further spacing of SkyTrain stations may speed up travel times and reduce construction costs, but it definitely leaves some neighbourhoods in the lurch.  They get the shaft during construction, but never see the benefit of the track overhead.

Whatever the final decision, I hope the Evergreen Line will go ahead, but the Tri-City communities, just like Coquitlam, will have to stand up and demand an amelioration of the flaws of the current plan.

There’s also the debate about SkyTrain vs. LRT, but that’s a totally different blog post.

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