The longer I spend at TransLink, the more I realize how much work is put towards planning for the future of transit. Besides the day-to-day monitoring of bus routes and flow of customers, planners are constantly looking to the future of transit. Part of this process includes putting together a coordinated plan for all the communities TransLink services.
Starting today, TransLink is announcing Phase 3 of the four-phased North Shore Area Transit Plan (NSATP). In late 2010, analysis of the current network was carried out as Phase 1 of the plan. Phase 2, completed from January to June 2011, was the development of a long-term vision for the next 30 years. Phase 3 starts in January and goes until June 2012. Phase 4 is the monitoring phase, which will continue until the planning process begins again. To find out more about these plans, I sat down with Teresa O’Reilly. Teresa is the Manager of the Area Transit Plan Program.
The last time an area transit plan was done for the North Shore was in 2000. This new plan started in 2010, and now we’re starting the third of four phases in 2012. What’s the rational for the timing of this stage?
This plan is different than the previous NSATP in two ways: First, we created a long-term vision, which aligns the projected land use from the North Shore’s five Official Community Plans (OCP) with the transit network. We did this once before with the South of Fraser Transit Area Transit Plan. We also had the District of North Vancouver still working on their Official Community Plan update, and we wanted to make sure that our vision, which follows Transport 2040, was in line with the District’s updated OCP.
The second way that this plan is different than the previous ATPs is that we don’t have a specific implementation plan. Former plans would indicate what projects would happen in what years. What we found in the past is that the projects were implemented based on the ebs and flows of TransLink’s funding. So some area transit plans had many projects implemented, and some had not as many implemented because we didn’t have as much funding at that time. The other piece that we found to be awkward was that when we created the implementation plan, it would have a price tag associated with it that TransLink may not have budgeted for. Also, in times of limited resources, we need to make decisions about which projects are implemented. We didn’t have a clear understanding about which sub-regional implementation plan or projects from those plans were the most important for the region. So we needed to way to balance all of the needs in the region. What we decided on is to create a list of priorities for when resources become available. We don’t know the timing of these projects and the timing is, of course, based on funding as well as the change in growth and development on the North Shore. For example, we wouldn’t be improving a service substantially if we don’t have the population and employment that this service would be supporting. That said, not all of the priorities will be tied to productivity. Sometimes, we’ll make a change because it just makes sense to make network simpler to understand, or we’ve had a change in the way people are moving around the North Shore, and we need to respond to that.
So with this ATP, we will have a list of service and infrastructure priorities, and every time there’s a funding opportunity like a supplemental plan, or resources available through network management change, we’ll have these projects for the North Shore ready to put forward. In Phase 4, we’ll be monitoring and reporting on our progress and successes in achieving our goals. Have we been able to deliver on the service and infrastructure priorities? What are their impacts? We’ll also monitor the projected land use changes. Are areas being developed as planned? Are the transit priorities still relevant?
What are the major goals for this phase of the plan?
All of the work at TransLink, including the area plans, have to support the six goals of Transport 2040 [see goals below].
Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are aggressively reduced, in support of federal, provincial and regional targets.
Most trips are by transit, walking and cycling.
The majority of jobs and housing in the region are located along the Frequent Transit Network (frequent, reliable services on designated corridors throughout the day, every day).
Travelling in the region is safe, secure, and accessible for everyone.
Economic growth and efficient goods movement are facilitated through effective management of the transportation network.
Funding for TransLink is stable, sufficient, appropriate and influences transportation choices.
For the NSATP, we defined a specific transit mode share goal for the vision. The long-term vision goal is to increase transit mode share by 50% for the five North Shore municipalities. Currently, 10% of all weekday travel by North Shore residents is by transit, with variations by time of day and muncipality. We would like to see that all-day mode share increase to 15% by 2040. Based on projected land use and growth, we feel this goal is achievable.
Do we ever scale projects back because the price tag is too big to implement at the time?
Yes. But we also look at what the cost is of not completing the full project. The value of implementing a change might outweigh the cost of doing nothing. So we definitely take the cost into consideration, but we have seven other considerations such as social and community impacts, economic development, environment, and land use alignment, that we use to evaluate and prioritize projects.
I know there has been a lot of consultation with different parties in Phase 1 and 2 of the plan including the Public Advisory Committee (PAC), key North Shore stakeholders and feedback from different surveys. How much real input on the long-term goals for the plan do they have?
They have a significant amount of input. We work with these groups on several levels. Working with the PAC, which is made up of a diverse array of community members from the North Shore, as well as other stakeholder groups like neighbourhood and community associations, school districts, chambers of commerce, big employers, municipalities, First Nations, and Metro Vancouver means that we not only keep in line with the goals of this ATP, but the local context they provide as well. An ATP is ultimately for these communities. We only have control over transportation. Their input is significant in terms of land use. This connection between land use and the transit network is key. Our long-term transit vision identifies centres and corridors with high intensity of population and growth to be connected by a frequent transit network (FTN). The FTN is a corridor with 15 minutes service or better, from morning to mid-evening every day. With these FTN corridors defined, we can then create the supporting network with the local services connecting into it. For the North Shore, this means changing the network from the traditional commuter travel from suburb to the downtown core, to one that reflects the high demand for internal movements that are happening on the North Shore today. There are more trips starting and ending on the North Shore now. We still need to maintain the downtown services, but we also need to provide an improved network for moving around the North Shore. We’re also looking at making sure that when people travel to the North Shore for work, school, or recreation they have a useful network to get to their destinations.
Are there any commonalities that these groups have in terms of wants for this plan?
In Phase 1, we discovered that some of our bus routes are extremely good in terms of productivity, and some of the routes are not. We then asked these groups in Phase 1 and Phase 2 what they wanted to see that would encourage them to use transit more. There were a few themes. A big one is better East/West travel. Currently, in the North Shore, the majority of routes are designed for commuter trips to downtown Vancouver in the morning and the reverse in the afternoon. We’ve already made a significant improvement to East/West travel – #239 from Park Royal to Capilano University is part of the FTN. Another is to improve travel speed. With the exclusion of a couple of peak hour services and one route from Horseshoe Bay to Downtown, we don’t have any fast services on the North Shore. So most buses stop at every bus stop. On average bus stops are between 250 m and 400m apart! Changing stopping patterns can be significant in terms of travel time savings. There is also a desire for more frequent service and a request to change the fare policy. Fare policy is outside the scope of our work for this plan. We forwarded this request to our TransLink staff responsible for fare policy. Within the scope of the plan, we looked at this request in terms of value for money. One of the things that we want to ensure is that the service we provide customers is good value for the fare. Are we providing customers with high levels of service that assists them with their personal mobility for trips that can happen anytime of the day, for any purpose, have good connections, and supportive and safe customer environments? This is important to us.
Now that Phase 1 and 2 are complete, the public consultation phase (Phase 3), which is to develop near-term (up 10 year) priorities, is set to begin. This phase will include in-person workshops (see below) as well as an on-line consultation period, which will be available via the NSATP Get Involved page on February 6th until March 9th.between February 6th until March 9th. You can download the online questionnaire here.
Thursday, February 9
West Vancouver Seniors Activity Centre
695 – 21st Street, West Vancouver
6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Coffee Meet & Greet
6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Presentation & Workshop
Wednesday, February 15
Pier Two Room
138 Victory Ship Way, North Vancouver
6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Coffee Meet & Greet
6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Presentation & Workshop
Registration for the workshops is recommended as space is limited.*
To register for the workshops, you can contact Kristin Lillyman, Community Relations Coordinator at kristin.lillyman@TransLink.ca or 604-453-4687
*If demand to attend the sessions is high, more community sessions may be added.
There you have it. Make sure to make your voice heard via one of the workshops. Your contribution can help shape transit on the North Shore for many years to come!