Agenda Index City of Vancouver

POLICY REPORT

TO: Standing Committee on Planning and Environment
FROM: Director of City Plans and General Manager of Engineering Services in consultation with the Director of Current Planning and the Project Manager for Rapid Transit
SUBJECT: Vancouver-Richmond Rapid Transit Project Management Plan
 

RECOMMENDATION

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CITY MANAGER’S COMMENTS

COUNCIL POLICY

On various dates (October 21, 1986, February 7, 1989, June 27, 1989, October 22, 1991) Council rejected elevated rapid transit as an option in the City.

On August 30, 1990, when considering a previous Vancouver-Richmond Rapid Transit Study, Council passed a resolution that it will not use the route or stations as the sole justification for higher density development.

On February 5, 1991, Council approved criteria to be forwarded to BC Transit as the City’s statement on evaluation and mitigation measures to be considered when choosing a North-South route and technology (Appendix C). The City also requested that any route options through/under Chinatown and Gastown be dropped from further consideration.

On March 2, 1993, Council designated the Cambie Street central median, between King Edward Street and South West Marine Drive, as the Cambie Heritage Boulevard.

On March 28, 2000, Council recommended that Phase Two of the Broadway Rapid Transit line extend from Broadway/Commercial/VCC west to Granville Street and instructed staff to meet with TransLink to discuss planning for a north-south rapid transit line between Richmond and Vancouver.

On July 25, 2000, Council approved the Arbutus Corridor Official Development Plan which designates the Corridor for rail, transit, and Greenways uses but excluding motor vehicles except on streets crossing the Corridor and any elevated rapid transit system.

On July 25, 2000 Council directed staff to report back, if the Vancouver-Richmond Study proceeds to Phase 3, route and technology selection, on a public process to develop City principles for assessing north-south transit options.

SUMMARY AND PURPOSE

The purpose of this report is to recommend the City’s participation in a cooperative planning study to consider whether there is a rationale for building a rapid transit line linking Downtown Vancouver with Richmond and the Airport in the next decade.

The 1996 Livable Region Strategic Plan concluded that a rapid transit line should be built between Vancouver and Richmond. However the Plan does not include a decision on the corridor, technology, or specific date for completion.

During the past few years there have been a number of events which warrant reviewing the timing for a Vancouver-Richmond Rapid Transit line. Most noticeable is the rate of growth in Downtown Vancouver, Richmond City Centre, and in particular at the Airport, which is exceeding expectations. As a result, TransLink included a study of a Vancouver -Richmond/Airport link in its 2000/2001 planning program.

Staff from TransLink, the GVRD, Airport, Port, and Federal, Provincial, and municipal (Vancouver and Richmond) governments have prepared a Project Management Plan to describe a work program, management, and administrative structure to study a Vancouver -Richmond rapid transit link. The two key tasks are:

September 2000 - March 2001: assess whether the agencies, in consultation with the community, see a need to proceed with a rapid transit link between Vancouver and Richmond during the next decade and to assess the potential to finance a line during that time. This work includes updating past ridership projections and a public consultation process; and

If the answers are “yes”, then planning will continue and ultimately determine the technology, alignment, and funding for a north-south rapid transit line.

The project contemplates a cooperative planning program. TransLink and the other key agencies will work collectively toward a consensus as to whether to proceed to build a Vancouver-Richmond rapid transit link in the next 10 years. The program is structured in phases. The agencies agree to participate in one phase at a time. If the City chooses to participate in Phase 2 - the needs assessment/feasibility phase we are asked to sign a memorandum of understanding (Recommendation A). Phase 1 was the preparation of the management plan, presented for approval as part of this report (Recommendation B).

TransLink is not requesting a financial contribution from the City for Phase 2. During Phase 2 the Project team will work on behalf of the participating agencies. City staff will participate on the Project Steering and Technical Committees. Vancouver-Richmond Project staff will be responsible for technical analysis and managing public programs. This report recommends funding to backfill one half-time position to provide for City involvement in technical studies including updating ridership projections (Recommendation C).

If the project proceeds to Phase 3 there will need to be a City process around selection of the route and technology. As noted in the discussions on the Arbutus Corridor, if a new line is to be built one task will be to identify City principles for rapid transit planning. This report proposes that staff report back on a work program and resources, if required, to support City participation in Phase 3 (Recommendation D).

BACKGROUND

A rapid transit link between Richmond and Vancouver has long been part of regional planning policy. A line is included in the Livable Region Strategic Plan as a key link in the regional transportation network. Reducing automobile congestion, achieving air quality objectives, and providing choice in transportation are significant elements of the efforts of the GVRD and TransLink toward creating a livable region.

Various studies have explored options for a Vancouver-Richmond Rapid Transit line. Studies include a 1969 GVRD Rapid Transit Study, 1972 Kelly Report, 1979-80 GVRD Light Rail Transit Studies, 1981 Hickling Report examining Cambie and Arbutus route options, 1989 GVRD Freedom to Move Study, and 1989-1992 Vancouver-Richmond Rapid Transit Study.

The most recent study (1992) reviewed various route and technology options through Vancouver (between Arbutus and Main) from Waterfront Station to Richmond. The three principle options were:

LRT on Arbutus: Underground downtown, across Granville Bridge and at-grade along the Arbutus Corridor (with the exception of elevated crossings over major streets);

LRT on Cambie: Underground downtown, under False Creek, under Cambie to 37th Avenue, then at-grade along Cambie (with the exception of elevated crossings over major streets); and

ALRT on Cambie: Underground downtown, crossing False Creek on a new bridge east of Cambie Bridge, elevated along Yukon to a tunnel between Broadway and 37th Avenue and south of 37th elevated along Cambie Street.

These options were assessed against a number of criteria (see Appendix C) and were the subject of public input. The Study Advisory Committee (comprised of representatives appointed by the Provincial Government, Vancouver, Richmond, and BC Transit) concluded that ALRT on Cambie was the preferred option. However, this conclusion was never formally adopted by the participating agencies.

While the Council of the day strongly supported transit, before supporting a Vancouver-Richmond line Council requested more information from BC Transit on:

north-south ridership assumptions;
less costly (e.g. bus) alternatives;
whether a fixed rail line would encourage jobs to locate in Richmond or increase commuting; and
the best way to increase transit use (e.g. spend funds to move people between Vancouver and Richmond or improve transit service within the respective municipalities).

These questions were not answered to Council’s satisfaction. Consequently, the City never formally adopted or rejected the recommendation of the Advisory Committee. Given concerns that assumptions about rezonings might be used to justify the line, on August 30, 1990, Council approved a recommendation that it would not use the route or stations as the sole justification for higher density development. Council also instructed its representatives on the Technical Committee and Advisory Committee that higher density development should not be used as a justification for route or technology selection.

While the 1996 Livable Region Strategic Plan concluded that a rapid transit line should be built between Vancouver and Richmond no corridor or specific date for completion was determined. The GVRD Board chose Broadway - Lougheed as the preferred “next” transit line.

DISCUSSION

During the past few years there have been a number of events which warrant reviewing the timing for a Vancouver-Richmond Rapid Transit line.

During the development of the recently adopted TransLink Strategic Transportation Plan, analysis showed that the rate of growth in Downtown Vancouver, Richmond City Centre, and in particular at the Airport, is exceeding expectations, with potential impacts on automobile congestion and air quality.

Following is the employment growth projected for these areas between now and 2021:

Transport 2021, the transportation component of the Livable Region Plan, projected 20,000 employees would work on Sea Island in 2021. There are already 22,000 people working on Sea Island - 20 years ahead of predictions. The number is expected to double, to 40,000, by 2021. In addition, this year the Airport will receive 16 million passengers, six million more than in 1992. By 2021 YVR expects to handle about 28 million passengers.

These projections prompted considerable interest on the part of the Airport and others in advancing the planning for a rapid transit link to connect Richmond and the Airport with Vancouver. TransLink, its member municipalities, the Airport, and other members of the Gateway Council are actively encouraging federal investment in transportation in the region. If TransLink and the other key agencies choose to plan a Vancouver-Richmond link, it may be a good candidate. Also, while the 2010 Olympic bid would not warrant a line on its own, the potential for funding in connection with the 2010 Olympics means that there may be value in early planning work.

As a result, TransLink included a study of a Richmond/Airport - Vancouver link in its 2000/2001 planning program. On May 3, 2000, the TransLink Board approved a cooperative planning program for a Richmond/Airport - Vancouver link in which all of the key agencies (TransLink, Transport Canada, Vancouver Airport Authority, City of Richmond, City of Vancouver, GVRD, the Province, and the Vancouver Port Authority) would participate.

Study Proposal

The proposed planning program has three phases:
Phase 1 was the preparation of a Project Management Plan to describe the management and administrative structure for the study, and the work program for Phase 2. If each of the participating agencies agrees with the proposed Project Management Plan, they will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to proceed with the next phase.

Phase 2 will assess whether the agencies, in consultation with the community, see a need to proceed with a rapid transit link between Vancouver and Richmond during the next decade and to assess the potential to finance a line during that time; and

If the answers to Phase 2 are “yes”, then Phase 3 of the study will provide the specifications for a rapid transit line and a funding structure. Depending on the potential to involve the private sector, there may be a further bidding process to refine specifications, technology, and/or corridor options.

Planning Structure

Under the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Act, TransLink is responsible for transportation planning in the region. However, the Management Plan for the Vancouver-Richmond study contemplates a cooperative planning program. TransLink and the other key agencies - including all levels of government - will work collectively toward a consensus as to whether to build a Vancouver-Richmond rapid transit link in the next 10 years. The project manager and team will work on behalf of, and report to, all of the agencies.

The Project will be overseen by a Steering Committee comprised of a representative from each agency. Since Phase 2 will involve a review of ridership projections arising from housing and jobs, the City Manager has asked the Director of City Plans to represent the City on the Steering Committee. Staff from Engineering and Planning will participate on a Technical Committee. At key points, the project team and City staff will report to Council on the study progress.

As it is currently structured, the program is in phases. The agencies agree to participate in one phase at a time. If the City chooses to participate in Phase 2 - the needs assessment/feasibility phase we are asked to sign a memorandum of understanding (Recommendation A). Phase 1 was the preparation of the management plan, presented for approval as part of this report (Recommendation B). No agency is committed to Phase 3, the definition of the line, unless at the conclusion of Phase 2 they agree and sign a memorandum to proceed.

The Project Management Plan

The Project Management Plan (Appendix B) includes:

“Summary/Highlights”of the Plan, which outlines the reasons for initiating this planning program now and a summary of the key elements of the plan;
the schedule, objectives, and key milestones;
the administrative structure for the participation of eight agencies;

the management structure, including the composition of the Study Team;
a non binding dispute resolution mechanism;
a description of the Study “deliverables”;
a description of the workplan for Phase 2; and
the budget, resources and funding for Phase 2

There are two key questions to be resolved in Phase 2:

Do the agencies, in consultation with the community, see a need to proceed with a rapid transit link between Richmond, the Airport, and Downtown Vancouver in the next decade? and

Is there the potential to finance a rapid transit line during that time frame?

In order to address these questions, Phase 2 involves a needs assessment, which will include:

a review of the considerable technical work that has already been done;
update of ridership projections;
an examination of the costs and benefits of building a rapid transit link in the next decade;
the development of general specifications for such a link; and
an examination of potential structures, including private sector participation, to finance the line.

Phase 2 of the Project Management Plan will not include recommendations as to technology or route. This will be done if the project proceeds to Phase 3. Depending on the potential to involve the private sector in a public-private partnership, Phase 3 may contemplate a further work program beyond 2002 to include a bidding process to determine technology and corridor options.

If at the conclusion of Phase 2, there is general agreement among the agencies to proceed to Phase 3 -- Rapid Transit Line Definition -- the Study Team will prepare a detailed workplan for Phase 3. As described above, the agencies will indicate their agreement to participate in Phase 3 by executing a memorandum of understanding.

If at the end of Phase 2, the agencies do not see a need to proceed, and if there is little chance of funding the project in the next decade, there would be limited value in proceeding with yet another planning process.

Phase 2 Analysis

Phase 2 will include a review of past north-south studies and updating of ridership projections. In Vancouver, there have been a number of changes since the 1992 study which will need to be considered. Example changes include:

Increased potential ridership demand from new housing located on the previous Arbutus Industrial Lands and in the Oakridge-Langara Area;

Designation of Cambie as a Heritage Boulevard;

Construction of an east-west rapid transit line to Broadway/Commercial/VCC. On March 28, 2000, Council recommended to the Province that the Broadway line be extended west to Granville Street in order to fully service Central Broadway. We are awaiting an announcement from the Province on the western terminus of the east-west line; and

A Downtown Transportation Plan is currently underway. Any decisions on rapid transit alignments and station stops will need to be coordinated between the City’s Downtown Transportation Plan and the Vancouver-Richmond Transit Study.

Phase 2 Vancouver-Richmond Public Consultation Program

The workplan for Phase 2 contemplates significant public consultation in order to determine the communities’ view as to whether we need rapid transit between Downtown Vancouver -Richmond/Airport in the next decade. Details of the public consultation program will be developed as part of the Phase 2 work. The public process will include:

Open houses and public meetings in Vancouver and Richmond to review past technical studies and new work; to verify whether, in the community’s view, construction would be justified in the near term; and to gain an understanding as to how groups wish to be consulted if Phase 3 proceeds;

Creating advisory groups to provide input; and

Broad public consultation and opinion research, to determine the value to the region generally of the rapid transit link.

These initiatives will be managed by the Vancouver-Richmond Project Study Team.

Phase 2 Study Budget, Resources, and Funding

The estimated project budget for Phases 1 and 2 is $573,000. The Vancouver International Airport Authority has agreed to contribute $250,000 to the costs of Phase 2. A federal contribution of a similar amount is currently under consideration. Some “in kind” assistance (for example, premises, furniture and equipment and staff time) will be provided by other participating agencies. The costs of Phase 3 are not yet determined. If the agencies proceed with Phase 3, past contributions, including contributions in kind, will be recognized. The City’s contribution of our Rapid Transit Project Manager’s time to assist with developing the Management Plan is being recognized as a $18,000 “in kind” contribution.

City of Vancouver Participation, Process, and Staffing

This report recommends Vancouver participate in the inter-agency study (Recommendation A). TransLink is not requesting a financial contribution from the City for Phase 2. As noted, the City contributed to Phase 1 through a staff secondment.

Phase 2 will run from September 2000 to March 2001. The emphasis will be on updating ridership information and reviewing funding sources. If there are detailed discussions of technology and alignment these will occur in Phase 3. During Phase 2 the Project Management Plan contemplates the Project team working on behalf of the participating agencies. City staff will participate on the Project Steering and Technical Committees. The TransLink Project staff will be responsible for technical analysis and managing and delivering public programs.

Good quality information on ridership is important to determining whether to proceed with a north-south line. Past experience suggests that there will be demands on City staff to assist with development capacity analysis and ridership projections. There are efficiencies in having staff familiar with the city data bases responsible for updating city ridership projections. Unfortunately, staff with the appropriate skills are currently assigned to the Building Line Study and the Downtown Transportation Plan.

Planning and Engineering have reviewed staffing options and are requesting funds to backfill one half-time position to enable experienced staff to do ridership analysis for the North-South line while continuing to complete other studies underway. The backfill funds will be used to provide temporary assistance (at the Assistant or junior professional, Engineer or Planner 1, level). A work station is available in the City Rapid Transit Project Office so funds are not required for work space or equipment. Recommendation C requests funding for Phase 2 of the Vancouver-Richmond Rapid Transit Study in the amount of $15,600.00, source of funds for the 2000 costs to be Contingency Reserve ($7,830) and the 2001 costs ($7,830) to be included in the 2001 Operating Budget. The backfill would be for approximately six months from October 2002 through March 2001.

If the project proceeds to Phase 3 there will need to be a City process associated with the selection of the route and technology. As noted in the discussions on the Arbutus Corridor, if a new line is to be built the City will invite public input on City principles for rapid transit planning. For the 1992 study, the City adopted a number of evaluation criteria (Appendix C). An updated list of evaluation criteria and principles will need to be prepared.

On July 25, 2000, Council directed staff to report back, if the Vancouver-Richmond Study proceeds to Phase 3, route and technology selection, on a public process to develop City principles for assessing north-south transit options. This report proposes that staff also report back on a work program and resources, if required, to support City participation in Phase 3 (Recommendation D).

CONCLUSION

At the urging of Richmond and the Airport, and in recognition of potential funding opportunities, TransLink has included planning on a Vancouver-Richmond rapid transit link as a 2000/2001 action item in its Strategic Transportation Plan. A study process involving eight agencies has been developed (Phase 1). Phase 2 will take place over the next 6 months, and will provide conclusions as to whether there is a need and the potential to finance the project within the next decade. At this point, the agencies are not being asked to commit to participate beyond Phase 2. If the agencies agree it is feasible to develop a Vancouver-Richmond Rapid Transit Line over the next decade, then a work program for Phase 3 will be prepared.

The opportunity to advance planning for a Vancouver-Richmond rapid transit link on a cooperative basis involving all levels of government and relevant local agencies is significant. The recommendations in this report support the City’s participation. Subject to approval of the various boards and councils at meetings scheduled during September, the participating agencies will be: TransLink, Transport Canada; Vancouver Airport Authority; City of Richmond, City of Vancouver, GVRD, the Province and the Vancouver Port Authority.

LINK TO APPENDIX A & C

LINK TO APPENDIX B

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