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Burnaby transportation plan sets eyes on new rapid transit routes

Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley is confident the city can work to implement an “aggressive” and ambitious transportation plan to the best of its ability in the coming months.

“[There are] definitely a lot of big moves in there, and a lot of very forward thinking. And I think that’s what we need at this time, not just for transportation, but as far as meeting our climate change emergency promises [go], as well,” Hurley told the Beacon.

The 149-page report sets out a 30-year plan for moving people and goods around Burnaby, focusing on key themes of climate and social sustainability, economic development, and an overall vision of Burnaby as “a world-class city committed to creating and sustaining the best quality of life for our entire community.”

It relies on three main targets: vision zero (which aims to bring the number of serious injuries and deaths in the transportation system down to zero), mode split (to increase the number of trips in Burnaby taken by public transit or active transportation to 75% by 2050), and zero emissions (with a goal of a 100% drop by 2050).

“We want to reduce the number of cars, but at the same time not demonize cars for people. Cars are going to be around for a long time, and some people just have to have a vehicle for the line of work they’re in,” Hurley said.

“[But] hopefully the more vehicles we can get off the road, it allows them to travel more freely. And the transportation plan, of course, leans heavily towards transit as well.”

A big focus when it comes to public transit will be improving accessibility on north-south corridors. Hurley said that while the east-west corridors are relatively well-served, the north-south directions could be improved with rapid bus routes or even ground railways—a system that used to form the bulk of Burnaby’s public transportation, before it was dismantled.

The first priority, he said, would be on the Willingdon corridor, where a rapid transit route could easily connect Metrotown, BCIT, the Burnaby Hospital area, and Brentwood—even adding easier connectivity to the North Shore.

Other high-traffic corridors that could benefit from rapid transit include Lougheed Hwy up to SFU, Kingsway, and the Marine Drive area.

Hurley said at the moment, there is a transportation disconnect between the Metrotown hub and the quiet Burnaby South neighbourhood of Big Bend, near the Fraser River. That’s another opportunity for Burnaby to make use of its central location in the Lower Mainland.

“I know Vancouver and Burnaby have both great interest in having TransLink look at that route as some kind of rail link between New West and Cambie Skytrain Station, which then, of course, will tie into the airport as well,” Hurley said.

“There’s no question that we are very well placed to become [a geographical hub], and that’s why our potential is so great. And that’s why we have to make all these moves to try and reach that potential … certainly, businesses want to move to Burnaby. The movie industry is always pushing to find more properties here in our city, because it’s the central location, and other businesses are the same. It’s very desirable from that perspective. But we need to do all we can to get these routes all tied in together.”

If the plan is adopted in its current form, the city would partner with TransLink to complete feasibility studies on those transit routes by 2025.

The plan also focuses on improving Burnaby’s pedestrian pathways, cycling networks, roadways, and emissions targets.

Hurley agreed that achieving all of the proposals laid out in the draft plan is ambitious. But he said over the next year of his government, and going forward, changing how Burnaby moves is going to have to be a big priority.

“We will drive this forward as aggressively as we can. Because we know this is where we have to go on so many fronts—on the congestion front, but also on the climate change front,” he said.

“This is really the direction that we’re going to have to go. This city is going to keep growing and the number of people is going to keep growing, and we have to find some solutions.”

The city’s planning and development committee approved a draft of the plan at a meeting last week, telling staff to prepare for another round of public consultation in September. Hurley said if all goes well, the plan should be formally adopted by council by early January at the latest.

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