Saanich endorses rapid rail transit for Douglas street

Saanich OKs light-rapid rail proposal

Council unanimously endorses transformation of Douglas Street

By Kim Westad, Times Colonist December 15, 2010

A plan to introduce light-rapid rail transit along Douglas Street has been backed by councillors in Saanich, who say it could ease traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dramatically change the corridor’s development.

Saanich council unanimously approved a motion that Douglas Street form the main transportation corridor from downtown Victoria, through Saanich to the West Shore. “I think with both municipalities agreeing, we’ve sent a very strong message to B.C. Transit, the transit commission and the Ministry of Transportation — this is where we want to see investment,” Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock said Tuesday.

Murdock suggested Saanich and Victoria councils meet to discuss how they can work together on the corridor. Both favour rapid rail transit.

“We want to make sure our vision for the corridor is consistent with Victoria’s. This really does change in a very significant way the land-use decisions for the corridor,” Murdock said. “We want to ensure we’ll have a seamless transition across the boundary.”

B.C. Transit has been working for months on a plan to connect downtown Victoria to the West Shore.

Last year, it approved the routing of three segments: downtown Victoria to the Uptown shopping centre in Saanich along Douglas Street; Uptown to Six Mile Road along the Galloping Goose trail alignment; and Six Mile Road to Colwood Corners along the Island Highway. Uptown would become a transit hub for the region.

Rapid rail along Douglas Street would change how development occurs, Murdock said.

Instead of stops every few blocks, such as buses have, the stops would likely be more widely spaced. Around each stop, a mix of residential and commercial would likely develop. The need for parking would be minimal because of the light-rapid rail, he said.

Victoria has voted in favour of having two light-rail lanes on the east side of Douglas Street, one heading downtown and the other out of town. Two car lanes and all on-street parking on Douglas Street south of Hillside would be eliminated to make room for rapid transit.

Saanich council did not vote on the location of the transit lanes. It is awaiting more detailed reports.

B.C. Transit said it will have cost estimates next year. The preference now is for one transit lane in and one out adjacent to each other on one side of Douglas, said Erinn Pinkerton, B.C. Transit director of corporate and strategic planning. “The analysis we’ve done between Uptown and downtown has shown that is the preferred option, with the curbside approach [one lane on each side of the street] a close second,” she said.

Transit will work through the details of both options “to understand the implication and benefits of the two” before a final decision is made, she said.