Major improvements could be made along the entire five-km-long span of Hastings Street that runs through North Burnaby.
During a public meeting on Monday evening, Burnaby City Council approved the municipal government’s partnership with TransLink to explore changes to the streets that improve the speed and reliability of buses, while also upgrading the public realm for pedestrians, cyclists, street activations, and business vibrancy.
The work will explore upgrades to Hastings Street from Boundary Street all the way to Duthie Avenue, where Hastings Street transitions into Burnaby Mountain Parkway.
Hastings Street is part of the region’s Major Roads Network and Frequent Transit Network, and a designated route for trucks and goods movement. It is a major regional arterial route, linking downtown Vancouver to Simon Fraser University’s campus atop Burnaby Mountain, and communities along the way.
It is one of the region’s busiest bus transit corridors; the 95 B-Line (now known as the R5 RapidBus) on Hastings Street was the ninth busiest bus route in 2019, with 7.5 million annual boardings and average weekday boardings reaching over 24,000 passengers. Over one-third of the people traveling on the corridor move by the buses, which represent less than 1% of the vehicle traffic.
On other corridors in the region, bus services have been improved by measures such as bus-only lanes, queue jumpers, curb lanes, bus stop bulges, and traffic signal priority.
“Buses which are subject to congestion from the cars experience delay and reliability issues,” reads a city staff report.
TransLink will fully fund and lead the concept design planning work, including technical work and public consultation. This work will begin in Fall 2021, which will lead to public consultation on draft concepts in Spring 2022. City council will be asked to approve the final detailed design, and funding for construction will be subject to negotiations.
Councillor Dan Johnston suggested during the meeting that measures should be made to restrict traffic to improve livability.
“If you stand on Hastings Street, some of those blocks on rush hour, it’s like standing beside the freeway. Zoom zoom, you almost get knocked over by the wind velocity of the vehicles,” said Johnston, who added that he believes “the SFU Gondola, if it is built, will take some of the traffic from Hastings Street so that the bus necessity will be somewhat reduced.”
Hastings Street’s current usage as a regional arterial route for residents in the Northeast Sector of Metro Vancouver — Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody — is an issue for councillor Sav Dhaliwal.
“When Hastings backs up, the traffic spills out into North Burnaby, Capital Hill, and south of Hastings, and those residents pay for it. I think the emphasis needs to be on how to discourage cars coming from the Northeast Sector,” said Dhaliwal, specifically suggesting the planning work should explore ways to redirect regional traffic to Lougheed Highway, Highway 1, and Marine Way.
“If that Northeast Sector continues to build up as it is now… that corridor is going to become busier. So part of this study has to be discouraging traffic on Hastings.”
He added that there should be an emphasis on supporting businesses, and that would mean not reducing any of the existing curbside street parking.
“The urgency and the priority for transit should not come at the cost to the local merchants,” said Dhaliwal.
Councillor Pietro Calendino questioned whether any upgrades will be made for the Vancouver segment of Hastings Street to facilitate the rapid movement of buses west of Burnaby.
During the same meeting, city council reviewed TransLink’s public consultation and technical findings on the proposed SFU Gondola. Some councillors expressed doubt over the need for the gondola, while others were at odds over the potential impacts to the Forest Grove neighbourhood if TransLink were to proceed with planning for its preferred Route 1 option of a direct, straight gondola line from Production Way-University Station.
Earlier in the day, Burnaby City Council also reviewed city staff’s draft citywide transportation plan, which identified Hastings Street as one of the corridors designated with a “RapidBus or better” service.
TransLink’s emerging directions for its Transport 2050 planning process of Metro Vancouver’s new 30-year regional transportation highlighted the potential for a new SkyTrain line from downtown Vancouver to the North Shore via Hastings Street and the Second Narrows, with a branch that travels along Willingdon Avenue to reach Brentwood Town Centre Station and Metrotown Station. Transport 2050 is expected to be finalized by early 2022.