The $500,000 put up by the government of British Columbia to study a fixed-link rapid transit connection across Burrard Inlet, connecting Vancouver, B.C., to the North Shore, revives an idea that has floated the inlet for years. 

The newly planned feasibility study will investigate the options for transit crossing the inlet and tie together land use on both sides of the water. This effort comes after the Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project recommended in 2018 looking at a transit crossing as a way to improve housing affordability in the region and as a way to reduce traffic woes. 

One of the key recommendations of the 2018 Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project calls for the evaluation of rapid transit between the North Shore and Burrard Peninsula, connecting Lonsdale City Centre with Vancouver’s core and regional rapid transit network. 

“Municipal partners have stated a preference for rail rapid transit,” the report reads, “although the best technology will be determined through joint planning with TransLink.” 

The newly announced study has backing from Claire Trevena, the B.C. minister of transportation and infrastructure, along with Kennedy Stewart, Vancouver’s mayor. Bowinn Ma, mayor of North Vancouver-Lonsdale, led the 2018 effort and backs the latest step in investigating bringing transit across the water. 

The study, which starts this summer, includes funding from the B.C. ministry of transportation and infrastructure, District of North Vancouver, City of Vancouver, City of North Vancouver and City of West Vancouver. 

Currently the North Shore, with its high density of single-family residential homes, has residents reliant on automobiles with only two bridges — the Lions Gate and Second Narrows Bridge — providing the bulk of the access to the area. Currently, the TransLink SeaBus offers limited capacity for water crossings. 

Creating a fixed-link rapid transit connection isn’t an entirely new concept. And it isn’t one that is all that old, either. The Vancouver Sun reports that the former mayor of North Vancouver approached TransLink about the concept in 2017. The idea never made its way to a full-blown report and was quickly set aside due to the “perceived engineering difficulties.” 

Any new crossing could mimic the Second Narrows Bridge location or current SeaBus route on the eastern portion of the inlet, but the 2018 report suggested a more western version for better connection to the regional SkyTrain network. 

Next in the process comes the evaluation of engineering options, such as the feasibility of a new bridge in the sometimes-deep waters of the inlet or a progressive tunnel design. 

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb