If Jeff Malmgren had his way, suburban commuters in Metro Vancouver would have a new way to get to work every morning: riding a riverbus on the mighty Fraser.
Malmgren, of the Fraser RiverBus Society, pitched the concept Friday to Metro Vancouver’s regional planning committee, arguing that water-borne commuter transport has the potential to ease gridlock on the roads and bring more transit options to the region.
Under his plan, four water buses would run between Richmond and Maple Ridge, carrying up to 15,000 passengers per day. The hop-on, hop-off buses would stop along the route in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Langley.
“More and more people are trans-commuting; they’re going across the region,” he said, but in order to take transit and go east from New Westminster, most commuters have to go into downtown Vancouver first. The riverbus would eliminate that, reducing the average commute for many people.
Malmgren, who urged Metro Vancouver to further investigate the concept and its viability, estimates it would cost up to $20.4 million to start the project, with operating costs at $1,000 per hour/per vessel.
The SeaBus across Burrard Inlet, by comparison, costs $675 per hour to run, he said.
“The world is rediscovering the river, here and elsewhere, as the desire for safe, efficient and sustainable methods of commuter transport turns us back to whence we came,” his report to Metro Vancouver states. “In Metro Vancouver, a convergence of circumstance means the time to go there is now.”
In 1995 and again in 2003, TransLink studied other possibilities for ferry routes, four of them seriously: Bowen Island to Ambleside in West Vancouver to the West End to Jericho/Kitsilano, with UBC bus links; Lonsdale Quay to Ambleside to the West End to Jericho/Kits, with UBC bus links; Deep Cove to (possibly) Belcarra to Waterfront Station downtown; and Port Moody/Ioco to Maplewood in North Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay.
None was pursued.
Water transport can be found around the world, from Cardiff’s Aquabus to water taxis in Chicago, Brisbane and Paris. In Asia, water-borne commuting is prevalent in every waterfront city.
Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender said it makes sense to get better use out of the Fraser, and the project is worth investigating as part of the region’s overall transit mix.
“People are putting more ideas on the table; we’re going to have to look at how we priorize these things,” he said. “We should look at anything. It’s like the gondola [to Simon Fraser University]. I support looking at it as an option but not as usurping the Evergreen Line or other projects.”