Canada Line spurs big city growth

Construction is nearly complete on “The Hotel,” a 200-room, four-diamond property being built atop a parkade for Canada Line commuters at River Rock Casino Resort.  - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Construction is nearly complete on “The Hotel,” a 200-room, four-diamond property being built atop a parkade for Canada Line commuters at River Rock Casino Resort.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

Two years after opening day, the Canada Line continues to spur growth in Richmond, as new high-rises, hotels and shoppers continue to fill the city’s core.

At the rapid transit system’s central hub, Bridgeport Station, a new 200-room boutique hotel is two months away from completion.

“The Hotel” will add 200 rooms to River Rock Casino Resort’s property. The four-diamond hotel is being constructed atop a transit parkade and is expected to open in late October.

Since the Canada Line began service on Aug. 17, 2009, the casino has seen an increase in gaming and non-gaming customers, including Vancouver residents who couldn’t—or wouldn’t—drive across a bridge, said spokesperson Howard Blank.

“It’s been very, very positive for us. We immediately saw an increase in visitation to the property.”

More people than expected are using the rapid transit line linking Richmond, Vancouver and the airport. Ridership now averages 116,000 per day on weekdays and 107,000 overall, when weekends are included.

Developers have pounced on the lure of the line, as high-rises are being built throughout City Centre. One example is Quintet, a five-tower, 950-unit residential development now under construction on No. 3 Road between the Lansdowne and Richmond-Brighouse stations. It’s already sold out, said city spokesperson Ted Townsend.

“The result of that is that project is going to be accelerated and completed sooner than originally envisioned.”

That, said Townsend, is good news for the community, as the development includes a new community centre and campus for Trinity Western University.

Success of condominium sales and the rapid transit line has pushed the owners of a sprawling Capstan Way site to revisit plans for a massive residential project for the fourth time since the late ’90s. Once known as Sun Tech City, the last proposal called for 16 high-rises and 2,136 homes to be built on the seven-hectare (17.2-acre) site, along with a new Canada Line station.

“We expect that to come back to planning committee in the fall,” said Townsend. “That had been approved at one point but fell apart for a variety of reasons, and so it’s back on the rails again.”

A pair of new towers are also planned near the Richmond-Brighouse Station. That project will create a new centre for buses feeding into the Canada Line.

“It will make the movement of buses in and out of the station a little bit more efficient and effective, but hopefully also address some of the concerns the residents have had in that area...” said Townsend.

City planners are also in the early stages of developing a program to animate the Canada Line corridor, particularly the plazas around the stations. One idea already backed by civic politicians is to introduce street-side vendors.

Local retailers have been welcoming new customers since the transit line’s introduction.

“We’re seeing a lot more people from Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby than we used to, because it’s so easy with access,” said Bronwyn Bailey, Lansdowne Centre spokesperson. “They can hop on the train and take advantage of the stores that we have in Richmond that they don’t have in other cities.”

Positive effects have also been felt by Richmond Centre retailers.

“We’re drawing customers from postal codes further into Vancouver and along the Canada Line,” said spokesperson Leslie Matheson. “It’s a good thing because it means people from outside the City of Richmond are coming into Richmond now.”

Matheson said the mall has also experienced a shift in traffic. Most notably the entrance nearest Richmond-Brighouse Station has seen a triple-digit increase in customers.

Aberdeen Centre is experiencing similar trends. Spokesperson Joey Kwan said customers from Vancouver are more easily finding their way to the mall.

Ridership numbers support the findings of retailers. Average weekday ridership is 16,000 passengers greater than the 100,000 commuters transit officials had predicted would ride the rails by 2013 or 2014.

That prompted TransLink to boost service earlier this month. Sixteen trains now run at the busiest times, up from 14, and peak service levels have been extended by one hour to 7 p.m. Peak service has also been extended in the mornings, now starting 30 minutes earlier, at 6:30 a.m.

According to TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie, there’s still room for further expansion, noting the Canada Line can run a maximum of 20 trains.

Many travellers and airport staff are also using the Canada Line. According to Vancouver Airport authority spokesperson Lara Gerrits, 17 per cent of passengers and Sea Island employees use the line to get to YVR—a number that has exceeded expectations.

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