Transportation topic drives annual North Van mayors’ luncheon

North Van mayors Darrell Mussatto and Richard Walton were put in the hot seat during a mayors’ luncheon last week.  - Maria Spitale-Leisk
North Van mayors Darrell Mussatto and Richard Walton were put in the hot seat during a mayors’ luncheon last week.
— image credit: Maria Spitale-Leisk

The topic of transportation drove the annual “conversation with the North Vancouver mayors” held at the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier on Jan. 23.

Close to 100 business and industry leaders attended the luncheon hosted by the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.

While the mayors were questioned on subjects ranging from housing affordability to amalgamation, the congested state of North Van’s thoroughfares was the common thread when talking about shared community challenges.

“I think it’s very much, from our point of view, those interchanges in North Vancouver,” said North Van District Mayor Richard Walton, who also serves as chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.

His mayoral counterpart in the city, Darrell Mussatto, didn’t argue the bottleneck at the North Shore bridge heads is a concern, but also questioned whether spending approximately $100 million to replace them was the right course of action.

“I think you also have to look at, too, the capacity of the Ironworkers Second Narrows Bridge,” said Mussatto. “The challenge there is that there are no plans to increase the capacity. But maybe we need to have a better discussion about how do we improve the public transit on the North Shore.”

According to Mussatto, original plans called for there to be eight SeaBuses sailing by the year 2000. He posed the question: How many people have missed the SeaBus by a minute and had to wait 28 minutes for the next trip?

“That’s a problem,” said Mussatto. “Going up and down Lonsdale with buses that are full — that’s a problem.”

Discussion moderator, former CBC TV news anchor Kevin Evans, questioned Walton on why the district decided to add density in the heart of the bottleneck at the Seylynn development.

“Putting your density right around your rapid transit identified corridors which the lower Main Street area is — and Phibbs Exchange is already there — is exactly where you put your density. Because it does give people an option from day one,” said Walton.

On the subject of rapid transit between Vancouver and the North Shore, Mussatto was frank.

“The cost per ride would almost be prohibitive,” he said, further explaining that North Shore’s low density by relative comparison wouldn’t justify the cost to burrow a tunnel under the Burrard Inlet.

“If they did put in rapid transit, and we were able to pay for it somehow, there would be incredible pressure for more growth on the North Shore. And I don’t think our residents want that kind of growth,” added Mussatto.

Capping the conversation with a housing discussion, Evans asked the city’s mayor, on a scale of one to 10, how concerned he is about the future availability of affordable housing, given the current rental stock is aging and faces the risk of redevelopment. Evans also noted that 46 per cent of the city’s residents are renters.

“I’m very concerned,” said Mussatto, who put his apprehension at an “8” on the scale.

The mayor said the city has employed many mitigation measures including legalizing illegal suites.

Evans then turned his attention to the district, where detached homes make up 70 per cent of the housing stock, asking Walton if the district can afford to continue along that path.

“It’s very, very clear that our community wants to keep the predominately single-family pattern for most of our neighbourhoods,” said Walton, referencing recent district Official Community Plan discussions.

And, the aging demographic isn’t helping with housing affordability, according to Walton.

“A lot of folks want to downsize, but they don’t want to leave the neighbourhood. And that’s becoming a real challenge,” said Walton.


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