It's just before 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. Dozens of half-awake commuters and frazzled students line the Richmond-Brighouse platform of the Canada Line.
A train departed less than two minutes ago and the long strip of concrete is already filling up.
The escalator pumps through a continuous stream of bodies; all of who will attempt to squeeze on the same train - a crush that will only become greater as the train travels north into Vancouver.
It's a scenario that will repeat at the opposite end of the day, every Monday to Friday.
Choosing to commute by car is a similarly frustrating task. Rather than trains congested with people, drivers have to navigate heavy traffic.
Infrequent and inconsistent buses become, for many motorists, a distant third choice behind their four wheels and the Canada Line.
The projected population growth in Richmond - expected to increase by 80,000 in the next 30 years - makes the need to invest in public transit undeniable.
And, besides the reduction of traffic congestion, responding to this need has some clear incentives.
The benefits of public transportation is estimated at $11.5 billion a year in Canada, according to an October 2012 report by the public transit advocacy group Society in Motion.
Efficiently moving people means reduced travel times, increased workplace productivity and increased mobility.
Canada Line victim of own success The Canada Line is an example of the aforementioned efficiency, as it's been heavily used since opening almost exactly four years ago.
"The Canada Line has been a big success, but sometimes success can be problematic," says Richmond city councillor and former MLA Ken Johnston. "It just took off and I don't think anyone realized it would in the way it did."
The city is currently working with TransLink to respond to this demand - the line transports a person from Richmond-Brighouse station to Waterfront station in less than 30 minutes.
It's one of the things that will be placed under scrutiny as TransLink is set to cast its eye on Richmond early 2014 in order to update Richmond's Transit Area Plan, last done in 2000.
It will be working with city staff, according to Victor Wei, the city's director of transportation.
"There's been a continuous dialogue about the Canada Line," says Wei. "One of the concerns has been that the platforms are only limited to two cars."
The solution, suggested Wei, would be to add a third car and only have the middle doors open, causing everyone to enter through them and filter to the ends of the cars.
"Putting more trains on the rail would affect the frequency, which is dictated by the south end of the line, between Lansdowne and Brighouse," says Wei.
"It only has a single track going both north and south. It was one of the costcutting measures to get the project greenlighted as soon as possible."
Wei couldn't say how much money was saved by this decision, nor could he speak to how much it would cost to now install more cars to the trains.
TransLink did not respond to the costsaving question by deadline.
Prioritizing public transit over cars Ultimately, the current capacity problems of the Canada Line proves that, if done well, people are willing to leave their cars for public transit, according to transportation expert Stephen Rees, who lived in Richmond up until this past April.
"When they have done new, effective transit services, people use them," said Rees, who worked for the UK Department of Transport, the B.C. Ministry of Energy on transportation issues and for BC Transit, which became TransLink, where he was program manager for transportation policy.
Filling Richmond's roads with more buses more of the time takes money, something TransLink has been chronically short of for years. The transportation governing body largely relies on funding from the Ministry of Transportation.
However, it's not a question of the amount of money, but rather where the province chooses to spend that money, say critics like Rees.
Several major public transit proposals across the region are in a holding pattern, while car-dependant projects, such as the Massey Tunnel seem to advance with few roadblocks.
"There isn't a shortage of money," says Rees. "We have been utterly stupid in spending far too much on the wrong things and we seem to have a government that's determined to continue to do the wrong things even though they know they're wrong."
Rees cites the province's investment in highways and coal terminals despite dropping
demand, as examples of doing the wrong thing.
An aging population and a growing amount of young people moving away from car ownership creates a need for funds to be re-allocated away from roadway expansion and towards public transit, cycling and pedestrian initiatives.
Province-wide ICBC statistics claim 69 per cent of people 18-24 had a driver's license in 2011, compared to 79 per cent of the same age group in 1994.
"Given the experience we've had on the Golden Ears Bridge, traffic has been well below anybody's forecast," says Rees.
"Traffic on the Port Mann bridge isn't what they forecasted either. So you have one of the widest bridges (in the world) with little traffic.
"But still, we really seem to be determined to go on and continue to make the mistakes everybody else made in the 1950s by only investing in cars."
Since 2001, the province has provided approximately $2 billion to TransLink for projects like the Canada Line and the Port Mann express bus, according to the ministry.
"The ministry prioritizes projects based on need, eg., safety, economic development, congestion," it wrote in an email.
City-made initiatives As TransLink has its funding hands tied, city staff in Richmond have been working towards increasing the use of public transit through its 2041 Official Community Plan.
The plan states 83 per cent of all trips were made by car in 2008. By 2010, vehicles accounted for 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to reduce these figures, the city is targeting 51 per cent of all trips made by transit, cycling or walking by 2041. That means, the current figure, 17 per cent, needs to triple.
"We've been working with TransLink on priority measures, such as signals that favour buses first," says Wei. "The Bridgeport Station exchange is an example of this."
The city will also be using funds from the development cost charges, which is money taken from developers building in the city.
Based on this fund, the city was able to build transportation solutions such as the upcoming No. 5 Steveston exchange.
If a bus stop exists near a new development, developers are required to build a bus shelter, making it a more pleasant experience for the commuter and encouraging more passengers on the bus. Within the next five years, the city also plans to add a bus depot at the Richmond-Brighouse Canada Line station, allowing more buses to gather.
"This way, a person can complete their commute in a more pleasant way," says Wei. "They won't have to use cars at the end of the Canada Line."
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