We have been watching the plans for light rail with great interest. Our Cathedral Hill project site is very close to the proposed Downtown West station, and transit accessibility is a key aspect of sustainable, infill developments. The design and functionality of this system will be important to our eventual resident and tenants.
During early development of the light rail concept, we had developed some concerns with the system design: the proposed tunnel seemed too deep, and the budget seemed to regularly inflate during the course of project planning. While we are in favour of investments in green infrastructure, we thought there were fundamental choices about the light rail system that just didn’t seem well-thought out.
We are therefore much happier with the revised plan, announced last week by Mayor Watson. In our judgment, the change of alignment from Albert Street to Queen Street is a large benefit to riders – and not only the eventual riders from Cathedral Hill, who now will have to walk only one block up the street to get on a train! (See the map of the proposed station here – click on the aerial photograph.) The main benefit is that the redesign brings the tunnel depth up 24 meters – and will therefore be a much friendlier design to riders. We were having a hard time imagining riders wanting to descend the equivalent of twelve storeys underground to access a train to go two or three stops, for instance. It just didn’t seem believable that people would want to do that. (Before the City fully updates the LRT web site, you can still see the computer simulation of the descent into the deep Albert Street station at the same link as above. We think you’ll agree that it takes a long time just to “fly” down those escalators!) The newly-proposed, shallower tunnel (four storeys below grade) makes a lot more sense in terms of ridership and budget.
This new plan gives us more confidence that the City is on the right track (so to speak) in implementing the project. However, we’ll have to keep a close eye on how the project is tendered and how the City plans to manage construction.
We are thrilled that the Cathedral Hill development will be so well-placed with respect to this major new infrastructure project.