To appreciate West Vancouver, it helps to understand this map:

This is the region’s streetcar and interurban system at its peak around 1940.


Take a closer look at the North Shore portion:


Notice where the No 3 streetcar stops: at the Capilano River, the border with West Vancouver.  At that point, if you were heading further west, you’d switch to a Blue Bus, separately owned and operated by the district municipality since 1912 – reputed to be the first bus-only transit system in North America.  And though contracted with TransLink today, it still maintains a distinct identity.

Why isn’t it fully part of TransLink, you ask, given that routes and fares are otherwise integrated?  Frances Bula speculates: “I’d suggest that it’s attractive politically, as it reinforces the image of West Van as a place that’s a little special, set apart, and with superior municipal services.”  Frances is right: Blue Buses for blue bloods.

It also helps to appreciate that until relatively recently, West Van was a cul-de-sac – literally the end of the Trans-Canada Highway at Horseshoe Bay.  It remained so until Highway 99 was extended to Squamish in 1959.  Even the rail line through the municipality (the PGE) was unused until extended to Squamish in the mid-50s, much to the surprise of residents who thought the right-of-way had been abandoned.

Yes, there was the Lions Gate Bridge, opening in 1939; but because there was little through traffic, the bridge served as a gateway to the luxury real-estate being developed by the owners of the British Properties, the Guinness family.

West Vancouver, in other words, has seen itself as a separate place, and that separateness has always been associated with the disconnect, whether physically, operationally or psychologically, from the rest of the region.  That, I think, is what the B-Line threatens.

For some who are protesting, I expect they’d willingly separate from the rest of Metro – a Wexit, if you wish. They maintain there isn’t sufficient demand to justify these lumbering buses that threaten their quality of life, their children and, above all, their parking and road space.

By demand they mean, of course, themselves, and people like them.  Not those who must come from outside to access a super-affluent municipality with a dropping population.  Not the service workers, the nannies, the housekeepers, the students, the commuters who have to come from elsewhere.  Not even the potential customers for Ambleside and Dundarave.

Not the other beyond the river.



  1. A subway below or above ground hanging train like skytran ( not SkyTrain ) under or over Marine Drive from Dundarave in WVan to Lonsdale Quay in NVan ought to be seriously studied. Google skytran

    A serious option there !

    A dedicated bus lane takes up far too much space – the very same argument against a tram on Broadway !!

    W Van shoppers like their cars and with no other alternative than Hwy1 other options than buses ought to be developed for WVan. Buses are not conducive to move people out of their cars. Only rapid transit is !!

    Why not pilot the magnetic, fast, green & quiet hanging levitation train skytran there ??

    1. I think a dedicated bus lane isn’t too much room. Express buses with their own lanes have shown to be popular. It’s only a small percentage of the population that are dedicated car-only people. Most people driving are just doing whatever the environment around them provides them with.
      We’ve seen in other places B-Line routes showing ridership and then later being replaced with Skytrain so this could be step 1 in something like that later.
      There should be more bus routes going North and South in West Van. Some of the current routes run only once an hour. That’s not often enough.

      By the way, Skytran is a scam.

      1. You obviously do not know many folks in NVan or WVan ? Many would never take the bus (or a bike for that matter). That is why there is so much opposition to it. Parking AND traffic flow – already bad – would be very tough in Ambleside and Dundarave with a dedicated bus lane.

        A subway or elevated skytran would be a decent alternative.

        Why is skytran a scam ? It might be not proven yet in real world condition, on a mass scale. That doesn’t make it a scam. Enlighten us kindly why you think it is a scam.

        1. Thomas, why do you keep referring to a dedicated bus lane? Are you proposing one? It doesn’t appear that Translink is doing so.

          The presentations I read on line were very clear on the road changes that have been proposed so as to maintain, or improve general purpose traffic flow. Left turn bays. Left turn restrictions at two intersections. Combined Bus/Right Turn/Parking Access lanes. Mike Buda posted it here in this thread as well, just yesterday, a few posts down. Give it a look. No need for the fear mongering.

        2. Also not to sure why you think sktran is a scam. Eric Schmidt is an investor. They are having problems scaling but to say they are scam is not founded.

          1. Well, there’s history of PRT being used to derail rapid transit projects. An area proposes LRT or other rapid transit and has good public support and then PRT is pulled out of a hat to confuse the population, then nothing gets done and they end up building yet another highway. (The Simpsons monorail episode is based on this.)
            So there’s suspicion that it’s a fake technology who’s sole purpose is to prevent transportation alternatives.

            But if someday they have a working system and can make a go of it, then sure. So far they haven’t.

      1. Why not ? It’s innovative, clean, quiet, fast AND would not take away parking or lanes .. worthy a discussion at least ..

  2. Just curious: anyone know what route the #3 streetcar followed to reach Capilano River? Based on the picture, I really can’t tell. Perhaps up to Keith, then down, but then where? It looks like the end point is where the Upper Levels Highway crosses the river, but what was there before the upper levels highway? And what street is that where it jogs upwards?

      1. Thanks Jeff. That was really unexpected to say the least. I lived just down the street from where the tressle over Mackay Creek would have been but never knew it was there. What a strange route.

  3. Couple of extensions to Gordon’s thoughts:

    My friends in West Van who oppose the B-line past Park Royal but are legitimate transit users all advocate for north-south transit service– to help WV residents access Marine Drive services and existing buses. Interestingly, this just happens to coincide with the isolationist sentiments suggested: help us move around our community but keep out the east-siders.

    Also, not widely spoken, is a pride that West Van is a stagnant community with a shrinking population, so let’s not do anything to enable population growth/density.

    Oh, and use transit investment funds to aid vehicle travel!

    I remember when, decades ago, my brother had long hair and a battered van he got stopped by the police almost every time he drove into West Vancouver. It was as though the police station at Marine and 13th was guarding the community from outsiders.

    If West Van rejects the B-line extension, it will seriously undermine their chances (the whole North Shore’s chances?) of gaining traction for the intriguing business case for rapid transit across the North Shore.

    Given the North Shore’s massive struggle with automobile congestion and choked bridge crossings, it surprises me that every community wouldn’t welcome every possible improvement that might provide relief. Better access to more frequent Seabuses is an obvious benefit from a new B-Line going all the way. While some isolated costs will result, so will many (more, I suspect) benefits.

    1. Buses have a negative vibe, of poor folks. They are also just as slow or slower than cars and certainly more uncomfortable. That is why they will not be used a lot in W-Van (and to a lesser degree in N Van).

      A subway, LRT, SkyTrain, SkyTran or any train does not have these vibes and attributes ! But buses do !

  4. As a former third generation Vancouverite, by the way, who in the 90’s had to come against my desires to West Van as we could not then afford to buy in Vancouver-recession here in real estate, I am somewhat amazed at the potential for hypocrisy with the Broadway supporters. Marine Drive in West Van is a congested road at the best of times, and despite being a supporter of transit, closing off one of two lanes would be disastrous to movement in West Van’s business districts. I avoid the “downtown” as parking is impossible at the best of times. And perhaps, Gord, you can tell me how many driving lanes have been taken away for the B-line on Broadway or any other major street in Vancouver to speed up transit.
    There is an empty rail line-one return train at night, remember the BC Rail line-one block off Marine Drive, that could be used from Dundarave to Park Royal and thence carrying on as an LRT line to Phipps Exchange on one of the two North Van lines but in a SkyTrain SNC -Lavalin world that will never happen. It could even be paved for B-line buses as 2010 Porteau segment from Dundarave to Park Royal but that again requires innovative thought and that is not evident in Transit in Metro Vancouver.

    1. There are peak-hour bus-only lanes along central Broadway (the same (well, HOV+bus, actually) on Georgia St in the afternoon peak which benefits buses headed to…West Van). In addition, peak-hour parking is prohibited. So, Broadway businesses are already forced to adapt to a high car- and bus-use travel corridor with parking restrictions, bus lanes and big buses. Demand has grown so much that buses can’t cope, so next up is rapid transit. B-lines are used in this region to build demand until rapid transit makes sense. Skipping this step in West Van is theoretically possible, but I suspect other parts of the region would ask why an exception there when other communities are ready to re-organize road space more efficiently. Buses on Marine Drive thru Ambleside carry 30% of the people using that corridor in only 4% of the vehicles – moving people (not cars) more efficiently is the ONLY lasting solution to congestion, is it not?

      1. Thanks, Mike for an objective opinion and refraining from the cheap shots. I regularly use both car and bus to get to downtown Vancouver for both meetings and doctor’s appointments etc. The irony, of course, is that to get to the Marine Drive bus, I have to take a car to get to Marine Drive on a very steep and dark walking road as I , despite many letters and West Van Transit support, can not get the Lions Bay shuttle bus to divert down from the Upper Levels to Horseshoe Bay instead of using Westport Road from Caulfeild Village, thence to Marine Drive and service two shopping areas, three schools, a marina, a golf course, parks and a busy Gleneagles Community Centre to Horseshoe Bay. But I digress, the issue was the permanent removal of a driving lane, so Vancouver does not have that, despite calls for it and not even removal of parking except for certain hours. It was the telling us to do what we don’t do that got me. I honestly don’t see how Marine Drive between Dundarave and Ambleside could cope with one lane of traffic going to North Van. If anyone has been over here recently, the Upper Levels has become a parking lot in rush hour from the increase in commuter traffic from both ends-more daily traffic on Ironworkers than Deas Island tunnel. Thus, some innovation or a shared driving lane is required, just like Vancouver. For a city that has all the transit toys, frequent bus service, routes and two rail systems, it is a bit rich to say do what we don’t have the courage to do.

        1. The traffic modelling shows that the Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes (these are not bus-only lanes) proposed for Marine Drive, when combined with new left-hand turn bays, will either have no impact on general purpose travel times between Dundarave and Ambleside, or will in fact decrease travel time (this is because right now, there is no thru lane – both lanes are constantly interrupted either by parallel parkers, and right- and left-hand turners). This is not the case on Broadway, where there are already left and right turn bays – those bus-lanes are a meaningful reduction in general purpose traffic capacity during peak hours when the road is past capacity. The city has decided that reducing GP traffic capacity is worth it for the simple reason that 50% of the people that use that corridor are in a bus, so it makes sense to allocate at least part of the road for what is a far more efficient use of limited road space. The same geometric reality exists on Marine: 30% of the people on that road are in 4% of the vehicles (buses).

        2. Improved transit options & HOV priority access to bridges & other choke points would reduce the number of Single Occupant Vehicles on the road . Before retiring I drove a S O V from Horseshoe Bay to Denman street because of unreliable & overcrowded bus s— Bus lanes are needed for the257, 250&253 —————- B line or no B line.—— It is unfortunate that the the B Line is the debates focus instead the need for bus & H O V lanes

    2. The( empty) rail line was leased for 999 years to C N by the the B C Fib eral govt after making an election promise NOT to sell it– —– Instead of selling it they gave it away—— West Van district is paying C N rail $10 million to sub – lease the seawall

      1. The right of way is owned by the province; it is only used by one return train a night. In fact, it is leased for 66 years and then for the next 33 years. CN is in breach of its agreement in the lease as it has failed to have traffic on the Alberta-BC line as it agreed to in the original lease, so it has broken its lease conditions. The province, through the Transportation Ministry as BC Rail still exists and makes money-Delta Port, could force CN to have passenger rail transit or even the Porteau Cove type paved section without harm to the rail line. You may recall that there was a rather contentious exit by both BNSF and Canadian Pacific on what they said was an unethical lease by the then government and the CN CEO who was a Liberal supporter, much less the mess of the court case and the result. The NDP if they had the courage/money could easily change that lease or insist on passenger service-ie VIA Rail. Rocky Mountaineer only runs a once a week service now north to Jasper, not the former five day service.

        1. RAPID transit matters. Not a slow vehicle, be it a bus or train. Perhaps a rapid train could be built on the corridor ?

          Would that help congestion on Marine Drive though ?

        2. myron—— Is the lease evergreen by giving C N the option to renew over & over ????—— Does BC rail retain the passenger train rights ??

  5. That’s an interesting assertion about West Van Transit being the first “bus only” transit agency. I was under the impression that West Vancouver Transit originally included the West Vancouver Ferries

    1. Quite right. Ferries were an essential part of the system. West Van had the first transit system without streetcars. Buses only, in that sense.

    2. West Van ferries was a private company until 1912– Ferry takeover OR Bus Which came first?? ———- The former West Van ferry M V Hollyburn carried passengers between Canada place & false creek during Expo 86 & used for charters until being retired in the mid 1990 s

  6. I find it a stretch to cite any demand for a B-Line past Park Royal, at the most Ambleside Beach. Everything else in Ambleside or Dundarave can be found in the eastern part of the North Shore anyway. Surely Translink has more pressing uses for this money?

    1. You are right, Bob, there are nearly limitless demands for transit service from across the region, but only limited resources to build and operate it all, which is why the 10-Year Vision went through a rigorous, data-driven process to identify the highest priority projects to maximize ridership now and in the future. This B-line made the list because it scored highly enough to support it being built before many other proposed expansion projects. See page A-38 of the 10-Year Vision appendix for more info on the scoring process, criteria used, etc.

  7. There are direct parallels between the concerns being expressed over traffic congestion with this proposal, and similar concerns raised with the recent Burrard Bridge changes. On Burrard Bridge, one vehicle traffic lane was removed mid span, to return a sidewalk to pedestrians. Some people panicked, and forecast disaster, because of a perceived reduction in ehicle capacity. The traffic engineers pointed out that the lanes mid span weren’t the choke points, it was the intersections. They were proposing to add turn bays at Pacific (in two turning directions) so as to enable people travelling straight through to proceed without queuing up for the turn. And the double turn lanes handled all the turning movements. Still, a petition was started to ask the City to remove all the improvements that were in progress.

    What happened? The City of Vancouver held its course. The project was completed. Measured travel times were reduced for people driving, from a recent report by the City.

    What is proposed on Marine Drive? A very similar approach. Address the intersections. Consider all road users, not just general traffic. Model traffic flows and make informed decisions.

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