Tuesday, Nov 14, 2017 

My Say

Educating Horgan

An open letter to the Premier on transit

By Myrtle Macdonald, M. Sc., Author, Chilliwack


hope your vision will expand to include all BC regions and municipalities. A million people live south of the Fraser River and there is grid lock day and night on Highway #1 because of commuters and massive trucks bringing American fruit and vegetables, that are sold for less than they can be produced here. 

People don't love cars; they need them. Local family farmers and their youth have to get second jobs while their produce rots in their fertile fields. Awful air pollution is funneled up the Fraser Valley, increasing health care costs for all chronic diseases.


Highway widening and maintenance are costly. Vancouver gets the lions share of funding while the rest of BC is dying.


The 7 km Broadway subway costs are rumored to have soared to nearly $4 billion. It will cost more than $130 million per km, to build Sky Train, obsolete in Europe.


On the 136 km Interurban line from Vancouver to Chilliwack, passenger service would cost $750 million to install, at present estimates.  Light rail on this line would cost little to maintain.  Buses need replacement every 10 years. Each rail car would last for 30 years and carry 100 passengers, 300 when three cars are articulated. Highway and bridge widening capital costs and ongoing pavement resurfacing are very costly. Railway lines need little maintenance. 


From 1900 to the 1950's the Interurban passenger service was very popular, providing four or more round trips per day from New Westminster to Chilliwack.  There was also a car on the early morning train for milk and produce. People could attend a concert or sports in the evening and return home on the last train. Then automobiles became inexpensive so train passenger service was discontinued.  Since then the rail line has been used by heavy rail cars of the Southern Railway.  Freight is transferred from the CN at Chilliwack and carried all over the USA, crossing at Sumas/Huntington, or to docks on the Pacific ocean in Vancouver. 


This interurban route goes near Cultus Lake, through towns and fertile farmland, and passes near 6 university campuses and the Abbotsford Airport. Ticket sales would soar. Young and old frequent the Regional Hospital and Cancer Unit and shopping centres.


An hourly rail schedule would soon be needed.  Tourism would explode. Tram trains are user friendly. A bistro car could be added enhancing the user's experience. Who would not like to sit back and watch the scenery go by from Chilliwack to Surrey, in 90 minutes or less?!


The right of way is owned by BC so no land acquisition is needed. Passenger light rail cars could be running in less than a year, if government cooperates.


There are 14 km of the Interurban line used by CNCP from just north of Trinity Western, through Langley to near Cloverdale. Since the right of way is owned by BC, CNCP should be required to schedule passenger trains, as is done in Europe. Since their freight trains are over 100 cars long, some second tracking may be needed in that short area.


Through a Task Force of the Rail For the Valley, a comprehensive study and proposal was made in the Fraser Valley by Leewood Projects Ltd,  a firm with comprehensive rail construction experience since 1999 in rural parts of England, London Underground and the remarkable Channel Tunnel rail to France. This 85 page proposal includes thorough practical details. David Cockle who did the study, has a daughter living in Cultus Lake, whom he has visited.  He also has continued to consult with Rail for the Valley.


Transportation studies made by Simon Fraser University faculty are influenced by American high cost transit systems and lack sufficient practical knowledge, unlike university railway technology programs in Europe, where there are many cost effective, user friendly railways.  Canada is far behind.  We did have a network of railways until automobiles and gasoline became inexpensive.  In the past 30 years costs grew exponentially.  It is time to switch to alternate energy.  China is making rapid advances installing solar energy and soon will not need oil from Alberta.


We do not need Rapid Light Rail.  Good scheduling and connections flow well at normal speed.  The rapid bus # 66 takes two to three hours from Chilliwack to Vancouver, even using HOV lanes. Few people enjoy travel by bus.  Light rail makes good time in wet or snowy weather.


People don't love buses; they need them. Car and SUV traffic congestion in Chilliwack has become serious, since many people are buying homes here, but commuting to work in Langley and Surrey.


People are increasingly commuting out of Vancouver to work in other communities.  Air pollution is funneled up the Fraser Valley, hiding the beautiful mountains for tourists, ruining the health of residents and escalating the costs of health care.


Highway # 1 runs north of the farmlands, towns, villages and Cultus lake and is not easily accessed by car.  The interurban Rail Line is conveniently located.  It is not true that it meanders.  A new route for trains along Hwy # 1 is not needed, not accessible by most south of the Fraser, and much too expensive.


Rail for the Valley urges you to hire British Leewood Industries, Karlsruhe - Germany, or Stadler - Switzerland,  not US billionaries who have no concept of economy.


Bombardier builds trains and Lavelin builds the very costly ugly cement lines they run on.


DMUs (Diesel Multiple Units) tram/trains can run on both tram tracks and mainline railways.  They use their own diesel power unit, are inexpensive and flexible.


In 2014 San Francisco BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) district authority ordered eight Stadler GTW 2/6 (two of six axles powered).  These GTWs (Gelenktriebwagen- articulated wagons) are manufactured in Switzerland and have a long history of use in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France. They are equipped with an environmentally friendly drive system, an automatic control system, an extremely powerful, redundant HVAC system and a comprehensive video monitoring and passenger information system. The low floor cars are especially wide, and along with their large windows provide bright light, seating for 104, standing room for 96, and generous space for baby  carriages, wheelchairs and bicycles.


Urgently we advise the NDP government of BC to form a Ministry of Regional Transportation. We urge the Liberals to be wise and agree. The Minister should be from east of Metro Vancouver. (There are few: Michell Mungall, Doug Donaldson, Katrine Conroy.  There are four or more who were City Councilors in Metro Vancouver.  Would an NDP MLA from north of the Fraser river, Burnaby or from Sunshine coast be suitable?


We urge Premier Horgan to let Chief of Staff Geoff Meggs go, because he was a Vancouver city councilor, typically with no interest in regional transportation.


Political donations from land speculators influence government; land speculators build large unaffordable housing.


- The 1986 Expo sky train was noisy because of poor maintenance, yet cost 40% more to operate.


- The old Budd cars have a long wheel base.  Articulated cars (DMUs) have short bases.



With good wishes and hope,


Myrtle Macdonald  

Chilliwack Branch Rail for the Valley - Historian and Recorder

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