Monday January 31, 2011

 

Transit News

 

Transit Plan Railroaded

Light Rail advocates disappointed in BC Transit's lack of vision

Submitted by VALTAC

 

he Valley Transportation Advisory Committee (VALTAC) was pleased to finally see the long awaited study in late December and wonders why the release of this one year study, largely funded by the Province of BC, was delayed for over a year.

VALTAC is particularly disappointed with the study’s approach to connecting Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) destinations, described as inter regional services. The proposed approach will add further congestion to the road network, promote further suburban sprawl and increase pressure on FVRD agricultural land.

While the study, which is essentially an Abbotsford/Mission/Chilliwack (Fraser Valley Regional District) study assembles much useful information it is lamentably short on true vision. In fact, on the key issue of a 25-30 year transit vision it offers very little beyond what residents of Abbotsford/Mission/Chilliwack(AMC) can deduce for themselves over their morning coffee; adding buses to an already overburdened road system.

The two main road corridors, Highway 1 and the Fraser Highway cannot successfully solve regional and inter-regional transit, be the backbone of goods movement for the entire Lower Mainland and be the preferred “rat run” for increasing numbers of private commuters. Current and future transit users deserve an integrated regional transit system that can be successfully scaled up to meet the projected dramatic increase in population. Such a system would be multi modal (road and rail), provide attractive options and be cost effective.

In September 2008 when then Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced this study he was pressured to include in the work package an additional study investigating the benefits of integrating rail transit along the provincially owned interurban rail corridor. It was explained to him that the rail service should not be considered just as a “commuter” service moving people quickly to Vancouver. Instead it should be viewed as community rail service that would connect South of Fraser (SoF) communities and serve as a high capacity backbone from which feeder bus services could operate. Such an integrated transit system could dramatically alter the “reach” of transit SoF.

Minster Falcon agreed to include the additional study covering the rail services but the study’s authors seem to have adopted the long established TransLink strategy of ignoring the interurban line’s real potential, which is in connecting SoF communities. VALTAC asks the question, why the study chooses to extrapolate data from a TransLink report (DRL Commuter Rail Report, Oct 2006) which resulted in limiting the types of service and inflating the capital and operating costs while ignoring other available reports (UMA/AECOM in 2007 and Leewood Projects in 2010) that came to entirely different conclusions. Two of the reports ignored in the study were funded by municipalities, namely the City of Surrey and the Township of Langley.

This study has failed the province and the regions. Minister Falcon had clearly articulated that he wanted to understand what the future could hold if the interurban corridor was incorporated into future transit planning. Instead the report looks backwards and relies on old thinking and old rail cars. The report mainly looks at heavy diesel (circa 1950s) and actually considers “Budd Cars”, these cars are over 60 years old, and then focuses on commuter rail service with only 7 stations between Chilliwack and Scott Road (9 if you include the two terminus stations).

South of Fraser residents want to have more choice when it comes to transit. They want to be able to move around their own region, ideally in comfort and in modern rail cars. They do not need to be just shuffled along to jobs in downtown Vancouver, they want to be able to move between South of Fraser regional centres.

Why are TransLink and the province frightened of considering a modern rail service using a rail corridor that has the passenger rights preserved for the people of British Columbia and is already owned by the people of British Columbia?

VALTAC is a community-based advocacy group based in Langley. Please visit www.valtac.org

TRANSPORTATION ADVOCATES SUPPORT RAIL FOR THE VALLEY QUESTIONNAIRE FOR PROSPECTIVE LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES

The Valley Transportation Advisory Committee (VALTAC) is pleased to support Rail For The Valley’s initiative to send a questionnaire to all BC Liberal Leadership Candidates. Candidates have been asked to confirm receipt of the questionnaire and forward a reply back to rail for the Valley within a week. The results will be made public and posted on the Rail For The Valley website; www.railforthevalley.com

Details of the questionnaire are reproduced below:

Thank you for taking the time to complete this questionnaire.

1) Premier Campbell has promised to extend SkyTrain to Langley City but both Mayor Watts of Surrey and Mayor Green of the Township of Langley have expressed a strong preference for developing a more affordable at-grade Light Rail system and are against extending SkyTrain to Langley City. Do you support developing an at-grade Light Rail system to serve the South of Fraser region?

2) Under Premier Campbell, the Provincial government advocated a form of Rapid Bus system for the Fraser Valley Regional District instead of integrating Light Rail into a reorganized and VALTAC News Release Page 2 integrated bus and rail network. Do you have the same preference for a bus only system or do you support an additional Light Rail option for the Fraser Valley? Under what timeline?

3) The recent provincial study "Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley" covered the Fraser Valley Regional District but also reviewed and rejected introducing a "Commuter Rail" service using the provincially owned Interurban rail corridor. There were just 7 stations between Chilliwack and Scott Road SkyTrain in Surrey (100 kms). This type of Commuter service is not a sensible approach using the Interurban corridor. Community Rail, on the other hand, would result in a modern Light Rail system suitable for travel between communities along the 100 km line. Do you support the Community Rail concept of a rail service designed to move people around Fraser Valley communities?

4) The Interurban (Southern) Railway has long been mentioned as a potential route for a Light Rail service in the fast-growing Fraser Valley. The 2010 Leewood Projects Ltd. Study takes a detailed look at the Interurban and suggests an initial service can be built quickly and affordably. The Study recommends early implementation in order to maximize the benefits. Do you support moving forward with planning Interurban Light Rail?

5) The South of Fraser Community Rail Task Force, with official representation from almost all South of Fraser municipalities, and all the universities, is promoting a Community Rail (Interurban) demonstration project. Under your leadership, will the Provincial government work with this Task Force to ensure that such a project is a success?

For more background information on VALTAC and its goals and objectives please visit www.valtac.org

 

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