Saturday January 15, 2011
Transit Study Facts, Figures And Faults
Macdonald takes a long look at Strategic Transit Report and compares it to the Leewood Study
Submitted by Myrtle Macdonald, RN
t has taken many hours to study Foundation Papers #1, #2, #3 and #4, each 50 to 75 pages long. I like some parts of the report, such as densification in the cities and preservation of ALR land (Paper #2, p 7); Circulator routes and Shuttle routes (#1, p 3); Top 10 reasons city transit is not used (#1, p. 36); Paratransit (#2, p 15); & Transfer points keeping to scheduled times (#2, p 15).
Several assumptions, inaccuracies and omissions are troubling me greatly:
1. The information is very out of date. Many exhibits (maps) and tables (charts) are dated 2004 or 2006. The comments seem a little more up to date, with 2008-2009 information, not 2010.
2. Data of student travel to high schools, UFV and other campuses are out of date & sketchy. Six campuses are near the existing Southern Railway line, which is in good condition. The right of way belongs to BC. Traffic is in both directions, not one way, which is convenient for students. A light train stop at the foot of King Road would be within walking distance of UFV Abbotsford. A shuttle bus on King Road could carry UFV students and Abbotsford Airport passengers. Many Abbotsford students now travel by car to the UFV campuses in Chilliwack. Light rail would cut down on car travel resulting in less air pollution.
3. Much data show minimal use of city buses. No study of truck traffic patterns was made. Huge high-speed freight trucks filling highway #1 are ignored by the Strategic Review of Transit although they make car travel difficult. They come from beyond the Fraser Valley, and cause major air & highway damage.
High costs of widening/maintaining highway #1 are ignored in Strategic Review of Transit.
Costs of Light rail and Rapid bus are compared, without adding the cost of highway widening & maintenance, yet including and exaggerating the cost of upgrading the Southern Railway line.
4. The Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) Vision is commendable (Paper #2, p 38). Therefore I now challenge FVRD to be consistent and actually provide transit service in the rural areas south of Highway #1, which can be done at little expense on the Southern railway line.
Cost of getting passenger trains running from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will be small.
The Leewood study showed how inexpensive light rail would be, compared to other schemes.
The Southern Railway line is kept in excellent condition carrying heavy freight daily from across Canada and the USA via Sumas-Huntingdon to Langley, Delta & Annacis port for China.
The West Coast Express pays high rent to CNCP yet has enough passengers to pay for itself, a fact not mentioned in the Strategic Review of Transit. Since the Southern Railway right of way is BC owned, the Interurban would quickly become self-sustaining.
One level crossing guard at Upper Prairie Road is being well funded by the Federal government. Chilliwack’s share is only $43,000. The total cost is a little over $200,000.
Only a few level crossing guards are needed since few people live south of the Southern Railway. There are about 4 underpasses. Half of the communities are Abbotsford responsibility, and funds could be requested from the same federal government program. In cities light rail would obey traffic lights as trams and buses do, and negotiate good timing on main routes.
Light railway could make brief stops at Vedder, Cultus Road, Yarrow, Greendale, Arnold, Vye Road, Huntingdon, King Road, etc. if passengers are waiting at these places. The Leewood Study plans frequent service, at less cost than West Coast Express. Paper #4 costs are wrong.
5. The Leewood Study estimates travel from Chilliwack to Scott Road sky-station to take only 90 minutes. That is less time than it takes to travel by car, or rapid bus, between those two points. When there is an accident or road construction on highway # 1, travel takes much longer.
6. The Strategic Review of Transit assumed that both Light Railway and Automated Light Railway are Rapid Transit (Paper # 2). It is even claimed (pp 39 and 40) that they are only feasible for high-density population of 440 to 750 people per ha (medium and high density apartments). Instead, light railway will provide service for resort towns and farming communities along the south of highway #1. The InterUrban worked well four times a day, in each direction, for 40 years until 1950, when cars became inexpensive & the “in thing”. There was a midnight train leaving New Westminster that carried sports and concert lovers back to Chilliwack.
7. The Strategic Review of Transit wants travel to become pleasurable (Paper #2, pp 37-38), so it is inconsistent to be against Light Passenger Rail, which is relaxing and pleasurable. The Leewood study showed how inexpensive light railway would be compared to all other schemes. Besides, those schemes serve only Metro Vancouver, and under1% of the rest of BC.
8. The BC Ministry of Transport is responsible to fund green transportation in all of BC, and for the BC Ministry of the Environment to clean up air quality in all of BC, especially in the upper Fraser Valley, where a high percentage of the population suffer from eye, ear, nose, throat and chest, heart and arthritic complications. Upper Fraser Valley air pollution is ignored by the Strategic Review of Transit. 2000 van pools in Seattle King County (#2, p 32) sound great, but their fumes waft in wind currents up the Fraser Valley, as from Tacoma-Bellingham traffic.
9. It is time for the Provincial and Federal governments to help Chilliwack upgrade their transit. For many years in a biased manner they have poured billions of dollars into the Vancouver-Richmond corridor. Chilliwack bus services (Paper #1, p.34 and #2 p.36) are far below those of all other cities. Automobile traffic within downtown Chilliwack during the past two years has become congested. Rush hour extends from noon until 5 PM.
The study by Jennifer Bigham during 2010 shows ways to make transit routes efficient.
The Strategic Review of Transit, paper #4 suggests improved bus routes and para-transit.
The spoke and wheel system of bus routes in cities is wasteful. One or two hubs are over-serviced and there are few connectors between the ends of the spokes. Going to the center to transfer takes much time, and is a reason why cars are preferred.
Abbotsford seems to have a better network of varied routes than Chilliwack.
Seniors do not like rapid buses, but may like express buses.
10. The assumption throughout the Transit Review is that services are dependent upon population density. This is unjust and discriminatory. Everyone in the upper Fraser Valley should be provided with para-transit services with flexible routing, as in Paper #2, pages 13-16, and this is described in some detail for Abbotsford, but not well for Chilliwack.
11. No mention in Strategic Review of Transit is made of increased congestion, speed and fumes on highway #1 in the past three years, with rush hour most of the day and even often at night. Scenery can no longer be enjoyed. Passengers use buses and cars on the highway out of necessity, not for pleasure. Seniors do not like rapid buses, nor do middle aged people.
12. Few people commute to Vancouver to work. The Strategic Review of Transit makes clear. Most who travel by West Coast Express, get off at Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows. References to GVRD (renamed Metro) are misleading. Abbotsford people drive to work in Surrey and Langley. Few cross the river to New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver (#2, p 58). Many maps and charts in the Strategic Review of Transit indicate this fact. Actually bridges are clogged with long distance heavy freight trucks. It would be better to have more freight trains.
13. A network of Light Rail trams as envisaged by Surrey, would improve their economy and sense of well-being, plus contribute to improved upper Fraser Valley air quality.
14. With future population growth Rail for the Valley and the Leewood study also envision:
Tram lines to Rosedale, Agassiz and Cultus Lake. These would enhance quality of life, student mobility, tourism and the economy.
As the Strategic Review of Transit points out, passing lanes might be needed to accommodate fast and slow trains (Paper #2, p 25). However all freight and passenger trains would probably continue running at moderate speed. Speed above 60 km per hour is not necessary. There is no reason for great speed or to put drivers and conductors out of work, by automation.
Possibly a second track is needed beside the CNCP line running a short distance north of Langley, but the land is level and appears to have room. It used by the Southern Railway.
15. Rather than by truck, fresh fruit and vegetables from Mexico and California should be carried by train to Sumas/Huntingdon, on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific and other USA trains. Their locomotives are repaired in BC. They even have refrigerator cars.
Myrtle Macdonald, M.Sc.Applied (in Nursing Research and Education), McGill University.
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