Monday, July 1, 2013

Seniors Scene

A Railroad Full of Reasons

An in-depth look at how rail fits in the Fraser Valley transportation model

Submitted by Myrtle Macdonald, Chilliwack/Voice file photo

cousin asked me:

"Hi Myrtle, what do you think of these floods in Germany, Austria, etc.? We thought that Calgary was terrible, but all these floods have never been as bad as they are now."

Here was my simple, but not simplistic reply:

Dear cousin and CCs to grandsons:

Thanks for asking.

Because of global warming the glaciers in the Rockies and in the Alps are melting fast. The Danube rises in the Alps, the Bow rises in the Rockies. So do the South and North Saskatchewan and they are rising fast. Beware Saskatoon. Get lots of sandbags and evacuation plans ready.

With global warming why are we having a cool spring? Mostly from pollution in the air from much too much automobile and truck traffic. Fine particulates are as bad, or worse that browner smog. My eyes are burning and nose running and I often cough. The mucus blocks my sinuses and even my ear canals.

Alternate energy instead of fossil fuels, is what is needed, and fast. Grandsons, again I say geothermal heating and cooling are excellent and there are government subsidies to install it. Why not get in on the bonanza that technology is starting? You can get the ball rolling.

For solar heating there is no need to wait for hugely funded installations. Small ones make a big difference. Back in 1991 I was a consultant in Lesotho, southern Africa. I saw in the capital city Maseru that most houses had solar panels on their roofs. Even the health nurse up in a remote mountains district had her bath water and some light bulbs through her solar panel, her sole source of electricity.

In 1979 in the mountains of Nepal I saw that the mission hospital operating room light was run by electricity from their solar panel. The surgeon was a lady doctor from Alberta. Yeah Canada!

God is good. He sends clouds to cool the weather and slow down the melting. He is sovereign. And he provides wisdom, pioneering drive, and risk-taking character-building. For three years farmers in Saskatchewan because of floods couldn't seed their fields. They need skills my maternal great grandfather and his sons learned from him, to drain their fields. It was labour intensive work requiring the help of brothers, cousins and neighbors. Now with families smaller, and living far away, expensive machinery is used.

The politicians are focusing on enlarging marine ports, to increase the amount of exports and imports with China. Export I can see, but do we want to cause closure of Canadian factories and poverty to our own factory workers, by importing cheap Chinese goods? Their skies are densely polluted, and that drifts over to us. Yes it does. The network of cause and effect is complex.

I saw many of the very RR cars that come through Chilliwack, between Saskatoon and Regina, ready to be filled, some with potash and others with wheat. I knew they were the same cars when I saw the graffiti.

Trains are polluting, but less than trucks and cars. The urgent need is to cut down on using fossil fuels on highways.

Students and commuters need alternate ways to travel. The six university campuses south of the Fraser River are near the interurban railway line, used by the Southern Railway for freight. We have right of way and with scheduling, could use it often daily, as is done in Europe. Trams (light Rail) run on standard width rail tracks in Europe.

When widening highways and bridges politicians think only of capital costs, for which they get money somehow, and they forget and ignore the maintenance costs and air pollution, being multiplied many times. Since being widened last year, Highway # 1 is again full of traffic day and night. Much of it is an increasing number of massive long distance trucks. It is not commuters from Chilliwack and Abbotsford. Most people who commute west to work have jobs south of the Fraser River, not north of the river in Vancouver.

The West Coast Express serves commuters from north of the Fraser River. Even though high rent is paid to CNCP, the service is sustained by passenger revenue. On the old interurban line we will have no rent to pay.

The Fraser Valley Heritage Railway started running June 23 on the hour, 10 to 4 every Sunday and stat holiday until after Thanksgiving. I went to Cloverdale for the one hour ride to Sutherland and back, with delight. Two of the original cars, two of the original stations and a car barn have been built. They are so like those that I frequented as a child, that I felt nostalgic. Passenger service is open to the public. The Cloverdale Station is on Hwy #10 and 176A street, one block east of 176 St. Look for it on the south side of the street, that runs through Cloverdale. There are interesting things to do in that city too.

The historic Chilliwack rail car is being renovated now. It was originally inaugurated by Governor General Duke of Connaught. Hopefully next year it will come to Chilliwack. The Mayor of Surrey provided $2 million plus last year. She cut the ribbon on Saturday June 23.

(Psst: We only need ground level shelters at other stops along the route.) We can afford modern rail cars, as in Europe.

The trouble is that the politicians prefer to spend money on sky trains and subways. Three lines of tram tracks on the surface is what Mayor Watts has said are appropriate for Surrey.

The BC municipal, metro, provincial and federal politicians ought to realize that 99 km of light rail will cost less the 4 km of sky train (Chilliwack to Scott Road sky station at the Patullo Bridge), according to the Leewood proposal.

Politicians overemphasize the importance of Vancouver. They are deceived by a philosophy of waiting for population density in the rest of the province. South of the Fraser River it is already one million.

Why can't the gas tax paid by people living south of the Fraser all go toward providing light rail, especially since it is not expensive?
Is it fair or just to continue to plan for the following?:
1. build expensive transit north of the river, or
2. enlarge marine ports, or
3. widen highways and bridges.

I actually agree with the new Chilliwack plans for city bus service. If buses can be counted on to run every 15 or 20 minutes 7 days a week, they will be used by more people, and begin to pay for themselves. I am not in favor of fast bus service Chilliwack to Abbotsford. The Interurban train would serve more people just as fast, and cost less.

About Myrtle
Myrtle Macdonald, M.Sc.Applied (in Nursing Research and Education), McGill University and works with the Chilliwack chapter of the BC Schizophrenic Association. She spent many years working around the worldas a street nurse in places like India and Montreal. She's a proud grandmother and Chilliwack loves her!


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