Issues: Light Rail For The Valley – What Do You Think?

By on January 31, 2017
phoenix_light-rail5

By Mike Archer. The long standing debate over a Light Rail option to solve the transportation issues facing the Fraser Valley have produced two camps, each armed with surveys and each determined to prevail. [Click On Image For Full Story]

Langley Township Mayor Rick Green

Proponents of a light rail option point to a rail network already in place and the environmental benefits. Opponents argue that the costs would be prohibitive and that an adequate bus system must be established first.
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The surveys themselves have each been the source of controversy with opponents of light rail pointing out that Leewood Projects, authors of the pro-light rail study, are a UK company that specializes in building light rail projects and proponents arguing over the relative weight given to projected passenger use of buses vs trains in the recently released Fraser Valley Transit Study.

 

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz

Fraser Valley community newspapers have not been particularly unbiased in their reporting and are unanimous in their support of light rail. Newspapers from both chains in each Fraser Valley community are listed a sources, in the Leewood Projects report, as evidence to prove a groundswell of support among the people of the Fraser Valley.
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Different communities have different views on the issue with Langley Township Mayor Rick Green and his council being mostly pro-light rail and Mayor Sharon Gaetz of Chilliwack believing that a better bus system is more of a priority because more than 80 percent of commuter traffic in the Valley cities is within each municipality.http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/
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In order to provide a bit more clarity, Today is providing links to each of the opposing studies so that readers, taxpayers and commuters can make up their own minds on the relative merits of the proposals.
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The Two Studies:

 

Fraser Valley Transit Study

To view or download a copy of the Fraser Valley Transit Study (FVTS) and all of its ancillary documents simply

Click Here

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Leewood Projects Study

To view or download a copy of the Leewoods Projects Study, commissioned by ‘Rail for the Valley’, and published by Leeword Projects of Great Britain simply

Click Here

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Today’s Coverage, Views And Comments Received

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Issues: Light Rail For The Valley Must Take A Back Seat To Bus Transit

Valley News: Province Releases Fraser Valley Transit Study

Issues: Costs Still Make Light Rail A Pipe Dream

What Do You Think?

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Let us know what you think by using the comments box below or sending us a letter at Rail For The Valley – What I Think

Cover Photo From: www.connect.in.com

About The Editor

2 Comments

  1. admin

    June 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Submitted on 2011/01/19 at 5:37 pm

    January 19th, 2011 at 4:30 pm e
    The Following Comment Was Received Today On A Story That Ran Oct 21 Regarding The Students’ Petition For Better Transit Options In The Valley.

    We are publishing it here as it has valuable information regarding the Rail For The Valley Debate:

    2011/01/19 at 4:05 pm
    Response to “Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley” – December 2010
    By Myrtle Macdonald, M.Sc.Applied (McGill U), Living in Chilliwack since 1988 – Jan 17, 2011

    It 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 campuses & Trinity Western are out of date & sketchy. Kwantlen Polytechnic is not mentioned. All are near the existing Southern Railway line. The right of way for passengers 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 staff & students and Abbotsford Airport passengers. Many Abbotsford staff & students now travel by car to UFV Chilliwack campuses. Light rail would cut down car travel and 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 (Paper # 4).

    4. The Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) Vision sounds commendable (Paper #2, p 38). I challenge FVRD to be consistent in providing transit service for urban and rural areas. See points 11 and 14.This can be done at little expense on Southern railway line south of Highway #1. Cost of getting passenger trains running from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will be small.
    The Leewood Proposal 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 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 and King Road, if passengers are waiting at these places.
    5. The Leewood Proposal estimates travel from Chillwack to Scott Road sky-station to take only 90 minutes. That is less 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. Leewood plans frequent service, at less cost than West Coast Express. Paper #4 costs are seriously wrong. See point 7 below.

    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 & 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. Air quality in the upper Fraser Valley is among the worst in Canada and the world. A high percentage of the population suffer from eye, ear, nose, throat and chest, heart and arthritic complications. The serious 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. 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.

    10. The assumption throughout the Strategic Review of Transit is that services are dependent upon population density. This is unjust & discriminatory. Everyone in the upper Fraser Valley should be provided with paratransit 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. 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 in the past two years has become congested. Rush hour extends from noon until 5PM.
    – 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 paratransit.
    – 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 which stop less often, to save time.

    12. Few people commute to work in Vancouver as shown in the Strategic Review of Transit. References to work in GVRD (renamed Metro) are misleading. Most who travel by West Coast Express, get off at Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows. Abbotsford people drive to 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, but do not draw attention to it. 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. In the future with population growth, Rail for the Valley and the Leewood Proposal both envision:
    – Tram lines to Rosedale, Agassiz and Cultus Lake. These would enhance quality of life, university student and staff mobility, tourism and the economy.
    – As the Strategic Review of Transit points out, passing lanes might be needed after some years 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.
    – Later a second track may be needed beside the CP line used by the Southern Railway. It runs a short distance north of Langley, but the land is level and appears to have room.

    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.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Myrtle Macdonald, M.Sc.Applied (in Nursing Research & Education), McGill University

    A Director of Friends of Rail for the Valley. She has worked in 6 provinces of Canada and in 4 countries overseas, so has gained perspective on transit.

    schmac@shaw.ca Phone: 604-795-6390

    Response to “Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley” – December 2010
    By Myrtle Macdonald, M.Sc.Applied (McGill U), Living in Chilliwack since 1988 – Jan 17, 2011

    It 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 campuses & Trinity Western are out of date & sketchy. Kwantlen Polytechnic is not mentioned. All are near the existing Southern Railway line. The right of way for passengers 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 staff & students and Abbotsford Airport passengers. Many Abbotsford staff & students now travel by car to UFV Chilliwack campuses. Light rail would cut down car travel and 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 (Paper # 4).

    4. The Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) Vision sounds commendable (Paper #2, p 38). I challenge FVRD to be consistent in providing transit service for urban and rural areas. See points 11 and 14.This can be done at little expense on Southern railway line south of Highway #1. Cost of getting passenger trains running from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will be small.
    The Leewood Proposal 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 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 and King Road, if passengers are waiting at these places.
    5. The Leewood Proposal estimates travel from Chillwack to Scott Road sky-station to take only 90 minutes. That is less 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. Leewood plans frequent service, at less cost than West Coast Express. Paper #4 costs are seriously wrong. See point 7 below.

    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 & 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. Air quality in the upper Fraser Valley is among the worst in Canada and the world. A high percentage of the population suffer from eye, ear, nose, throat and chest, heart and arthritic complications. The serious 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. 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.

    10. The assumption throughout the Strategic Review of Transit is that services are dependent upon population density. This is unjust & discriminatory. Everyone in the upper Fraser Valley should be provided with paratransit 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. 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 in the past two years has become congested. Rush hour extends from noon until 5PM.
    – 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 paratransit.
    – 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 which stop less often, to save time.

    12. Few people commute to work in Vancouver as shown in the Strategic Review of Transit. References to work in GVRD (renamed Metro) are misleading. Most who travel by West Coast Express, get off at Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows. Abbotsford people drive to 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, but do not draw attention to it. 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. In the future with population growth, Rail for the Valley and the Leewood Proposal both envision:
    – Tram lines to Rosedale, Agassiz and Cultus Lake. These would enhance quality of life, university student and staff mobility, tourism and the economy.
    – As the Strategic Review of Transit points out, passing lanes might be needed after some years 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.
    – Later a second track may be needed beside the CP line used by the Southern Railway. It runs a short distance north of Langley, but the land is level and appears to have room.

    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.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Myrtle Macdonald, M.Sc.Applied (in Nursing Research & Education), McGill University

    A Director of Friends of Rail for the Valley. She has worked in 6 provinces of Canada and in 4 countries overseas, so has gained perspective on transit.

    schmac@shaw.ca Phone: 604-795-6390
    schmac@shaw.ca
    Myrtle Macdonald

  2. admin

    June 11, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Submitted on 2011/01/20 at 4:23 pm

    Judging from all the various studies and time delays in doing so, it is clear many (opinions) exist. Sadly, it is this “study to death” mentality that is largely accountalbe for the lack of sophisticatd planning, budgeting and equally important progressive action. If one examines transportation means in places like Japan, Hong Kong and many European cities, rail transport seems most evident and has existed for countless years. Regardless, it is a no brainer that light rail transport is the answer long term augmented by Bus feeder lines. The vehicle is around for an indefinite future given the lifestyles that have emerged over again countless years. So, the quest must be to proced within a means & ability to to pay but progress, stop the studies that only seek to exacerbate conflicting opinions of sometimes egotistic planners with no dreams. Regardless, some priority adjustment is needed and moreso some leaders with insight/forsight and leadership must emerge.

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