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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The Mayor Of Chilliwack on Rail for the Valley

with 10 comments

I was going to do something else today, but Google’s alert drew my attention to a long piece in the Chilliwack Times. When you are Mayor, you not only get centre stage at events you attend, you get lots of media space to explain your position on those you don’t attend.

Now it is unusual for a Mayor to have such a coherent and well argued case, but it does have a few holes. I will let you read it as it stands – and I suggest you do that first – and then I intend to point them out.

the most recent census data (2001)

The most recent census was in 2006. I know because I worked on it. And data from that is becoming available. I suspect that things may have changed a bit int he intervening period, but in terms of journeys to work (the only ones that the census looks at) we can only choose from what is available to choose. Since Chilliwack has inadequate transit it is no surprise that most people drive. The Mayor goes on to make some suppositions: he may or may not be right, but I really wonder why he could not get real data.

The “Rail to the Valley” folks admit in their documents that an upgrade of the old Interurban Line would cost in excess of $1 billion.

Note that this is not a direct quote and no source is cited. It may be that you could spend a $1bn on upgrades, but I do not accept that is necessarily the  cost. And the Mayor does not look at any of the options in detail. One of the great advantages of using existing tracks is that you can proceed in a gradual way, and you can also avoid large capital costs. Indeed, most of the proposals I have seen have been of this kind. You could get a diesel railcar on lease, and a few temporary platforms, sell tickets on board, and run in between the freight trains. Not ideal by any means, but very cheap indeed. A whole order of magnitude or two below the Mayor’s carefully chosen figure.

It does not calculate the cost of buying the freight off of the right of way which is currently near capacity from Abbotsford to the west. It also does not include the cost of the disruption to the hundreds of businesses, who have located on, and use, the rail line to move freight.

It does not include these costs because they are not necessary. Freight on rail is not that time sensitive – and does not have to move at periods of peak passenger demand. No existing freight customers need to be inconvenienced at all. And I somehow doubt that the SRY has “hundreds” of customers – though I bet they wish they did. My casual acquaintance with less than train load freight in this area is that it has been declining steadily – but I will concede I may be misled. But the whole right of way and freight argument is a red herring – and a scare tactic and unworthy of a Mayor.

 As noble as the idea is to provide rail transit from Chilliwack to Vancouver using the old Interurban line, it is clear that this meets the least of our needs. In addition, while cheaper than “SkyTrain,” we would still be spending hundreds of millions to inadequately serve a very few people.

“Noble” is just being sarky! No one suggests it would solve every need, and of course you need to be looking at buses where there are no tracks – which is most places.

 We have a very limited service in our community and little access to additional provincial transit funding.

But the Mayor is disingenuous when he asserts that it is lack of provincial funding that is hobbling local transit service.  BC Transit views its services as a partnership. And many local municipalities, while they do not like raising property tax to pay for their share, have done so and now have better service than Chilliwack does as a result. As long as there is an inadequate network, ridership will be low. You need to get to the point where transit is a viable alternative for enough people. The Mayor must explain why this has not been his priority up to now. It seems to me he has preferred to keep his property taxes down. Which is fine if that is what his electors want – that’s democracy for you – but don’t blame the province for your lack of enthusiasm for transit spending.

He then goes on to trot out the usual guff about lack of demand and population. Which is typically short sighted. And the FVRD is as  much a creature of the Mayors as the MVRD – so citing one of its reports at length as though it were an independent source is casuistry. In future, the valley is going to have to reduce its reliance on cars. Sooner or later, trains will have to be part of the mix. If people have more choice, they can make more intelligent decisions – not just about travel today but location of home, school and work for future travel. The real agenda for this Mayor is that he likes the isolation of Chilliwack from the rest of the Valley. That is why he talks so much about the lack of travel from his community to Vancouver. But that is not the market for Rail for the Valley. And I think he knows that, but he also knows the  audience he is playing too – and he has played to them successfully for a long time.

I wasn’t at the meeting either. But I suspect that the reason people booed is because he did not come to defend his views and subject them to argument. Why should he when the Aspers will give him so much space?

Written by Stephen Rees

February 27, 2008 at 9:51 am

10 Responses

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  1. Clint Hames is following in the footsteps of John Les, current Liberal MLA and former mayor of Chilliwack. Mr. Les was opposed to a commuter rail system to Vancouver, similar to that of Mission. The other Chilliwack MLA, Barry Penner was a proponent of some type of rail system in the 1990s, as an extension of the West Coast Express across the Mission Rail Bridge, tracing the south side of the Fraser along CN tracks to the Via Rail station. Mr. Penner spearheaded opposition to the SE2, and argued that the British Columbia government (then NDP) was taking steps to mitigate air pollution by building the Millennium Line. Multiple views about Port Mann expansion and transit seem to exist in the Liberal Party, with perhaps John van Dongen aligning in the Penner wing.

    John Les had made the same arguments against West Coast Express, that it would create a bed-room community, subsidized using taxpayers money. I happen to agree with Les and Hames regarding their reasons opposing passenger rail. Both of them have talked in the past about expanding the freeway, which would in effect spur the self-same bed-room community effect along with extra pollution and nefarious sprawl. If you need another stick, here is the best with which to beat their opposition to light rail (diesel or electric).

    Commuter rail in the Ontario cities of Ajax, Milton, Oakville and now Barrie has assisted, or will assist, the bedroom community syndrome, even though the roads were already there. Go Transit has removed some congestion on the 401, 400 and Don Valley Parkways, but made those communities more accessible. No doubt commuter rail has helped maintain head offices in downtown Toronto, and I daresay Vancouver. But the mayor and former mayor are arguing for Chilliwack, not Vancouver. With regards to commuter rail, I align with them to maintain the isolation of Chilliwack through semi-fettered access, despite their contraction by supporting Falcon and Campbell’s Gateway.

    The problem with the Southern Rail Line (former BC Electic) is its convoluted route. It passes through yet undeveloped agricultural land, skirting the east side of the Valley along the former Sumas Lake on the side of Vedder Mountain almost to the US border. The line then hugs the US border west to Huntingdon and then heads straight north to Matsqui village and Bradner before again heading south to Langley City. I really do not want to see development in Sumas Prairie, Sardis, Matsqui, or even Bradner agricultural areas. Housing has encroached onto agricultural land already in Chilliwack and Sardis, but lately development has occurred on hills and mountain areas like Sumas Mountain, Promontory and Ryder Lake, Chilliwack Mountain and Little Mountain where ALR restrictions were absent. I am quite surprised that opposition to these hillside developments has been largely absent. Perhaps this is because they were almost uninhabited prior to the latest development, and people knew that if hillside development did not occur, Valley floor housing would through the shenanigans of developers close to Councils able to strong-arm the Agricultural Land Commission. An lrt along the former interurban would bear too much pressure for development not to occur.

    Communities like Yarrow, Majuba Hill, Arnold, Upper Sumas and Huntingdon are historic communities born from the historic electric interurban. Perhaps they could densify, but you really should expect opposition similar to EcoCity. They were service towns for the agricultural areas and retain their distinct charm from that era. The interurban “was” basically a milk run, built to promote developement and its efficacy was dashed with the building of a network of roads such as the Fraser Highway. The closing of the passenger service in 1950 occurred several years before the Trans-Canada freeway was built.

    Chilliwack town centre, Sardis, and Abbotsford are larger and could be densified and have trip generators as the mayor describes, but the communities could more easily be served by buses following more direct roads. The rail line from 232nd St west (and perhaps Bradner, if development is encouraged) is quite different since it is a more direct route between larger trip-generators: a potential freeway bus station near 232nd St serving bus routes from the east, Langley City, Cloverdale, Newton, and the King George Highway strip, and Skytrain. The light rail line could leave the rail right of way just south of 72nd Street and follow the King George Highway to terminate at the Skytrain Station.

    I am not a shill for either Les or Hames, but am impressed by their arguments (though peeved at their inconsistency regarding the Port Mann and freeway expansion). I think that a congestion pricing system with proceeds improving transit, likely bus, and maintaining the road network would be a better tool for sustainability in the eastern Fraser Valley.

    Graeme

    February 28, 2008 at 3:20 am

  2. As I have written here before, there is a big difference between light rail and commuter rail. I also think that development is going to happen. The argument should be about where and what type, as the option of stopping people coming to the Lower Mainland does not appear to be available.

    While the freeway widening currently proposed does not extend beyond the Metro boundary, its effects will be. And the continuing rise of housing costs will propel those looking for a home further afield based on the expectation of faster travel. Growth in employment in Surrey and Langley is also to be expected.

    One of the main advantages of using existing tracks is that you can proceed incrementally, and all I would advocate at this stage is a pilot program. And obviously that should go to the area of greatest need – and highest demand. And that isn’t Chilliwack.

    The Mayor has a good case. What I object to are the tactics he is using. I would not suggest that light rail be forced on any community. But equally, both Metro and the FVRD need to be proactive about growth if we are contain sprawl and highway oriented development, and that requires there be realistic alternatives to the car. Transit service is well below where it ought to be by now everywhere. So we have to be strategic in planning its expansion, and should avoid expensive mega projects that concentrate spending in Vancouver. The western extension of the Millennium Line is as wrong headed as the Gateway. Light rail on existing track that we (the people of BC) own and have the right to operate upon seems to me to be an essential part of the process of improving transportation choice. Ignoring it in favour of what we have done before will only produce more of what we have now.

    BUT it is only part of the solution – and a lot of conventional buses and more services which are cheaper than a taxi but better than a bus will be needed all over the suburbs. Currently that includes Abbotsford and Mission. Chilliwack thinks it will always be a distinct and separate place and I hope that works out for them. It never has anywhere else which used to be exurbia on the freeway, but maybe peak oil and rocketing fuel costs will take care of it for them.

    Stephen Rees

    February 28, 2008 at 7:00 am

  3. I have had a discussion with a representative from ABB some years ago (how he got hold of me is indicative why our current transit planning is in a shambles) which has given me great insight on the subject.

    I think the interurban line Vancouver to Chilliwack should operate as a light railway (not electrified), using Diesel light rail vehicles. A basic or ‘bare bones’ service (6 to 8 returns a day) could be had for for about $250 million or about the cost of 1 km. of the proposed Millennium Line subway to UBC.

    A more comprehensive D-LRT service could be had for more money and $1 billion, or less than one half the cost of RAV/Canada Line, could buy a deluxe service. (I believe mayor Harnes used the $1 billion from one of my presentations.

    Direct service to Vancouver IS A MUST FOR A SUCCESSFUL SERVICE. No one will take an ‘interurban’ service to Vancouver if one has to transfer to SkyTrain for a 45 minute journey to downtown Vancouver. Recent studies have shown (Professor Karmen Hass-Klau Bus or Light Rail….) that the over all ambiance and ease of use is the most important factors for people using public transit and a forced transfer to SkyTrain would be a major detractor for one planning on using the new rail service.

    As a side note, RAV/Canada line may make this point in a big way, if South Delta and South Surrey transit users opt for cars, when their express bus services ends with the opening of the RAV metro! Even the 98 – B Line buses saw a drop in ‘total’ ridership when the 401’s and 2’s stopped direct service to downtown Vancouver and forced transfers to the B-line express buses. TransLink had to reinstate rush hour services.

    What is so surprising is Mayor Harnes anti-rail approach, I would have thought a mayor would want better transit, especially rail transit to his city. Really a ‘basic’ service at best could offer a total capacity of 3,000 to 4,000 persons per direction per day and would certainly gauge the ridership potential of the route at very little cost, when compared to other grand transit projects.

    I also think the Southern Railway of BC is quite willing to accommodate a passenger service, especially if they could make an income off the service.

    This is what I think would work and work well.

    A direct Vancouver to Chilliwack service, first using D-LRT, then electrified (as far as Langley) when ridership justifies the investment.

    On-street operation in Cloverdale, Langley, and Chilliwack (direct service to where people want to go) and later in Abbotsford. People want their transit, on the pavement, ready to use, not being let off in some forgotten station, waiting for a bus.

    A short line connecting to Abbotsford airport near Sumas. (Rumour has it that West Jet would relocate their from YVR if a rail service is established)

    As ridership increases the line from Vancouver to Langley can be electrified for a more intense service and the diesel LRV’s, used to increase ‘rail’ service to Chilliwack.

    A new 3-track (drawbridge) across the Fraser replacing the decrepit Fraser River rail Bridge.

    Certainly the previous is not ‘bare’ bones but would cost about the same as the Evergreen Line SkyTrain or a less than a SkyTrain extension to Langley.

    Malcolm

    February 28, 2008 at 9:58 am

  4. I think this is a good example of where the “best” is the enemy of the “good”

    There are actually a couple ideas around which will likely start, and the first is for a “heritage” run in Surrey. This of course is nowhere near what is needed to show the sceptics how a diesel LRT could work.

    So I would suggest something at the Langley/Abbotsford end. Again merely a demonstration project at first, but using modern low floor cars as in the Ottawa O Train or the San Diego line that recently opened. I would also be tempted to go for an experienced operator through some kind of open bidding process, as there is plenty of experience out there from places which run this kind of service. This would also mean no need for major capital spending up front.

    And to go back to the Mayor of Chilliwack, he is right when he says you do not need to connect to downtown Vancouver to meet local needs. Of all work trips of Surrey residents, for example, 80% stay within Surrey. And in Chilliwack it is even higher: as the Mayor says

    The vast majority of vehicle trips (commuters and others) begin and end in Chilliwack. Eighty-seven per cent of the 225,000 trips per day do not leave the community (2004 data).

    Stephen Rees

    February 28, 2008 at 10:24 am

  5. The southern railway route looks bad for getting commuters to Vancouver. Chilliwack-Abbtosford-Langley, perhaps. But unlike the WCE, the routing is not at all optimal.

    Using the CN route on the southern fringe of the Fraser River, and transferring to the Mission west coast express station seems to be the optimal configuration given the existing tracks, but good luck getting CN to give up right of way. Even then you’re going to need quite a bit of capital reconfiguring the Mission station area.

    I’m basing this on the track information on Google Maps (just note that the tracks from the CFB Chilliwack to Page Rd appear to be “cut-off” but they are there).

    On a side note I’m amazed you’re against the western Millennium line expansion. Have you ever stepped on board a 99 B-Line bus in peak hours? It’ll be expensive but it’s guaranteed to have huge ridership.

    Sacha

    February 28, 2008 at 2:07 pm

  6. I am against spending more than $2bn on a bored tube under West Broadway out to UBC.

    Mostly, because it is not in my mind the highest priority. We have now built or are building several grade separated light rail lines. This has created a huge debt servicing issue. We appear to be unable to afford to buy enough cars to operate the Expo line anywhere near capacity, and the M line has lots of spare capacity, but diverts trains away from Surrey where capacity is needed.

    Continuing to do what you always have done and expecting a different outcome is a good definition of madness.

    How many metres of exclusive bus lane are there on Broadway?
    What other traffic management measures have been tried to improve the reliability and speed of the B Line other than a few non stop runs and three door loading?

    Going from what we have now (not enough buses and no TDM or traffic management) to full bored tube misses about half a dozen possible intermediate steps.

    No cost benefit analysis has been done of the possible other things that could be done to improve transit in this region. There are many claims – and many promises have been made and not delivered. The current transit “plan” was rushed out so that the Province could finesse its way around the criticisms from Health Canada and Environment Canada of the Gateway that they sat on for a month.

    We need better transit across the region. UBC and Vancouver’s West End should not get priority simply because they happen to be local to the Premier’s constituency. We need a lot more buses, first and foremost. We also need innovative solutions to provide services that meet the needs of the suburbs in ways that conventional bus services currently fail to provide. Rail may be part of the solution in some places but it has to be much more cost effective than our current system. Using existing tracks is a very common way to start everywhere but here.

    At the same time we have to steadily reduce the amount of space devoted to cars. The Cambie subway is being used to increase car capacity, which is entirely contrary to the LRSP – which still happens to be the legally mandated regional growth strategy

    Stephen Rees

    February 28, 2008 at 4:11 pm

  7. The problem with our transit system is that we continue to build with SkyTrain or light-metro, instead of much cheaper light rail. We spend up to 10 times more to install SkyTrain (TTC ART Study) instead of light rail and have created an unique culture of light-metro only planning which no transit authority has copied. Vancouver is unique, sticking with SkyTrain.

    What we are getting with our transit dollar is a very expensive to build and operate metro network that depends on buses to feed it. This creates a major problem because buses are not very good in attracting the motorist from the car and one can lose substantial numbers of transit customers per transfer.

    It is interesting to note that no SkyTrain project has passed public scrutiny in the USA.

    The Metro area is now in a transit conundrum: either continue slowly expanding the SkyTrain network at a snails pace or abandon the proprietary metro system and start from scratch using LRT. There are serious problems with this and there is no easy or cheap solution.

    The “Rail for the Valley’ project envisions track-sharing diesel LRT with the mainline railway, a la Karlsruhe, Saarbruken, etc. and include on-street, LRT operation in Langley and possibly Cloverdale, bringing a Vancouver to Chilliwack service for a very small price as compared to building with SkyTrain.

    For a glimpse of Karlsruhe’s famous Zwei-System LRT try this U-Tube Link

    There are a lot of hurdles bringing ‘rail’ transit to Chilliwack and it will not be a transit panacea, but neither is SkyTrain.

    What is important to remember is that the 19 km. RAV/Canada Line now costs about $2.4 billion; the Millennium Line extension to UBC could cost as much as $4 billion; The Evergreen Line is fast approaching $1.5 billion; yet we could provide a substantial Diesel LRT service from Vancouver to Chilliwack for $1 billion, with a basic service costing much less.

    The bureaucratic inertia is telling and no wonder, if much cheaper LRT can be built, there would many embarrassing questions about Translink’s SkyTrain only planning.

    Malcolm

    February 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm

  8. The Karlsruhe Solution:

    Karlsruhe, Germany, with a regional population on par with the Fraser Valley has
    become famous in the urban-transportation field for its pioneering dual-system
    Stadtbahn “tram-trains” that run both on city streetcar tracks and on railroad lines
    shared with normal passenger and freight trains, in what is now known as the
    Karlsruhe Model.

    The first step in this development came with the extension of the
    previously-existing Albtalbahn, an electric suburban light-rail line that runs
    southward from Karlsruhe to Bad Herrenalb and Ittersbach. In 1979, it was
    extended through the center of Karlsruhe on city streetcar tracks, then northward
    to Neureut, where it shares tracks with freight trains on a lightly-used branch of
    Deutsche Bahn (DB). Further track-sharing allowed the line to be extended to
    Hochstetten in 1989. This DB branch uses diesel power, so the shared sections
    were electrified with 750V DC to accommodate the light-rail (Stadtbahn) trains.
    The success of this project stimulated interest in converting some of the DB’s
    regional passenger services to Stadtbahn lines and running them into the city on
    streetcar tracks also.

    This would have significant advantages for passengers:

    They would no longer have to transfer between trains and streetcars at the
    main railroad station (Hauptbahnhof) or other stations on the fringes of the
    city, such as at Durlach.

    Because light-rail trains can accelerate more quickly than conventional
    trains, running time could be reduced. Alternatively, more stops could be
    made, so that fewer passengers would have to drive or take connecting
    buses to reach the outer stations.

    The first dual-system Stadtbahn service began operation in 1992, between
    Karlsruhe and Bretten, on what is now part of route S4. It was a huge success,
    with ridership increasing a whopping 475% in a few weeks. New routes and
    extensions have followed . The total length of the AVG’s routes is now about 470
    km (291 miles), making it one of the largest passenger rail operators in Germany
    after DB. The “tram-train” longest run is now a 210km (130 miles) service from
    Öhringen through central Karlsruhe! So successful is the Karlsruhe “tram-train” or
    interurban, the DB now operates with zwei-system trams in the region!

    Malcolm J.

    March 5, 2008 at 8:40 am

  9. I think the idea of light rail service is great.
    BUT, living in Chilliwack, with children who are fighting with the horrible local transit to try to get to work, I have to say that #1 priority needs to be improving the local transit system for those of us who live and work in the community.
    My son has to pay 13.00 for a taxi each way to work and often opts to walk more than an hour and a half. Often, in bad weather, or when working an early or late shift, walking is not a safe option.
    The buses don’t start running early enough, most DEFINITELY don’t run late enough. (its not even dark when the buses stop running!) and the routes they run are ridiculous.
    Moving here from the Surrey/Delta area sure was a shock.
    And although its a great idea to transport people from the Valley out to Van, and back again, I think that attention needs to be prioritized to take care of those who NEED local public transit in order to work for a living out here and survive/

    Mere

    June 12, 2008 at 5:13 pm

  10. Commuter Rail Options
    For the Fraser Valley

    Interurban
    The Interurban started in 1891. In the beginning, the trains were not much larger than streetcars and it connected Vancouver to New Westminster. In 1910 a 103 km. expansion linked New Westminster to Chilliwack. An old timetable provides some insight into commuting times (ref.: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2473591/Interurban-Timetables ). Looking at the departure from New Westminster at 9:10, the following conclusions could be made: it took 24 minutes to Newton, 37 minutes to Cloverdale, 42 minutes to Langley Prairie, 1 hour and 41 minutes to Abbotsford and 2 hours and 45 minutes to Chilliwack. Eventually the trains became more of a regular railroad rather than the old trolleys that started the system. The last Interurban left Chilliwack in 1950.

    In recent months there has been a move to reactivate this old railway. The question is, can such a system serve today’s commuter? Doing a bit of math, the old Interurban traveled an average of 38 km/hr to achieve this schedule. What would it take to deliver a Chilliwack commuter to Scott Road Station in the reasonable time of one hour? The train would have to travel faster than 103 km/hr. How much faster? That depends on all the stops. We have established that the line is approximately 103 km. long so obviously this would be the minimum speed. This is not a practical speed. Remember the train has to slow down at stations, stop, wait, start and build up to its cruising speed. Here is a small sampling of average speeds and the time it would take to reach Scott Road: at 60 km/hr, 1 hour 43 minutes, at 70, 1 hour 28 minutes, at 80, 1 hour 17 and at 90, 1 hour 8 minutes. Can you imagine the problems taking a train through the urban streets at some of these speeds? We are talking about level railroad crossings, pedestrians on the tracks, perhaps pets or vandals placing (or dropping) items on the rails. This system will have to be a quasi-Bullet train to deliver passengers to Surrey in a timely manner

    Heavy Commuter Rail
    There is an existing rail line that follows the south bank of the Fraser River. Depending on where you start and end measurements the route is roughly 30 km. shorter than that of the Interurban. Both routes start fairly close to each other and end at the same point (the rail/river bridge under the Patulla Bridge). This option shaves 30 km. off the Interurban line and will bring the practicality of connecting Chilliwack commuters to Scott Road Station closer.

    Improvements Needed
    Both options will need a certain amount of improvements. The Interurban line is a single track. Its 103 km length would have to be doubled and electrified (for the LRT option). The 103 km. length had numerous stations. Perhaps not all would have to be reactivated but surely if you are going to utilize such an extensive route you will want to serve as much of the population as practical.

    With the CNR right-of-way most of the line is double tracked. In order to give the existing railway and the commuter line as much flexibility as possible the line should be triple tracked. It would need fewer stations. Strategic stops aside from the start and end point could include Abbotsford, Glen Valley, Fort Langley, Walnut Grove and Port Kells.

    Both lines would need connecting spurs to bring the line conveniently close to the existing Skytrain platform.

    Abbotsford
    Abbotsford may well be served by a commuter train using the CNR right-of-way and having a stop near Matsqui Village. A flexible option would see trains stopping at Matsqui on their way to Chilliwack with alternate trains rolling into downtown Abbotsford by creating a connecting spur to the existing Interurban. Abbotsford would be the end of the line for this shortened route option. Both options would run at the same time thus you would have Chilliwack runs and Abbotsford runs.

    Langley
    A future option could use the Interurban. The practicality of running the line from Chilliwack and Abbotsford is nil however considering the overall expansion of Langley, the line may serve the community as its own practical form of transportation. Consider the existing route and start it at Trinity Western University, connecting it with various Langley stops and from there to Cloverdale, Newton and Scott Road Station. This would make it more of an urban line than an inter-urban line. It may be a practical alternative to Skytrain although it will still require huge capital expenditures and may not be as direct as a Skytrain option. Some other considerations are to connect South Surrey and White Rock to this system using (and expanding) the existing rails.

    This option may have another flaw in it since it would have to share much of the track with long coal trains. This problem is one that will always exist if you use the Interurban line as your main source of rails. It may even be more practical to build two sets of tracks beside the existing freight tracks from Trinity Western all the way to Cloverdale as this is the area impacted by large unit trains.

    Another long term option is connecting downtown Langley to the growing community Walnut Grove and possibly the industrial Port Kells. A line should parallel 200th Street however care should be taken to not impede existing road traffic as it is a vital connection to the freeway.

    West Coast Express
    In 1995 the government of British Columbia introduced the West Coast Express. The line is heavily subsidized. All trains move from Mission to Vancouver in the mornings and Vancouver to Mission in the evenings. The limited service is popular however it remains inefficient.

    The ideal situation may be to renegotiate with Canadian Pacific Railways by providing a third rail to the existing double track route. This could open the door to all-day, two-way service.

    Into the Future
    The CNR and CPR right-of-ways provide a forum of discussion that asks, can rail travel be resurrected in Canada. Today VIA Rail operates a viable connection between Southern Ontario and Quebec. Could VIA Rail operate a profitable service in the Fraser Valley? Why not provide VIA with some start up subsidies plus the federal infrastructure funds (already promised) to run the West Coast Express as a VIA line? The federal funds would increase the existing lines (both shores of the Fraser) to three tracks and build the appropriate infrastructure including the stations. Eventually the line should become a viable money-making venture that can run on its own. In the grand scheme of things, this was the original VIA Rail mandate. The West Coast Express as an organization is repetitious. Rolling stock is more in line with VIA Rail’s so maintenance shops could be combined. It also looks to the future. Can an argument be made for expansion up Howe Sound or even closer to Hope as population densities warrant it? Using VIA as the existing entity may make expansion simpler.

    Most Practical Use of Interurban Between Fort Langley and Chilliwack
    The most practical use of the interurban line between Fort Langley and Chilliwack is to run a tourist steam train on the line. A platform would have to be built east of Trinity Western University so as not to impede the unit trains heading to Deltaport. A station close to Cultus would be needed as well as bus connections. These trains can offer summer excursions to Cultus Lake with a four hour layover. Tourist trains are running all over the world and this could be a lucrative tourist attraction during the summer months. It would enhance government income through taxes. The current owner of the track can make some money on this under-utilized system, thus again increasing government taxes.

    Klaus Ganske

    September 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm


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