Time for action not studies
An announcement of yet another study into transit for the South of the Fraser has been greeted with an unusually stongly worded response from an Asper newspaper. The study will look at lots of things, apparently, and include the use of the old interurban line but it is not going to report before the election.
You would be right in thinking that this is not sitting well with advocates for Rail of the Valley. Becuase commissioning a study is the easiest way to put off a decision. It gives the impression of activity when in fact nothing changes. Except in this case it looks like the Minister of Transport is acting with indecent haste to get his favourite highway project moving even though he does not yet have the necessary approvals in place or a P3 partner, come to that. Because Kevin Falcon would much prefer to see much more highway oriented development than a change in direction.
There actually is no reason at all for not proceeding now with a demonstration project. This would not be difficult to do – or much more expensive than the consultants. The difficulty for the government of course is that they could not control the outcome. Becuase even if their favoured consultants do surprise them by admitting that there is a case for rail for the valley. it is easy to bury reports – after all, that has been done more than once on this issue. On the other hand if people show that they will actually use a trial project it is much harder to kill the idea.
This government is no longer popular. Unfortunately, the crunch issue seems to be the carbon tax. And the big pay rise for senior civil servants. Although Campbell’s personal rating is low, so is that of Carol James. And when reporting a province wide poll, no attention is paid to local issues. I think it is probably fair to assume that most people south of the Fraser still think that twinning the Port Mann is a good idea – in just the same way that so many Americans are convinced against all the evidence that drilling in hitherto protected areas will help reduce gas prices. But in both cases, the response ought to be – why are we so unwilling to improve the choice that people have? Yes we are currently car dependent – in both the US and South of the Fraser. So of course we are concerned about traffic congestion and gas prices. Those both have immediate impact on individuals and how they think. But people are also well aware that they have been consistently lied to. That there never was any real doubt about global warming – just a campaign of misinformation funded by the oil companies. They will also recall that building the Alex Fraser Bridge did not cure congestion for very long.
At the polls South of the Fraser next year some other issues will surface – that may not reflect widely outside the region but will certainly affect some formerly safe Liberal seats. Delta will not soon forget the TFN treaty, the power lines and the SFPR. North Surrey will also still be smarting, and places like Bolivar Heights will be a warning to those who live along Highway 1. But also the people who have been asking for improved transit for years will still be wondering why, once again, the City of Vancouver’s West Side seems to get favoured treatment (the UBC tube train) and the lack of basic transit service in Surrey, Langley and elsewhere is once again put on the back burner – even with threats of service cuts if Translink does not get to dip into their pockets again.
There is going to be a rally in Chilliwack on September 13. I hope to see some of you there. And prior to that a letter to the editor campaign – see www.railforthevalley.com, and click on “Rail For The Valley Campaign” to find instructions and newspaper email addresses.
UPDATE Friday 29 August
Nathan Pachal and Joe Zaccaria talk to the Langley Advance