The Abbotsford Report
If you had told me six months ago that the City of Abbotsford wants to see exclusive tram tracks in the curb lane of its main drag (South Fraser Way) I would have wondered what you were smoking. But today that is almost exactly what happened.
The Interregional Transportation Select Committee was supposed to look at how to deal with the growing demand for travel between Abbotsford and its neighbouring communities. As I pointed out earlier, the real issue is east – west travel south of the Fraser River. The problem is that the proposed widening of Highway #1 stops at the Langley boundary – although a short “hill climber” lane is being built on the westbound side of Abbotsford. A lot of people think the interurban line should be better used than it is at present, but in Abbotsford it runs north – south.
The IRTSC identified a “horseshoe route” than runs through most of the major traffic generators within the city. The idea is that this is the core of the transit system: the OCP identifies the need to densify, and the horseshoe will be the axis along which this development will occur. It does not have to be trams straightaway: it could be a frequent bus service, with suitable traffic priority measures at first with incremental improvements towards a full transit system. The main thing is that the direction is set and a commitment made. New transit routes that cross regional and city boundaries will have to connect into this core route.
The recommendations of the committee’s report were approved in principle today. Below I reproduce the text of that document (it is only two pages long). I think congratulations are due to all concerned.
The committee was chaired by Councillor Lynne Harris: its members were Alvin Epp, Bob Burkinshaw, Brian Vogler, Craig Toews, Dave Kandal, Councillor Dave Loewen, David Krueger, Jim Gordon, John Buker, John Visers, Manny Dhillon, Moe Gill, Nathan Pachal, Russ Mamel as well as your humble scribe.
Jon van Dongen MLA and Jim Houlahan of the CAW also were kept informed of the discussions throughout.
Thanks are also due to Linda Gronkjaer who acted as Committe Clerk as well as members of the City’s planning and engineering departments who did a lot of work, often late into the night.
INTER REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION SELECT COMMITTEE
Key Considerations or Assumptions:
The Livability Accord (Langley, Abbotsford, Surrey and Coquitlam) projects that 65% of the growth in the Lower Mainland in the next 10 years will be accommodated in these 4 communities;
Key investments and planning strategies are required in public transit both in and between these communities in order to progress from car dependent communities to more sustainable forms of transportation;
Investment in transit will pay for itself by encouraging the higher density called for by Abbotsford’s OCP as the City seeks to become more sustainable;
Local, regional and senior levels of government need to work as partners in the achievement of important shared regional and inter-regional transit objectives;
There is growing public support for alternative modes of transportations such as light rail. Indeed, experience elsewhere suggests that rail is the mode of transit most likely to persuade large numbers of the public to abandon their automobiles;
It is important to look beyond the current situation and design transit to drive economic and smart urban development in the valley for the future; and
Now is the critical time to focus on the “big picture” and to develop a vision for transportation for the future, both within Abbotsford and Inter-regionally.
Be it resolved that the City of Abbotsford approve in PRINCIPLE the visionary concept presented by the Inter Regional Transportation Select Committee including the following recommendations:
Protection and development of all transportation corridors associated with the “Horseshoe” concept within Abbotsford (between UFV, the Entertainment and Sports Complex, Historic Downtown, Civic Plaza, South Fraser Way business district and the Abbotsford International Airport) including potential inter-regional transit connections: This would include the McCallum Road and Clearbrook Road / (Whatcom Road) interchanges; and McCallum Road, Marshall Road; South Fraser Way; Mt. Lehman Road and Clearbrook Road.
Support for the principles regarding regional transit as outlined by the Livability Accord.
Support for the establishment of a Light Rail Committee to include the Mayors and Councillors of all South Fraser Regions to explore further at grade rail opportunities and in particular, development of a working partnership with the City of Langley, the Township of Langley and the City of Surrey to establish a transportation network supporting the light rail concept.
Support for and possibly host a potential demonstration project in Abbotsford for light rail in conjunction with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic demonstration project.
Abbotsford is one of the fastest growing communities in B.C. with a strong economy and business focus. We are poised to be leaders in transportation within our community and inter-regionally. The City is home to University of the Fraser Valley, the Abbotsford International Airport and the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre – all of which require significant transportation improvements in order to fulfill their mandate successfully.
With a common vision, Abbotsford will lead the way for the next 20-30 years working with all levels of government which can no longer ignore the desire of citizens to move throughout the community and region more efficiently and with expanded transit choices.
Can you imagine a common goal for all communities south of the Fraser to coordinate and plan transportation needs well into the future and to contemplate options that provide for a sustainable and economically viable transportation vision, meeting environmental, educational and social needs?
All levels of government need to work together with the communities south of the Fraser to provide support and funding for the most economically sustainable mode of transportation for the future. It is important to note that the light rail transit is considerably cheaper than for a Skytrain concept.
A COMMON VISION – A COMMON FOCUS
Working with City Staff, this plan is achievable in incremental stages. Embracing the concept is absolutely essential and the time is now!
GET ON BOARD – DON’T BE LEFT BEHIND – LEAD THE WAY
Councillor Lynne Harris
On behalf of the Inter-Regional Transportation