South-of-Fraser communities push for light rail transit
It is very pleasing to see that our efforts over the past few months are beginning to get some attention. It will be really interesting if that lasts after the election – but then that’s just me being cynical.
Abbotsford council voted unanimously last week to support a citizens’ group report that called for a light rail demonstration project during the 2010 Olympics.
Now to correct the sloppiness of Doug Ward’s reporting. It wasn’t a “citizens group” but a an official Select Committee appointed by Council and with representation from the community, businesses, interested citizens, two of the several interest groups that have been formed to promote the idea and a couple of people from outside Abbotsford who know something about passenger railways.
The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce was represented on the Committee by Alvin Epp, who is now running for Mayor. And the council staff did a lot of work on a new “horseshoe” shaped development corridor which could support rapid transit and is entirely consistent with the OCP.
Epp, who was until recently president of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, said the provincial government “needs to understand that there is a whole movement in this region for light rail.”
Light rail is the key issue for Paul Hillsdon, an 18-year-old Surrey council candidate who estimates that TransLink could fund 43 kilometres of light rail for the amount of money it will cost to build the six-kilometre SkyTrain expansion.
“Light rail makes sense in the south Fraser region,” said Hillsdon, “because we don’t have the density for SkyTrain but we do have the density for light rail.”
Hillsdon, who intends to study planning at the University of B.C. next year, added that light rail could “transform Surrey from a suburban community into a real urban centre.”
Unfortunately Paul here demonstrates that he needs to do his planning course before making pronouncements like this. SkyTrain’s capacity – at least in the way it currently exists here now – is no different to many light rail systems: at one time its manufacturer used to refer to it as “Advanced Light Rail”. The main difference is that grade separated systems cost a lot more, make transfers from other modes less convenient but keep the trains out of the way of the traffic. So the result is often that, as bus service is cut to divert riders onto SkyTrain, there is more traffic on the streets, not less.
Recent studies showed the density of the developed parts of Surrey (when you take out the green bits where development is not allowed) is actually higher than the same type of land in Burnaby. Burnaby has lots of SkyTrain because it is an NDP stronghold. Glen Clark decided to favour building a circular route that does very little for the region instead LRT for the whole of the T line, which would not only have made some sense, but actually been in keeping with the spirit of the LRSP, and was what BC Transit was actively planning for at the time of the Millennium Line announcement.
Paul Hillsdon’s facebook page reveals that he is a supporter of Gordon Campbell and has taken a somewhat regrettable stance on the Gateway project, saying it is going to be built anyway. Which if it does happen will ensure that not only Surrey but the whole of the area south of the Fraser will be locked into auto oriented sprawl for the foreseeable future.
And, by the way, Translink in its recent (February 2008) estimates for the costs of the yet to be built Evergreen Line says that SkyTrain is only marginally more expensive than Light Rail, which is breathtaking in its chutzpah.