B.C. funds commuter rail studies
I was interviewed on the phone today by News1130 for my reaction to this announcement. I am afraid I was very unimpressed. Kevin Falcon has always opposed rail – he wants to expand freeways because they support the sort of development he and his developer friends like. So spending money on a study is just another way of delaying rail while freeway construction proceeds.
Translink has stacks of reports – all of them gathering dust in stock rooms. This one will just join them. What I have been saying – and all the groups that now want to see real transit alternatives now agree – it that we need a demonstration project, not a study. Because you cannot fudge the results of a demonstration. Run a train on a section of the line and see who uses it and why. This was the approach used by Ottawa for their O train and is being used in Vancouver for the False Creek “Heritage Railway” which will have modern trams borrowed from Bombardier for the Olympics.
“Commuter Rail” like West Coast Express is actually the last thing we need. All day bi-directional local community rail provides for many more trip types than commuters, and is much more economical. Both shape growth. West Coast Express has made it possible for people who work in Vancouver to live in Mission and have a comfortable commute. Any surprise then that developers want to add more single family homes to Mission? A frequent local train service, on the other hand, would reduce the need for long distance travel by improving accessibility. The more people and destinations within walking distance to the stations the better – so you would see “transit oriented development” which is what this region should have been concentrating on. Joyce and Edmonds stations are two examples of the sort of high density housing developments that can be achieved. Sadly neither can be said to be mixed use and the range of incomes in both should also have been wider, but both are far better than 29th Avenue or Nanaimo Stations where no change in land use has occurred at all.
While the money for an E&N study is new, the idea of yet another study of the old BCER Interurban is old news. It has been announced many times. It is not an indication of any chnage of heart as the final paragraph demonstrates
Falcon said the studies cost money and take time, but they are essential. He noted that TransLink, the Lower Mainland transit authority, was recommending surface light rail for the Evergreen line extension east along the north side of the Fraser River, but a study showed that it wouldn’t attract enough riders and SkyTrain service is a better option despite its higher construction cost.
That’s the good thing about studies.Write the terms of reference around a “buisness case” (not a development case) and appoint the right consultant and you can get the result you want. The idea that SkyTrain can be built for only 20% more than light rail and attract more riders – as the Evergreen “study” calims – simply is too silly to be worth analysis.