Translink’s Surrey consultation
This morning I attended a meeting with Translink – I think the first time they have invited me (personally) to anything in six years. They want to get the word out on line about their current consultation exercise and to do that they also invited Raul Pacheco, Rebecca Bollwit, Karen Quinn Fung and Carrie Saxifrage from the Vancouver Observer .
Curiously, someone organised a kids event today downtown. The Canada Line at 07:30 is already crowded: adding an additional load of 12 year olds – who also seemed to be highly caffeinated – made for an interesting ride.
The process, we learned, is already under way with the first workshop last night in Langley. Apparently 60 people came out and sat through a 3 hour process – open house, presentation and break out into tables – that simply looks at the scope of the possible projects to be evaluated. Translink does not want people to make a choice yet. They simply want confirmation that the range of routes and technologies is reasonable. They also think that people need to be educated about the differences between bus, BRT, LRT and what they now call “Rail Rapid Transit” but we know as SkyTrain. Or, as Malcolm would have it, mini-metro.
My first reaction is that getting 60 people out to a hotel in Langley to talk about transit is a considerable achievement. I shows how much has changed in the last fifteen years. That was the first time I had to run an open house in Langley for what was then BC Transit (I think). We mostly talked among ourselves then. I think in the course of three hours perhaps half a dozen people looked in – none stayed longer than 5 minutes. There is a great appetite now for transit in the South of the Fraser area that there was not then. To some extent promises of SkyTrain – and interest around the interurban – have played their part. As has a growing awareness that business is not going to be as usual in the future.
Of course regular readers of this blog will need no education on these topics. And have probably already been to the Translink web page to check out the information on line. Basically what they have are a variety of “hub and spoke” routes for higher quality transit and a range of four transit technologies. Oddly, “best bus” is illustrated with a #9 trolleybus – which fails to meet my definition of rapid transit. The illustration of BRT was also notably not a BLine – not even the former #98 (short length of) exclusive right of way on No 3 Road. There is also an “underlay” on the maps of bus routes – I think (but someone will doubtless correct me) the planned “frequent bus network”. I am not of the opinion that 15 minutes headway is necessarily the same thing as “frequent” – but if it were clock face it might allow for what Translink wants – a service you do not need a schedule for. It does not show that these routes do not really form a grid – as they do in Vancouver – but wander around looking for passengers to haul to a hub. Indeed, even “best bus” does not mean a grid service. So in terms of meeting the “many to many” origin/destination pattern of Surrey, no-one is suggesting Vancouver quality of service for Surrey.
The routes they are evaluating did not come out of thin air but previous exercises, notably the South of Fraser Transit Plan. So no surprises there. Do not look for any details like ridership or cost. Those, together with capacity data and environmental impacts will all be available “early 2011” when Translink presents its multiple account evaluation. That is when you get to state your preference. All they want to know now is have they got enough route and technology choices.
They are doing a concurrent study of the Broadway corridor and expect both to be ready for route and technology choice around the same time. That will then give them a chance to ask about priorities. They think they can also credibly ask if both should happen at once. I don’t.
I was a bit reluctant, I will admit, to go to this meeting, but it was nice to be asked. I am not sure that there is a great deal of value in the exercise, since the final choice of which route is chosen, and the technology will be made – as usual – by the Premier. Whoever that happens to be at the time. And, of course, Gordon Campbell is on record recently stating to UBCM that it will be SkyTrain extension to Langley. In reality of course, he may not still be premier by then. And even if he is, I would not believe that he can deliver both rapid transit to UBC and Langley at the same time. They said they would deliver the Evergreen Line and the Canada Line simultaneously too – and didn’t. But the folks at Translink – all new since my days – are fresh and full of enthusiasm, and happy to listen. So do go to a meeting near you if you have three hours with nothing better to do. Just don’t expect that it will make a lot of difference to the outcome. Whoever is in power in Victoria next time.