Friday, January 16, 2009

Light Rail Transit For Families, Elderly and Handicapped in Any Weather

The latest issue of the Langley Advance printed this letter from South Fraser OnTrax Board Member Bill Taylor. In his letter Bill makes the case for reliable and sustainable transit solutions for families. He'd also like to see these solutions work in any kind of weather including the recent snow storms.

"Some couples with young children have to spend a fortune to keep up with all the activities of their young family and the necessities of life. We need public transportation that is affordable, sustainable, reliable (even when it snows), and safe.

It would be great if this public transportation could be interurban, going past universities, airports, shopping centres, workplaces, and needless to say, be close to homes. Then we would have a choice in transportation most of the time.

We would also be cutting down on air pollution and be less stressed out when going from one place to another. The best public transportation has already been suggested by a great number of people, and that is light, modern, interurban passenger rail."

                                                             -- Bill Taylor

I would only add to Bill's fine letter that street level (at grade) LRT also makes good sense for the elderly and handicapped that would not have to navigate to a platform or station in the sky. They could safely board the light rail car straight on with level boarding and no steps to climb. 

Bill mentions the Interurban which is an old alignment that ran through several communities from the turn of the century until the 1950's. While this alignment serves some universities and centres as Bill points out, it may not serve the current and future densification plans for communities such as Abbotsford and Langley. For example, a transit select committee concluded in late 2008 that because of their densification patterns and the YXX airport location (along with future airport area growth expected to top over 260%), a horseshoe alignment would better serve their needs as this and other densification would be far from the old Interurban alignment in their community.

All this to say we need to remain open to what the experts are telling us and consider all options for an alignment that serves the density patterns of all the communities involved and connects them efficiently. Building an LRT system in this manner will ensure ridership numbers are kept UP and the system can support iteself financially and otherwise, making it a viable and reliable part of the communities of Abbotsford, Langley City and Township, and Surrey.

3 comments:

John said...

A point of clarification: Abbotsford's transportation select committee recommended the horseshoe alignment for transit within-Abbotsford (with an estimated realization time from staff for this to be 20-30 years from now).

For REGIONAL transportation, no specific route recommendation was made, although support was given for a 2010 light rail demonstration project (presumably on the Interurban track).

20-30 years. Think of how much Abbotsford will have changed.

While we're waiting for the perfect solution to be constructed, in the
short-to-medium term the Interurban track is a no-brainer. Of course it
wouldn't perfectly serve everyone, but that's not the point. It would serve many, it would encourage sustainable development patterns, and it would provide economic benefits to our dense but struggling downtown cores.

Joe Zaccaria said...

The committee certainly discussed bring the rail up from the airport along Hwy. 1 and connecting with Langley. Why wouldn't they as Abby, Langley and Surrey are all Livability Accord Communities and are already have discussions regarding regional transportation. Abby's density is east-west and the Interurban in North-South.

Also, if the alignment traveled up Hwy. 1 it would be OK as well because about the only thing that would need connection before any density starts is TWU and that is close enough to Hwy. 1 to bring a station down on the side of the roadway.

The projections from Abby City Planning looked at 20-30 years out and this is how the alignment was determined. As well, the Township of Langley is 80% ALR and 20% is available for urban density. Most of that density is not on the old Interurban alignment. A streetcar connection to the new LRT could be accomplished at the 200th Street Interchange and support the Hwy. 1 alignment. One could also consider a streetcar line over the new Golden Ears Bridge as well.

I don't agree with a demonstration project that doesn't serve any people needs and just seeks to have people ride on a train. The novelty of that will wear off in a couple of weekends and then a good deal of money is wasted and the government has another excuse as to why LRT won't work. Put people on a train and let them go to places they need to get to. That's a supportive demonstration. I've discussed this demonstration with several planning and engineering types and all agree that a demonstration to nowhere would be the death pill for a possible permanent LRT solution.

bregalad said...

The old interurban line only makes sense as far as Langley City. East of there it winds through the ALR avoiding hills and Lake Sumas, a body of water that was drained and converted to farm land 80 years ago. It also very successfully avoids any people except for a short stretch through Abbotsford.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be plans to put light rail in the valley east of Langley it just means alternate routes need to be considered.

Although it's too late now, the Evergreen Line should never have been planned in isolation as a way of getting people from NE Coquitlam to Lougheed. It should have been designed as the first phase of a line running all the way to Langley along the old interurban line. Making it a SkyTrain line is going to cost us all a lot more money and limit our ability to build an extensive system in the future.

Eventually there should also be trains running from the valley to the airport. There are long stretches of under-utilized rail that could be used, but they all face the problem of getting across the river at least twice. Hopefully the replacement of the Pattullo includes a new rail bridge with two sets of tracks.