Over the past decade, transit service between the Fraser Valley Regional District and Metro Vancouver has greatly improved. Before 2007, there was no public transit available between Langley and Abbotsford, even though there is a large number of people that travel between those two communities.
This spring, BC Transit launched the Fraser Valley Express/66X which links the Carvorth Park and Ride in Langley, with Abbotsford and Chilliwack. On Saturday, my good friend Paul Hillsdon and I decided to check out this new service.
|Fraser Valley Express route. Select to enlarge.|
Along the way, we met up with Patrick Oystryk. He is working on Abbotsforward. Abbotsforward is the name of Abbotsford's Official Community Plan update project.
One of the first things I noticed at Carvolth was the demand for the 66X service. There was a lineup of people waiting to get on the bus.
|People waiting to board the 66X at Carvolth Park and Ride. Select image to enlarge.|
Metro Vancouver’s, Abbotsford’s, and Chilliwack’s transit systems all have different fares, tickets, and passes. The 66X also has its own fares, tickets, and passes. No transfers are issued on the 66X. If you were a regular user of this service between Abbotsford and Langley, you would have to have a Compass Card, a 66X pass, and an Abbotsford transit pass.
One of the major reasons why regions in Canada and the US switch to smart card systems like the Compass Card is because it allows people to load up passes and an e-purse which can be used on disparate systems. Having the Compass Card as a form of payment on the 66X, and in the future on other Fraser Valley transit systems, would greatly improve the travel experience for all transit users.
One of the first things that Paul noticed was that unlike TransLink which uses highway coaches on long-distance or routes that primarily run on freeways, the 66X is a regular urban transit bus. I told Paul that he was just spoiled with TransLink service, but the truth is that a highway coach would actually be a better fit for the 66X service.
|A bus selfie with Paul and me. Select image to enlarge.|
When I was a kid, I used to take the Vernon transit system everywhere because my mom refused to drive a car. I guess because she spent her years as a young adult in London and Montreal, she found driving to be uncivilized or something. Anyway, I was a bit surprised to see that the rider guides have not changed in 25 years. I noticed that many people on the 66X didn’t find them the most user-friendly.
|Riders confused by the BC Transit Rider Guide timetable. Select image to enlarge.|
Paul and I decided to take the 66X all the way to Chilliwack, before heading back to Abbotsford to meet up with Patrick. It took us a little over an hour to get from Carvolth to Downtown Chilliwack.
|Paul standing in front of the 66X in Downtown Chilliwack. Select image to enlarge.|
Many Vancouver-types believe that the Fraser Valley is nothing but single-family homes and urban sprawl. This isn’t actually the truth. Just like the City of Vancouver, Fraser Valley communities have tracks of single-family housing, but townhouses and apartments are dominant dwelling types throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. I think that even Paul was a bit surprised at the amount of apartments and townhouses in Chilliwack.
While housing in the Fraser Valley is compact, the majority of retail spaces are still very much auto-oriented. The good news is that these auto-oriented retail areas can be turned into mixed-use town centres in the future. If you take the SkyTrain through Burnaby, you can see how shopping malls and strips malls are being transformed into fully-functional town centres.
|Paul at Salish Park in Downtown Chilliwack. Select image to enlarge.|
Paul and I spent about 20 minutes in Downtown Chilliwack before we boarded the 66X back to Abbotsford.
|People boarding the 66X in Downtown Chilliwack. Select image to enlarge.|
Tomorrow, I will post about our walking and transit adventure through Abbotsford with Patrick.