Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fraser Valley Regional District Paper wants rubber-tired only Transit

The Fraser Valley Regional District released a background paper called “Developing a Transportation Vision for the FVRD.” The paper states that transit service levels in the FVRD are the lowest in BC, and much needs to change. It goes on to explain how greenhouse-gases caused by transportation are a major issue in the Fraser Valley, that transit service must improve, and that the region must build around transit not roads. As the paper was written with the assistance of Translink and the Ministry of Transportation, it had the usual blurb about why we shouldn't be building the Interurban today.
It is fully acknowledged that there is some sentiment, to have expanded rail service into the Valley from Metro Vancouver, perhaps using the old ‘Interurban Line’. However the dispassionate reality is that ridership levels are, and would, for next several decades, almost certainly be too low relative to the conceivable cost of any service that would be of utility. Moreover the currently dispersed settlement and destination patterns of FVRD residents as well as retail, medical, educational, recreational and employment locations would preclude a rail system from being a viable choice for most residents.

Rail systems work well in a ‘many to one’ or ‘many to few’ type of travel pattern. An
example of this is the West Coast Express which carries the overwhelming majority of its passengers to downtown Vancouver. The travel patterns, both current and projected for the FVRD are not like this. In addition, as illustrated above, any conceivable volumes are such that demand may easily and more flexibly be met by rubber-tired systems.
The paper provides no data to support this claim.

The paper’s own data shows that in 2004 there were about 23,000 daily trips to Langley from Abbotsford alone. The paper states that “a significant number of Abbotsford and Mission residents commute into Metro Vancouver as shown in the tables below from the 2001 Census data... The patterns also serve to highlight the impact of West Coast Express (WCE) on Mission, with a full 41% of individuals traveling to Metro Vancouver.”

So, the paper states that a rail solution for the city of Mission with a population of 34,000 produced a significant impact, but restoring the Interurban which would serve a population of about 640,000 would find its ridership levels too low. This is simply nonsense. The paper uses the “many to one” or “many to few” to justify why the West Coast Express works and why the Interurban will fail. Its ignores the fact that the Interurban line goes by Downtown Chilliwack, the Sardis shopping area, Downtown Abbotsford, the Sumas Way shopping area, Downtown Langley, the Willowbrook shopping area (this a major regional shopping area), Cloverdale, Newton, North Scott Road, many residential areas, and connects to the SkyTrain and the proposed King George transitway that would allow shopping in Guildford, Central Surrey. Modern thought on transportation and urban planning has shifted away from a many-to-one transit model to a node-to-node model. The Interurban line serves many nodes.

Of course after talking about poor transit and greenhouse-gas causing pollution, the paper talks about road expansion. I guess that why it’s called a draft.

The whole report is available from the FVRD website.

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