Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Letter to Kevin Falcon

So, I was sitting at home on night in January frustrated with the state of transportation in the South Fraser and that local groups' concerns are landing on provincial deaf ears. I decided to write a letter to Keven Falcon to express my frustrations. The province has heavily invested in roads in the South Fraser over the last 20 years. They really need to step-up-to-the-plate and build meaningful transit.

I'll let you know if I get a reply.

And now, the Letter:

Dear Sir:

I am writing because I am very concerned with the direction that the province is taking with transportation in the Lower Mainland, and more specifically the Fraser Valley. We are living in an era where green house gasses and their mitigation are probably the number one issue affecting the world. As a young adult, it will be my generation that will have to deal with the mistakes of the past generations.

With this in mind, I am shocked with the transportation planning coming from your Ministry. Since the 1980's, we have seen massive highway expansion in our region including: Highway 91/91A (Alex Fraser Bridge), Mary Hill Bypass widening, Sumas-Mission Highway widening, Lougheed Highway widening, Highway 10 widening, Highway 15 widening, Golden Ears Bridge Project, Highway 1 HOV lanes, Fraser Highway widening, 204th Street/Langley Bypass overpass, Sea to Sky Highway widening, and now the South Fraser Perimeter Road, North Fraser Perimeter Road, and Highway 1 Widening. While most of these projects were/are needed, some are being built at the expense of local wishes and the environment. I have a few questions.

The South Fraser Perimeter Road was part of the Transport 2021 plan that was completed in the early 1990’s. As you have pointed out about the Liveable Regions Plan: times have changed. When Transport 2021 was conceived, Burns Bog was not a protected area. Environment Canada, Delta, and many local groups are concerned about the impact the SFPR will have on the bog’s ecosystem. There are alternative alignments such as the Hoover/Naas Proposal that has wide support in the local community. While the Hoover/Nass Proposal may not be perfect, what will your government do to protect Burns Bog and how will you support the more than 75 families whose homes the SFPR will destroy? Would your government be willing to work with local groups to come to a compromise?

Highway 1 SOV lane widening was not on any public planning documents until your government came to power. Transport 2021 called for only HOV lanes. Your own Ministry’s report titled “Land Effects: Transportation and Land Use Linkages – A Literature Review” points out that “in the last 30 years, there has been a growing acknowledgement that this relationship is two-way, and that the presence of transportation infrastructure can influence the timing, rate, location and form, of local land development.” As there seems to be no plans at the moment for rapid transit in the South Fraser, and because of that local governments feel they need to design auto-only community, how will highway expansion convince local government to zone for transit/people friendly communities? Also, your Ministry’s submission to the EAO says that the Highway 1 expansion will cause an increase in GHG emissions higher than if nothing was done. How will the Highway 1 expansion reduce GHG emissions as your EAO submission proves otherwise? If goods movement is important, why not remove the SOV lanes from the project and build commercial vehicle only lanes? If you talk to people at the City Program at SFU or Planning Program at UBC, they say that SOV lanes will fill up as fast as they are built. Back in the 1960’s, certain groups said that freeways must be built into downtown Vancouver for the city to survive. This has been proven not to be the case for the past 40 years. How is this Highway 1 project different than the planned freeways in the 1960’s? Do you have examples of highway projects in a major urban area that has reduced congestion for more than a few years? Also, do you have examples of highway projects that were cancelled or never planned that have brought their transportation systems to gridlock? I was speaking with several Translink planners who informed me that the Pitt River Bridge and Golden Ears Bridge will drastically change travel patterns in our region and the Port Mann expansion may be a waste of money and time. Do you have any comments? According to the 2004 Translink Trip Diary Survey Report about 79% of all trips are internal and only about 10% would need to use the bridge in the Surrey/Delta/Langley area? If this government is committed to reducing GHG emissions, wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in better transit to serve the 79%?

In that same time period of highway growth, we have an incomplete SkyTrain network, unfunded/incomplete Evergreen line, an under-construction Canada line, and an under-funded bus network. While cities like Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto are embracing transit and building light rail, this province seems to be do the opposite. I have head you speak about balanced transportation systems. What are you doing to balance the transportation system in the South Fraser and in Vancouver? We have densities higher than Calgary according to Statistics Canada in Surrey and Langley, but unlike Calgary, we do not have a rapid transit system that serves our area. Translink has identified King George Highway and 104th Avenue as rapid transit corridors. Many others in the communities are in support reviving the Interurban rail line. Will your government support rapid transit in the South Fraser? When will your government build a complete transit system in the South Fraser? Finally, what is your government doing to make it easier for people to use alternative modes of transportation in a meaningful way in the South Fraser?

I believe that goods movement is important and needed for our region to survive, and that people need to be given transportation systems that work. There is no doubt that our transportation system is broken right now. I am concerned that this government is moving goods at the cost of the people that live in our region. I am alarmed that this government is not promoting alternatives to automobile transportation in the South Fraser in a meaningful way. I hope that you can explain to me how the South Fraser will be able to have meaningful transportation options. Thanks for your time.

Yours very truly,

Nathan Pachal

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