Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Mayor of Chilliwack: No Rail for Me!

The mayor of Chilliwack wrote quite the article about why the Interurban won’t work for the Fraser Valley and his community. You can read the whole article in the Chilliwack Times. The mayor, unfortunately, had a lot of bad data and misinformation about the Interurban line in the article. Here are the facts.

In the article, the mayor mentions that his “next most pressing need is to establish inter-regional connections between major trip generators such as the university campuses, major employers like Stream, the Abbotsford Airport, West Coast Express, shopping, hospitals.” The interurban line goes right by both the Abbotsford and Chilliwack UCFV campuses, and with a connection from Abbotsford to the Mission West Coast Express Station (using exciting track), less than 1km from the Mission Campus. In Langley and Surrey the interurban line passes right next to Trinity Western University, Kwantlen in Langley and Cloverdale, and about 1km from Kwantlen in Newton. As far as airports, it goes right next to the Chilliwack and Langley Airports, and I believes a cost effective rail spur or shuttle service could connect to the Abbotsford Airport. The interurban line also 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, and connects to the SkyTrain and the proposed King George transitway that would allow shopping in Guildford, Central Surrey, and the rest of Metro Vancouver. The interurban also passes within 2km of the Streams Call Centre.

He then goes on to state that 87% of all trips do not leave the community, with the rest going to Abbotsford, Langley, and Surrey. Well, the Interurban line goes right through the middle of Chilliwack and would provide a great backbone to their transit system. It also connects to Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, and beyond giving the 13% of his population that leave Chilliwack transportation choice.

He then goes on to talk about commuter rail systems. The interurban line is not meant to be a commuter system, it is meant to be a community system. Unlike a 9 to 5 commuter system, a community system would provide frequent service all day to allow people to travel within Chilliwack, or between Chilliwack and Abbotsford, or between Langley and Cloverdale, etc.

He talks about the cost of the system in the article, calling it in excess of $1 billion. We know from a Surrey report that we could have service from Scott Road to 264th for $200m. Doing some basic math based on that report: from 264th to Sumas Way would cost about $160m, and from Sumas Way to Chilliwack would cost $200m. Total Cost: under $600m. Of course this won’t be done all at once. The main priory is getting service from Scott Road to Abbotsford Airport up and running today, then working on getting the rest of Abbotsford hocked up. The last phase would be Abbotsford to Chilliwack. The mayor talks about costs and problems with the current line. For the costs I’ve just stated, all those needs of the track would be addressed. The costs also include the rail vehicles.

Finally, the mayor talks about how to build transit systems, and about our density. I would suggest that the mayor travel on the Portland System, Calgary System, or any other light rail system in North America. Many of the density misinformation would disappear.

Passenger rail service played an importation role developing our communities. If we want to build our communities around people and transit, we will need rail. Developers will build by it, and people love it. If we want automobile-centric communities, then we should just continue with business as usual.

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