Thursday, April 24, 2008

Priorities – Making It Happen

We here at South Fraser OnTrax are all about realistic priorities and making the Interurban a reality sooner rather than later. While in the immediate short-term we would love to see an Interurban from Chilliwack to Surrey, there comes a time to prioritize in order to make this work.

Reality is an important perspective and as we study the old Interurban line and area density, we see a reasonable phased in plan most attractive to us and for the people that can sign and make this happen.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said a few months ago that the Interurban must be studied because, “we don’t want to blow our brains out financially”. He also made reference to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) when making that statement. While the South Fraser region is the steward of the ALR for our province, we should not be penalized for it. At the same time, we must think like smart business people and recognize the validity of the minister’s statement.

A Dose of Reality

Chilliwack densification is occurring, but not as quickly as Surrey and Langley. Abbotsford is gaining more density, but both Chilliwack and Abbotsford are outside of the GVRD. The Interurban is not impossible for these two communities, but Abby would need to negotiate with the GVRD and share some costs. We believe Chilliwack needs to realize more growth.

Smart Phasing

In recognition of reality, and significant council support in the Township of Langley for taking the next Interurban step as outlined in the UMA report for the Township on Community Rail, South Fraser OnTrax announces today our Smart Phasing plan for our local communities and the Minister of Transportation to consider:

Phase I – Revival of the Interurban Line from Langley to Surrey

Phase II – Interurban linkage of Abbotsford to Langley

Phase III - Eventual Interurban connection from Chilliwack to Abbotsford

The Thoughts Behind the Plan

The Township of Langley has approved high-rise mixed-use buildings along the 200th Street corridor. A 200th Street streetcar has often been discussed. Some have questioned the challenges of a streetcar climbing the hill up to 72nd Avenue and elsewhere, but Calgary has had this technology for some time past S.A.I.T., or in Little Rock, AR.

We believe that mayor and many councillors now see at least the Langley to Surrey portion of this plan to be do-able sooner than the timelines outlined in this original document.

As the Township connects various communities with light rail and the City of Langley makes a decision to link into the system, there will be increased demand and attraction for an eventual connection to Abbostford and beyond.

The Langley to Surrey light rail project will cost significantly less than an immediate Chilliwack to Surrey project, allowing TransLink to acquire land and partner in the building of numerous transit oriented developments to support and grow the system.

What do you say Minister Falcon?

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