Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Translink Tries to Derail the Interurban

If there is one thing I can say about Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, its that it constantly amazes me. Sometime is a good way, sometimes in a bad way. Today, it’s in a bad way. After hearing the audio from the March 10th Special Meeting of Township council, and seeing Translink’s repeated attempts to try and disprove the viability of the line; I have never seen an organization so opposed to cost-effective light rail as Translink and its predecessors.

Back in the 1970’s, when regional planning was taking off in Metro Vancouver, light rail was to be the rapid transit technology of choice. It was and still is cost-effective, highly scalable (going from simple systems like the O-Train in Ottawa with about 10,000 daily ridership to large systems like the Green Line in Boston with 257,500), and attractive to both potential riders and developers. Of course we all know the story of SkyTrain in Vancouver.

I am convinced that whenever people in the South Fraser say, “Restore 30km of Interurban line as light rail for $200m to $700m.” Translink hears, “Build 6km of SkyTrain in Surrey for $1,100m.” There is no other explanation. Maybe they have been so programmed to think rail transit equals SkyTrain that they have forgotten what light rail is. It would explain why Translink’s version of light rail (Evergreen Line) cost more than double the price of doing the same thing in Portland.

Anyway, this is where it gets really interesting.

Township of Langley Staff (with the help of Translink staff) presented Translink’s 2031 vision for transit in the South Fraser to council on March 10th to get an endorsement. Council was under-whelmed to say the least though they voted 5-4 to endorse the plan with some conditions.

What They Said on the Interurban Line

-Getting the line into Langley had a Significant Key Constraint that freight traffic and passenger traffic must be separated through the Page Sub. (aka Langley Centre).

-There are four options on getting the line into Langley.
  1. Move all freight traffic to the CN Mainland, but that would be improbable because CP would be using CN line and they are competition.

  2. Create a new freight corridor somewhere in the south of Langley.

  3. Create a new passenger corridor somewhere.

  4. Use the exciting right-of-way through Langley, but it would have to be double-tracked which would not allow CP to double track the line in the future for more freight trains.

-Wait until after 2010, after the FVHRS has their tourist train running, and then look at the Interurban line as a commuter line.

Facts About the Interurban

-Getting the line into Langley would be relatively easy. The province owns the right-of-way on the entire length of the line, and has the right to run passenger service on it. Freight/Passenger separation is a valid concern and can be accomplished in three ways through Langley.
  1. Reroute all through freight traffic to the CN/CP Mainlines with a new rail bridge. This would be possible for a similar costs to all the overpasses called for Langley, but would require political will. CN and CP already share tracks in southern BC.

  2. If we want double-tracked freight running through the heart of Langley, we could run the Interurban on the BC Hydro right-of-way through downtown Langley. Once near Glover Road, we would be able to triple track to just past Trinity Western University where the freight traffic is light again. The province already owns enough right-of-way to do this.

  3. Double track the Page Sub. to allow freight on one track and passenger rail on the other.

It’s a shame that Township staff and Translink tried to scare council by saying things like “build a new freight corridor.” PS: The new passenger corridor would be multi-billion dollar SkyTrain on Fraser Highway.

What They Said About Light Rail

-Light Rail would not be good for the environment in Langley due to the large amount of steel and concrete required to build the system.

-There is not enough density for Light Rail because we are mostly farmland in the Fraser Valley.

Facts about Light Rail

-Again, I think they replaced “light rail” with “SkyTrain” in their heads when talking about concrete and steel.

-We already know that there is enough density to support light rail in Surrey and Langley.

What They Said About Transit

-We will only see bus service until 2031 in Langley, and there will be no Bus Rapid Transit east of Langley until after 2031.

What Council Said

-Waiting until 2031 to talk about light rail is unacceptable.

-Gloucester Estates and Aldergrove are not serviced well in the 2031 plan.

Facts About Gloucester Estates and Aldergrove

-The interurban line goes right through Gloucester estates, and would tie-in nicely with a short, quick bus service between Aldergrove and the line.

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