Monday, April 28, 2008

Why Langley Needs Light Rail Transit (LRT) Now

We desperately need to re-activate the old Interurban line from Langley to Surrey sooner rather than later. With this light rail project underway, we can begin to add street car service to our neighbourhoods. We can start with 200th Street, and grow the system from there.

In 2006 the Township commissioned a study to see if re-activation of the old Interurban line was possible. There were no major deal killers that we found in this report. The report recommended some follow-up work like a ridership study/computer modeling, an examination of alternative routes, protection of right-of-ways, and related matters. On May 5, 2008 the Township of Langley council will vote on a motion proposed by Councillor Jordan Bateman to take this next step. Approval of this motion will also generate letters to Translink, the Ministry of Transportation, and the Mayors and Councils of the Cities of Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack to invite them to participate in the routing and ridership studies.

Here are 8 reasons to support the LRT next steps:

1. Cheaper Than Buses to Operate

Light rail costs about half as much as it does to operate buses. This is at current gas prices, which are expected to quadruple over the next 10-15 years. Since the province and possibly the federal government will be paying the capital costs to build it, there will be no negative impacts on local property taxes. We can give more transit to Vancouver, or we can get our fair share.

2. Reduced Traffic Congestion

LRT lanes can be shared with cars or have a dedicated lane. Because the LRT will carry more people, there will be less traffic on the roadway, even with a dedicated lane.

3. Choice Riders

Studies the world over have proven that more people that can choose to drive their cars or ride LRT will choose Light rail. Most will not choose buses or even rapid bus services. Because an LRT will carry more people than buses and be convenient, we will realize a net increase in LRT ridership and a net decrease in cars on the road.

4. LRT Will Serve The Elderly and Handicapped Well

Because the LRT will run beside the sidewalk’s curb, the lip of the curb will align with the sidewalk. Passengers should be able to board an LRT train without having to use any steps. Our elderly and handicapped neighbours deserve the ability to get out and enjoy what all residents enjoy. LRT will help them lead active lifestyles and connect them with our communities.

5. Technology Compatible with Land Use

Light rail can go anywhere. It can travel on roadways, on sidewalks, across a plaza, in the air, underground, and up a grade for example. LRT fits our environment and neighbourhoods well and can easily share space with other uses. Its done the world over.

6. Smarter Growth

Light rail has been proven to attract lots of investment dollars because developers see the rail as a permanent commitment to community infrastructure. Developers are aware that LRT attracts more “choice” riders than buses and that developments with close proximity to LRT stations are a major incentive to new home buyers. Those buyers will also benefit from capital appreciation of their new home asset due to LRT.

These developments are normally transit oriented developments (TOD’s) that contain mixed use live/work/retail spaces so that these neighbourhoods are occupied by people all day and night. We can enjoy tasteful and appealing mixed streetwalls of 5-6 storey buildings with retail and offices below and apartments and condos above. We can build taller 20 storey buildings behind these and again create mixed use spaces that will support round-the-clock occupancy. Developers don’t write cheques and build TOD for buses very quickly. They do for LRT.

7. Less Land for More

Because the LRT will reduce driving demands, our communities can reduce parking requirements and build more on less land along the light rail lines. People on the line can use the LRT and if a vehicle is required, local car shares systems can be readily available to them on a by the hour or day fee basis.

8. Opportunity to Expand the System and Community Amenities

LRT attracts the investment dollars and leads to immediate densification around the rail lines. This supports the community long-term growth strategies and plans. It builds more complete communities for us and allows us to better pay for the services and amenities our communities require or that we would like to have. It allows us more options by providing more spaces for parks and green space. More neighbourhoods can be connected and we can expand the ridership to support the connection of our neighbours. We can have smaller roadways and more parks and amenities for families.

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