Friday, July 11, 2008

Seeing Langley from the Rails

Frank Bucholtz at the Langley Times wrote an opinion piece called “Seeing Langley from the rails.” This was a good piece, but there were some points that needed to be clarified. We sent the following letter to the Langley Times.

July 10, 2008

Langley Times
20258 Fraser Hwy.
Langley, BC V3A 4E6

Dear Editor,

It is good to read that you have discovered the comfort and convenience of rail travel. While I enjoyed reading your opinion article “Seeing Langley from the rails,” there are some points that must be clarified. All the rail groups in the South Fraser and Fraser Valley have been advocating for community light rail, which is different from commuter rail. Community light rail is about connecting the communities within our sub-region, while commuter rail is concerned with getting people from our sub-region into downtown Vancouver. As an example, according to the most recently published Translink Trip Diary a full 85% of all trips stay within Langley and Surrey. Community light rail is what we need. South Fraser OnTrax supports the concept of using the old Interurban alignment. The alignment goes through key industrial areas, high employment centers, major universities, key transit interchanges, commercial areas, and near both the Langley and Abbotsford airports. The interurban alignment would also tie into the Scott Road SkyTrain allowing people to continue on into Vancouver. Using commuter rail on the CN mainline with a West Coast Express service would provide service to people in Fort Langley and possibly Walnut Grove, while completely bypassing Surrey. This would not help the 85% of trips within our sub-region.

Freight rail traffic has always been an issue in Langley. This April the Township of Langley wrote to the Federal Minister of Transportation and MP Mark Warawa requesting that the New Westminster rail bridge be replaced. Mark Warawa replied to this letter stating that it was a priority of his. This would go a long way to reducing rail traffic through Langley. Even if that bridge isn’t replaced, building a community light rail system is still very feasible. In 2006, Translink commissioned a report on the estimated costs of restoring service on the Interurban corridor. They took into account the freight rail issue and came to a number of $27 million/km. That is a song compared to the $233 million/km for UBC SkyTrain.

Finally you mentioned at-grade crossing safety. While there is a major concern with freight traffic, at-grade crossing and even running on the same streets as cars are used by pretty much by all light rail systems in North America. For example Calgary, Alberta and Portland, Oregon run their light rail systems on regular roads in their downtown cores, and mostly use at-grade crossings once they are out of the core.

With the ever-rising cost of fuel, community light rail is what we need in our sub-region. That is why the Township of Langley passed a resolution to further study community light rail. Also, Minister Kevin Falcon personally promised back in January to study the Interurban corridor. We hope a fair and impartial report will be ready soon.


South Fraser OnTrax

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