Saturday, August 9, 2008

Malcolm Johnston - Light Rail for the Valley, Mission Not Accomplished

South Fraser OnTrax was out at the Picnic in the Park event today. We’ll have picture of the event online shortly including pictures of VALTAC’s new, big “Rail for the Valley” advertising trailer that will soon be seen all around Langley. While at the event, I received the following from Malcolm Johnston of the Light Rail Committee. I have bolded the section talking about the need for a new combined road/rail bridge at New Westminster. We have previous blogged about this bridge. A disclaimer on the following: the views expressed may not fully represent the views of South Fraser OnTrax.


The need for modern light rail transit (LRT), to connect downtown Vancouver, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack has never been greater. Increasing population, with increased auto congestion and associated pollution, demands action now, no in 2010, not in 2020.

The provincial government’s love affair with the obsolete SkyTrain light-metro is puzzling, especially when proprietary SkyTrain has been rejected by city after city ever since SkyTrain was first marketed in the late 1970’s.

We can today build, as other cities are, up to 10km of modern LRT for the cost of a single kilometer of Bombardier’s SkyTrain.

To put that in local terms: for the cost of the 10km extension of the Surrey SkyTrain line – currently being proposed by Minister Falcon and his appointed, closed-door Translink board – we could build a deluxe Vancouver to Chilliwack Interurban service.

The first tenet of any “real” light-rail planner is: “USE EXISTING RAILWAY INFRASTRUCTURE FIRST.” This is because it makes it cheaper and easier for a new system to be installed.

But not here –

In British Columbia – despite all the talk about carbon dioxide and emissions – the credo seems to be: “Elevate or submerge rail transit so as not to impede the car driver.”

In British Columbia – transit is to be designed to be politically prestigious, with no thought given about expense to the taxpayer.

In British Colombia – with their obsessive determination to build SkyTrain, provincial Translink planner have invented a litany of half truths, lies about light-rail – a safe, affordable, AND POPULAR transit mode which is used in over 600 cities around the world.

This region’s inability to cope with burdening traffic congestion has now created an academic and political frenzy top punish the car driver with ever increasing gas taxes. At the same time, little to nothing is being done to promote AFFORDABLE light-rail solutions.

It takes little or no effort to dream up new tax schemes to take money out of our pockets – but it takes a great deal of intelligent effort to promote popular and viable alternatives to persuade people out of their cars.


There is another issue that Valley residents and politicians MUST become involved with – the planning for the new road and rail bridge. Translink proposes to replace the dangerous, 70-year old Pattullo Bridge and the decrepit Fraser River Rail Bridge.

GVRD planners in the late 1970’s understood this, and there was some preliminary planning – but today it is imperative that both river crossings be replaced with one bridge.

New rail bridge, with a 3-track – one up, one down, and one reversible – left span would enable affordable LRT. Not only would that service the old interurban line to Chilliwack, it would enable light-rail to service North Delta, South Surrey and White Rock –at a cost far, far cheaper than a $200 million/km SkyTrain.

Unlike SkyTrain, modern light rail can track-share with regular railways with little problem.

Noted American Transportation expert Gerald Fox, in a letter to a Victoria transit group, shredded the Translink Evergreen Line’s Business case, finding:
Several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain.
Fox further stated:
It is interesting how Translink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. IN the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analyzed honestly, and the taxpayers’ interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.
What is crucial for the Fraser Valley is this:

If the Translink business case for the Evergreen Line was corrected for its many errors, dated assumption, and anti-LRT rhetoric, the COST INCREASE from using SkyTrain, instead of LRT will be comparable to the TOTAL COST of a modest Vancouver to Chilliwack Diesel Light Rail Interurban service!

By: Malcolm Johnston
Light Rail Committee
Box 105
Delta, BC V4K 3N5

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