Friday, October 31, 2008

Working For Gas

Once again the people over at the Sightline Institute has done some research that should get us thinking about our priorities. In a recent project, the group looked at various income levels in the USA and how many hours must be worked in order to pay for 15 gallons of gasoline, which would represent an average fill-up for an average passenger car. They also compared this figure for 2008 with 1970, and over that span of time. In Canada with all the gasoline taxes, our figures would be much higher for sure.

So we see from the data that the average minimum wage earner works over 1 full day to pay for a tank full of gasoline. The middle class work 2.7 hours to pay for the same fill up, while an average CEO works only 36 SECONDS on average for that same 15 gallons of gas. While I never fault anyone for accomplishing financial freedom in life, I'm sure that many CEO's out there don't understand the needs of their staff and this great disparity, nor do they spend much time thinking about it. I wonder why the minimum wage and median income earners in our area are not more engaged in our struggle to get sustainable and affordable transit solutions to our area to reduce these gasoline bills. Is their love for the automobile that strong?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Light Rail Makes Sense

The Surrey Leader ran a story about light rail and the “Transit for Tomorrow” plan yesterday. You can read the article at their website.

In other news… While the US housing market and economy in general continues to claps, it looks like houses that are near light rail in Denver, Colorado are actually rising in value.

Homes near light-rail stations along the southeast line, which opened in November 2006, have increased by an average of nearly 4 percent over the past two years, according to an analysis by Your Castle Real Estate. But the rest of the Denver market declined an average of 7.5 percent.

"I know that it's always been a good neighborhood, but I didn't think it was like that," said Humphrey, who doesn't drive and frequently uses public transportation.

The closer a home is to the station, the more its value increases, according to the Your Castle analysis. Homes less than a half-mile from a station increased an average of 17.6 percent, while those 1 1/2 to 2 miles away increased just 0.1 percent on average. The data varied widely among stations, however.

We’ve been talking about the value of building light rail for some time on this blog. And this recent article is just another case that proves not only is light rail good for the environment and your pocket book, but its good for the economy. In Denver under the FasTracks program, the Regional Transportation District plans to create six new commuter-rail and light-rail corridors and extend three existing corridors by 2017. They are adding 192km of rail to their already 63.4km of rail.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Bridge in Portland

I must confess that I’ve been pretty busy the past few weeks and have not had a chance to write a nice lengthy blog post. Maybe that’s a good thing. Anyway, tonight I give you another mini-post about bridges and Portland.

According to an article in the Oregonian, the next bridge to cross the Willamette River in Portland will be car-free. The bridge will carry light rail, streetcars, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians across the river. It is great to see this kind of innovation. The fewer lanes that need to be built on a bridge, the lower the cost. Also the government in Portland has decided to make their new bridge “not only about the engineering but the design. [they] would like for this bridge to be beautiful.

I’m sad to say that in Canada our infrastructure is all about utility with little or no effort put into aesthetic. A certain overpass in Langley comes to mind when I think about ugly infrastructure. The Province’s fixation with ugly, weed-infested paved medians on highways also comes to mind. Langley and Surrey have the right idea as they actually plant trees and shrubs on their road medians, and even use nice pavers in some location. I digress…

The point of today’s post is to point out that planners in the Portland are building a transportation system that give people transportation options, and gives transit an advantage over the automobile. It's amazing the kind of transit system you can build when you don’t waste money on SkyTrain. I had to work that in there. :-)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Transit for Tomorrow

I have blogged several times about Paul Hillsdon who came up with a transit vision for the South Fraser eariler this year. Anyway, he is now running for council in Surrey and just recently released his “Transit for Tomorrow” plan. You can read more on his website. The Province also picked up on this plan, and you can read the full article on their website.

He says his transit plan can meet rapid growth throughout most of the lower Fraser region, including Surrey, the two Langleys, Delta, White Rock and eventually Abbotsford and the rest of the Fraser Valley. It centres on three light-rail lines:
- A 26.2-km Interurban Line ($697 million) running from Scott Road SkyTrain station in Surrey to Langley City Centre, that would eventually be extended up the Valley.
- A 10.2-km King George line ($306 million) to connect SkyTrain and the Interurban light-rail line with Surrey City Centre, Guildford and Newton town centres.
- A seven-kilometre 200th Street line ($210 million) linking the Interurban line with Langley City Centre, Willowbrook, Willoughby and Walnut Grove.

You Cannot Get a Charge In Langley - Just Yet

Back in July I blogged about this Township Council vote on the provision for electrical outlets for charging electric cars in new multi-family developments. Further, council requested that Housing & Social Development Minister Rich Coleman be asked to consider including this as part of a new Green Building Code that The matter was referred to staff to investigate. Last night, thanks to Councillor Jordan Bateman, I received the results of the staff query.

Firstly, staff discussed the possibility of enacting local bylaws that would require the outlets with the Building Policy Branch under the current BC Building Code, as the City of Vancouver has done. But it has been determined that "concurrent authority limitations of the current regulatory framework, precludes the enactment of such bylaws which would impose standards higher than those contained in the Building Code."

So why does Vancouver get to do it? Well, it appears that the City of Vancouver's independent charter "does not constrain it to the limitations pf provincial concurrent authority that are applicable to all other local governments in BC."

The news from Minister Rich Coleman's office is slightly more positive. He says:
"As you are aware, greening the BC Building Code is one piece of an extensive approach being taken by the Province of British Columbia to address greenhouse gas reductions and promote water and energy efficiency.

The province has been monitoring developments in sustainability technology such as electrical and plug-in hybrid cars and the infrastructure that may be required to charge these vehicles.

Electrical outlets for cars are not a current initiative under review but are an option that we will consider implementing in the future.

I appreciate the Township's interest and support for this initiative. We will continue to consult with local government, industry and the public as we proceed to greening the BC Building Code."
I still like Vancouver's independent charter better. Can we throw some tea in the Fraser River or withhold our berry crops from Metro Vancouver next season?

Monday, October 27, 2008

In the News

Here are some stories of interest that appeared in the local papers last week. First of is a story in the Langley Advance about a mixed-use/auto mall on the corner of Glover and Highway 10. The second story, also form the Advance, is a follow-up about our All-Candidates forum that was held last Tuesday.
The second question was all about transportation, and where the funding would come from.

Coun. Mel Kositsky said he wants to get more cash from Ottawa, noting that the GST on gas purchases is a "rip off" and that the money raised is not shared or used for transportation.

Scrapping plans to bring SkyTrain to Langley would be a good start, said Coun. Jordan Bateman. He wants to see the same amount of money poured into a much longer light rail line that would run along the ground. Compared to rapid bus service, the costs of light rail aren't too high, he said.

Coun. Kim Richter said after twinning the Port Mann, better bus access to Aldergrove is her top priority. She also warned against the high cost of a light rail line.
The Langley Times also had an article about the forum.

Finally, there was a letter to the editor about getting light rail by Nathan Moes
While my 30-year-old self will be pleased to ride a rapid articulated bus to Surrey in 10 years, he will still be wasting half his day whenever he decides to visit Abbotsford. (Or perhaps by that time I will join hundreds of thousands of commuters clogging up our new bridges and highways in our guilt-free, non-polluting vehicles, because even after pollution, congestion will remain.)…

The solution is rail.

There are complications, though none that couldn't be resolved with serious consideration and $14 billion.

Ten more years on top of the decades spent without a car alternative is unacceptable.
Of course restoring the Interurban is an order of magnitude less than the 14 billion dollar SkyTrain plan.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

LRT Continues to Attract More Ridership Than All Other Forms of Public Transit

Light Rail Transit (LRT) continues to attract more ridership in North America than any other forms of public transportation. You can read all of the success stories here. Two million people live in the Portland Metropolitan Area and their LRT system set a new ridership record in May, 2007 by exceeding 110,300 average weekday rider-trips. Mind you, this is just week days and I've been on very packed Portland streetcars and the MAX line on several weekends that I have been there.

In Denver, Colorado they kicked off a regional LRT initiative. The system is carrying an average of 61,000 rider-trips around their metro area each week day, which is 7,000 more rider-trips than the regional transit authority had projected.

In Dallas, Texas a university study that examined the benefits of the Dallas DART LRT system has reported that DART's existing and soon-expanding LRT system will stimulate $8 Billion in economic activity. Yes, that was BILLIONS.

We Need YOU!

Is LRT and the resulting economic development only for the United States and Europe? Once again, Canada (with the exception Calgary) lags behind. Despite the intellectual assets of our people, and an embrace of many things progressive, we see little political will and great apathy from the general public. South Fraser OnTrax now has over 75 people who voluntarily signed up for our e-mail news here. Yet each time we announce another meeting I get e-mails from people that would like to come out but can't for one reason or another. They feel like the issue is too big and they are helpless. So each meeting we get a few faithfuls and then a few people who appear at times. While we are grateful for their participation, the lack of volunteers and donations mean that Nathan and I must handle most of what must be done and shoulder 98% of the expenses. We have recently had to cease our weekly local newspaper ad campaign because of a lack of financial support. I have donated approximately $7-8K since April of 2008. Nathan has supplemented that and shouldered most of the costs related to our recent Township All Candidates Forum. We did receive one-time $100 donations from Rudy Storteboom, Councillor Jordan Bateman, Councillor Charlie Fox and the City of Surrey. We've also had small donations in our meeting bank of $5-20 from time to time. We would like to thank Bill Taylor and Herb Klein for the tremendous job they do in distributing our flyers across the City of Langley and the Township. With the ad campaign on hold, this distribution is vital to our public relations efforts.

If you support Light Rail Transit in our community and our region, then we need your involvement now. Apart from attending meetings and listening to the great speakers, we have many things that we would like to do, but lack the workers to make it all happen. We desperately need people who are computer literate, have knowledgeable of basic office software and own their own laptop or desktop and can lend us a hand. We love for people to attend our meetings, but please consider coming out and being greater involved in the process and events.

We need people that can take a leadership role in fundraising and organizing public events. You don't have to be an expert in these areas, just have some great ideas, enthusiasm and a willingness to give us some of your time. We need individuals and business people to donate funds that we can use to launch campaigns and workshops for the public. We can issue receipts to businesses for sponsorships and these sponsorships can be monthly or ongoing. Just so you know, 100% of the money goes into the materials and programs. We have ZERO administrative costs and no one is on any kind of salary here. So, every dollar given goes right back into the community.

Our next meeting is on Thursday, November 13, 2008 from 7:00pm - 9:00pm at Township Hall. If you join the mailing list here, we will send you all the details. Instead of having a speaker, Nathan and I thought we would produce some slides that review the speakers that we have had in 2008 and basically what they had to say to us. We will then open the meeting up to a discussion and review of 2008, with a further discussion of what we should be doing in 2009. This will help form an action plan for the year ahead. In December we will have Christmas eggnog at my home and invite anyone who wishes to attend, including our past speakers. Even if you have never attended any of our meetings, please consider coming out to our November 13th meeting and voice your ideas for our direction in 2009. Mark your calendars now and be a part of our exciting future. If you have some skills and can lend a hand, please don't wait. E-mail us now and tell us what you have to offer. E-mail us at INFO@SFOT.INFO

Award Winner on South Fraser OnTrax Board of Directors

South Fraser OnTrax wishes to congratulate our dedicated board member and Langley ReMax Realtor Bruce Dougall who flew to Calgary this weekend where he was awarded the 2008 Instrumental Album Of The Year Award from the Gospel Music Association (GMA) Canada. Way to go Bruce!

Friday, October 24, 2008

News From Abby, Chilliwack, Langley and Surrey


Last night I attended the City of Abbotsford Inter Regional Transportation Select Committee (IRTSC) meeting, where we provided comments on a draft report that will most likely be presented to Abbotsford City Council on November 3, 2008 at 1:00pm. I will not comment on this report further, as it has not been received yet by council. I expect that later today, Stephen Rees's blog will have some comments from him regarding this committee and his thoughts on it's function and personalities. I've only attended a couple of meetings while filling in for Nathan, so I look forward to Stephen's comments. He's a good bloke and although I don't agree with him on everything, I greatly enjoy his writing and perspective on the issues. If you are ever blessed with the good fortune to hear him speak, you will also enjoy the way he "crafts" what he says.


John Buker, as well as other members and supports of our good friends at Rail for the Valley were represented at last night's IRTSC meeting. It was encouraging to hear that some new and respected Chilliwack political candidates and others are supporting light rail transit there.

Low and behold in today's Chilliwack Times, reporter Mike Choulnard speaks about community rail and the old interurban. He asks the question as to whether the automobile has brought us progress or a curse.

"The B.C. Electric line, itself, has been credited with opening up the Fraser Valley, but obviously the internal combustion engine and cheap fuel opened the area up even more, something the intervening years have shown isn't exactly progress. I'll be surprised if anyone in the coming municipal elections can really do much to stop the continuing waltz of urban development and its dance partner, the automobile."
"With all the development that's taken place in the Fraser Valley in recent years, it's looking more and more like my childhood vision--dream? nightmare? both?--of one big metropolitan area has come true. With all the blacktop that's been spread though, perhaps the cartographers of the day will replace those old five o'clock shadows on their maps with full, black beards."
Langley & Surrey

While I was working on this post, the Surrey Leader published this Letter to the Editor from a Langley resident that wants to see SkyTrain connect Surrey with Langley. This is the second rebut to the original letter that said that light rail proponents should give their heads a shake because we will basically cause rail accidents. It is interesting to note that the Surrey Leader failed to publish my letter (of two weeks ago) that advocated for light rail transit. Perhaps their editors only favour SkyTrain solutions? This is also the second time they printed a picture of the SkyTrain with the letter. One track mind over at the Surrey Leader perhaps? Perhaps they should give an ear to the new CEO of TransLink who is pro light rail.

SmartGrowth BC and South Fraser OnTrax All Candidates Forum

The Langley Times printed a recap on our All Candidates Forum and provided some quotes from the 16 candidates. Natasha Jones rightly points out that our format was different from others, in that there was no opportunity for all candidates to voice and opening and closing remark. We would have liked to provide for this, but timing was very tight. It would have taken 64 minutes to provide each candidate with a 2 minute open and a 2 minute close. This would have cut into the public questions, which were very important to us. People decided to take 2 hours out of their evening to join us and we wanted to show our appreciation by providing them with an opportunity to air their questions. We would have also liked to offer every candidate the opportunity to answer every questions, but timing precluded that as well. Still, moderator Frank Bucholtz did a great job of keeping it fair and offering equal time.

It was our very first attempt at organizing such a forum and I'm certain we will learn going forward. We have received excellent public and candidate feedback on the event and we were pleased to provide this public service along with SmartGrowth BC.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Transit and the Economy

Like many of you, I am following what the media calls the “melt down” of the North American economy. Between the US sub-prime mortgage problem, loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs in Ontario, and media hype, consumer confidence had been shaken. People and businesses will be spending less money. Should the government be spending less money too? Should we be putting our infrastructure projects on hold? I don’t think we should.

While I don’t think we are heading into anything like the Great Depression from the first part of the 20th century, there are some comparisons to be made.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was responsible for the New Deal. The New Deal programs provided a large amount of infrastructure for the United States, much of which is still in use today. I’m sure most of your know about the New Deal as it was required Social Studies 11 reading, but Wikipedia has a great page about it. What does this have to do with BC and today?

Right now the cost of construction is crazy: material costs and labour costs have skyrocketed. On a project I managed last year, the costs almost doubled from the time we started planning to the day we got a permit and broke ground. As the market cools down and the demand for labour and materials decrees, it would make sense for our governments to take advantage of those saving while providing good-pay construction jobs. It’s a win-win.

People will be looking for ways to save money. It costs a lot of money to operate a vehicle, and if a viable alternative was available, people would give up a vehicle or reduce use of it to save money.

Our government should be speeding up construction of infrastructure that includes things like light rail and better public transportation. Let's get light rail before 2030.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

TOL All Candidate Forum Last Night

From all the feedback we have received from the candidates and general public, last night's All Candidates Forum for Langley Township mayor and council candidates was a big success. As many of you know, SmartGrowth BC partnered with us at South Fraser OnTrax to bring this all together. Editor Frank Bucholtz of the Langley Times did an excellent job of moderating this debate and keeping everyone on track (no pun intended).

Our primary concern was that of timing and fairness, as we needed to allow for 15 candidates to speak and for them to be able to provide an intelligent answer to the questions. We decided on only three (3) questions drafted by SmartGrowth BC and South Fraser OnTrax, with the remainder (7-10 questions) coming from the audience. Although our focus was smart growth development and transportation, questions from the general public ranged from crime and gangs to the potential of metering private wells.

We planned time 30 minutes before the debate for candidates to mix and mingle with the public over some fresh donated Starbucks coffee...thank you Starbucks! Our Township citizens got to meet the candidates face to face for a chat, drink good coffee, pick up some brochures, and get answers to their personal questions. There was information available from SmartGrowth BC. We at South Fraser OnTrax hosted a table display for people to get the facts on Light Rail Transit and it's cost effectiveness over SkyTrain.

We did have several Langley School Board candidates present and allowed them to also distribute their materials. Even a few candidates for Langley City Council could be seen here! Thanks to the generosity of SFOT Co-Founder Nathan Pachal, we were able to provide two door prizes to the public as well. A very nice historical atlas depicting Greater Vancouver's development, and a gift card for Wendell's Cafe in Fort Langley were given away last night.

My little camera was having a challenge dealing with the lighting in the theatre and it also had auto-focus challenges. I hope we were able to get at least one good shot of each candidate here and we wish all of the candidates well with their campaigns.

SPECIAL THANKS: Moderator Frank Bucholtz, Editor of The Langley Times, Michael Alexander and Alice Miro of SmartGrowth BC. Time Keeper Erik Wiens and Registration Staffer Bill Taylor of South Fraser OnTrax. Nathan Pachal, Co-Founder of South Fraser OnTrax for the generous financing of the event, lots of hard work, and the door prizes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Forum Tonight

The first All-Candidates debate of the season in the Township of Langley kicks off at 6:30pm tonight at the Township of Langley Municipal Hall. Bring yourself, your family, your friend, and even the people you don’t really like out to this event to learn about the candidates running in the local election. We have a great door prize too. You could win Historical Atlas of Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley and a gift card for Wendels’ Bookstore & Cafe in Historic Fort Langley. Check out the top right side of this blog for the details.

See you all tonight!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Drink Before and After taking Transit – Not During

As I ride the SkyTrain and bus system, I get to see people breaking the law pretty much everyday. One thing that particularly bugs me is drinking alcohol on the bus: construction workers cracking open a cold one, to college girls drinking coolers, and of course the usual suspects. I don’t know why people think it's OK to drink alcohol on transit, I mean technical you’re not even suppose to drink juice on transit. Drinking alcohol in public is illegal. I guess people drink on transit because they a.) don’t respect the transit system, and b.) don’t respect the people around them. (I was once by someone that was spilling beer all over the place.) So, how do we solve this problem?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think that enforcement might play a part. Maybe more Transit Police on the SkyTrain would send a signal that Translink is watching. While the bus operator’s job is to mind the road as a first priority, maybe there could be some way for them to call a Transit Officer when they see someone breaking the law. Finally, maybe an education campaign of some sort might help. Peer pressure might also do the trick. These are all suggestions and I don’t know how successful they would be, but I know one thing: something has to be done. What do you think?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cap and Trade On A Sunday Afternoon

Our Canadian Federal Election just ended and during the various campaign debates we heard much about climate change, greenhouse gases and some potential solutions. One of the solutions that received much attention was Cap and Trade.

While I understand the basics of Cap and Trade, but I wonder how many others out there understand the basics. During my Sunday afternoon research I found an excellent guide to Cap and Trade, or Cap and Trade 101 if you will. It was just published in September of this year by the Sightline Institute in Seattle.

Cap and Trade programs can all work differently and the Sightline Institute does a great job of explaining how they work and the basic mechanics of it all. To get on a real basic level here, here's how it works:

  1. The government sets a legal limit on all measurable greenhouse gas emissions they will allow.
  2. To aid this strategy, there are a number of other programs like investing in transit, higher efficiency standards for motor vehicles manufactured, and other "green" programs.
  3. Over time the legal limit is diminished and we move into a tighter cap.
  4. If a company needs to emit more than their permissible limit of greenhouse gases, they use the "trade" part of this solution that will "permit" them to do so. Their pollution will cost them. Read the guide to see more of how this works.
We should point out that not all Cap and Trade programs are created equal, and their are other methods. Perhaps in future blog posts we will explore the other solutions. OR, if you are a ready and have a passion for one of these other methods, perhaps you can submit a draft to us for possible publication. We are always open to "guest bloggers"!

Friday, October 17, 2008

All-Candidates Forum Outline

Good evening,

I thought I’d share the draft outline of our All-Candidates Forum that will be happening on Tuesday. As of today all but 4 candidates are confirmed (with the remainder to confirm this weekend), so it looks like it will be a full-house with lots of good dialogue.

Our Outline

6:30pm – 7:00pm
-Signup for door prize/Drop questions off for candidates
-Star***** Coffee/Meet and greet with candidate

7:00pm – 7:10pm
-Introduction of the events
-Introduction of candidates
-Ground rules of forum
-Time limits

7:10pm – 7:55pm
-Prepared questions by Smart Growth BC and South Fraser OnTrax
-During this time the you will have a chance to write questions, and submit them during the break

-Cut off time for questions to candidates to be submitted

7:55pm – 8:00pm

8:00pm - 8:58pm
-Questions from Audience
-Questions must be direct to no more than three candidates. Each candidate will have 1 minute to respond to the question. After that there will be 2 minutes for other candidates to discuss question

8:58pm – 9:00pm
-Door Prize Draw
-Exit Surveys

This outline may be subject to change. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Translink CEO likes Light Rail

A voice of reason coming from the new CEO of Translink Tom Prendergast. I’ll let you read the full article at the Black Press website, but I wanted to quote from the article:

“SkyTrain isn’t for every place and for every time,” Prendergast said in his first wide-ranging interview with Black Press.

“If there’s one thing I feel, I feel that it’s not clearly evident that an alternatives analysis is gone through when people decide what technology to use to deliver the service in a corridor.”

It’s not the most politically correct answer. The provincial and federal governments have lined up behind SkyTrain technology for both the Evergreen Line and an Expo Line extension through Surrey to Langley. So far rejected is light rail, which costs less than a tenth as much as SkyTrain, or put another way, 10 to 15 kilometres of light rail can be built for the same budget as a single kilometre of SkyTrain.

“Your capital costs are generally far lower than a SkyTrain,” Prendergast said, adding the line can usually be built far faster as well. He predicts that as rapid transit lines drill deeper into suburban (he’s reluctant to use that term, preferring “different density”) neighbourhoods, elevated SkyTrain will run into more resistance than in urban core areas where towers and other overhead structures are expected.

“If you’ve got wide street right-of-ways in Surrey and Langley, you can take some two or three lanes, put in a dedicated guideway in the centre or off to one side that would be light rail, and it will work very effectively.”

He points to light rail systems going into Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City, but adds each corridor here needs to be assessed individually.

So it looks like this new boss at Translink is a fan of light rail. This is potentially great news for people in the South Fraser region. If the new CEO of Translink is talking with our Ministry of Transportation, could this be a shift away from the multi-billion dollar 6km Surrey SkyTrain expansion? Will we see light rail before 2030? Let’s hope so. Let's also hope that he knows about the Interurban!

Please read the whole article on the BC Local News website.

Seattle Transit Now

Good evening, it has been a busy day for me as we prepare for our All-Candidates Forum coming up next Tuesday. But to keep you ever informed and entertained I present today’s mini-post.

As you may be aware, Seattle is building a light rail system. Sound Transit wants to build more light rail and improve their regional bus service. Last year the citizens of Seattle voted no to a road/transit package. In the next month, they will have the chance to vote on a transit only package. You can find more information at a site called “Mass Transit Now!” I’ve posted one of their ads below.

Wouldn’t it be neat if we could vote for our transportation system directly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Smart Growth Voting Guide

Well the federal election is over and we appear to be in the same place as we were before the election. Oh well, at least I got to practice by “X” writing skills for the local municipal elections that take place on November 15th.

As you know, Smart Growth BC and South Fraser OnTrax are partnering for an All-Candidates Forum on October 21st. You can find more information on the right side of this blog. I hope you can make it out.

In the meantime, Smart Growth BC has published a pocket guide for our local government election. You can download the document from their website. The guide covers 12 topics: mix land uses, build well designed compact neighbourhood, provide a variety of transportation choices, create diverse housing opportunities, encourage growth in existing communities, preserve open spaces, natural beauty, and environmentally sensitive areas, protect and enhance agricultural lands, utilize smarter and cheaper infrastructure, and green buildings, foster a unique neighbourhood identity, and nurture engaged citizens. This document also suggests questions to ask your candidates. As an example, the transportation choices questions are:
How will you ensure that land use decisions put homes, workplaces and shops closer together so that people can choose to walk, cycle and use public transit instead of driving for everyday needs?

What specific transportation and land use policies will you advocate for?

What opportunities exist for upgrading and increasing bike lanes and pedestrian access to various parts of the community?
You’ll be able to ask these questions and more at our All-Candidates Forum, but download the guide today!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Look and Feel of a Revived Interurban

I was very surprised to see a Letter to the Editor of The Chilliwack Times today from long-time light rail proponent Malcolm Johnston. For some time now, all of the light rail advocacy groups in the south Fraser have stated very clearly that we need "community rail" from Surrey and eventually out to Chilliwack. , The TransLink trip diaries and other data tell us that approximately 87% - 95% of our trips from the south Fraser region stay within the south Fraser region. Community Rail would use Light Rail Transit (LRT) technology and allow for example, folks in Chilliwack to travel to Abbotsford, Langley or Surrey, or people in Langley to travel to Abbotsford, etc. The system would allow that 5% traveling to Vancouver to connect with the existing SkyTrain at Scott Road in Surrey.

Malcolm Johnston rightly points out that a revived interurban would not be a West Coast Express (WCE) system or "commuter rail" that would be a limited one-way service. The interurban right-of-way in the south Fraser is intact and preserved. Extending the interurban line directly to Vancouver would complicate a revival of the old line and duplicate SkyTrain service, which we are certain would be a major deal killer for the Province of BC and Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon. We have trip data that document clearly the south Fraser travel patterns and presents a clear business case for the interurban revival.

Speculation on potential tourism to the Valley an related discussions can take place after the south Fraser portion of the Interurban is revived with LRT technology. For the 5% of commuters that must get to Vancouver, an Interurban connection at Scott Road will serve them well and leverage existing systems.

While South Fraser OnTrax has always supported the work of Malcolm Johnston and his Light Rail Committee, we must advocate for the needs of the South Fraser first that we travel within every day. Sorry Malcolm, but we want to see a restored Interurban in the South Fraser first before building a duplicate system that will only serve 5% of our South Fraser population going into Vancouver. The Fraser River Bridge would have to be replaced before we can get reliable passenger rail service into Vancouver. But for now, leveraging existing transit with complimentary light rail on the old Interurban line has always been something that all of the South Fraser groups have agreed with.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

US Presidential Candidates and Rail

As many may know, Senator and Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden is a strong advocate of passenger rail. Senator Biden is a frequent AMTRAK passenger and in the 1970's was photographed riding buses. Biden has rallied for serious funding of passenger rail in the USA and perhaps this could spill across the border to us? AMTRAK and the Washington Department of Transportation studied the high speed rail concept from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA. It concluded that the major impediment to such passenger rail service is the 100+ year old New West rail bridge that is owned by the Canadian Federal government and has been given lip service for replacement.

To get you smiling on this sleepy Sunday morning, I thought I'd share this photo sent to me by a friend. It pictures the Democratic and Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates and their rail preferences. Enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Last Nights Meeting

Well last night was a pretty great meeting. We heard Mayor Peter Fassbender from the City of Langley talk about the Downtown Langley Master Plan and the role of Langley in the region. I could go on longer, but I’ll just let you download the meeting audio and view the presentation for yourself. Also, I’ve tried something new and posted our meeting audio on the Internet Archive’s free media hosting site. As a note, the Internet Archive has something called the Wayback Machine which lets you view webpages as they were in the past. It’s really interesting to see the future Coquitlam light rail line being talked about in 2000 on Translink’s website.

Langley Downtown Master Plan
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Meeting Tonight with Mayor Peter Fassbender, City of Langley

“Langley Within The Region”
Presented By Mayor Peter Fassbender, City of Langley

7:00pm – 9:00pm
Township of Langley Municipal Facility
4th Floor, Nicomekl River Meeting Room
20338 - 65 Avenue, Langley

Download a Copy of the Agenda


6:45pm - 7:00pm: Self-Registration/Greeting
7:00pm - 7:10pm: Group introductions (all)
- Name, Place of Residence, Occupation

7:10pm - 7:25pm: Reports
- Financial Report (JZ)
- Help Needed for October 21, 2008 All Candidates Township Debate (NP)
- Advertising Budget/Fundraising Ideas (JZ)

7:25pm - 7:30pm: Introduction of Mayor Fassbender, City of Langley (JZ)
7:30pm - 8:30pm: “Langley Within The Region” (Mayor Peter Fassbender)
8:30pm – 8:45pm: Q & A / Feedback (participants)
8:45pm – 8:50pm: Closing Items
-Blog & Website (NP)
-Help Needed (NP)
-New Business (JZ)
-November 13, 2008 meeting with a Mystery Guest Speaker (NP)

Meeting Adjourned

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NDP Candidate Andrew Claxton QA

So this is the last part in a five part series. We’re heard from federal candidates the CHP’s Ron Gray, Green’s Patrick Meyer, and Liberal’s Jake Gray. We won’t be hearing from MP and Conservative candidate Mark Warawa.

Today we present the response from NDP candidate Andrew Claxton. Now you have all you need to vote for light rail in Langley and the South Fraser. Thanks to all the candidate who took the time out of their busy schedules to answer these questions.

1. What will your party do to improve public transportation in the South of Fraser Region?
Jack Layton and the New Democrats will dedicate one percent of the gas tax to fund public transit infrastructure and upgrades. This would be around $400 million every year. Now the South of the Fraser region is a large and growing area so a good portion of that money would probably come here. That being said, the province controls how the money is allocated. As an MP for Langley I would work closely with all levels of government to ensure that that money would benefit the people of Langley and of the entire South of the Fraser region. Part of the New Democrats' strategy for improving public transit also involves making sure that it is accessible by the people who are supposed to be using it. That means a smarter development strategy. That means housing. The New Democrats support increased funding to develop higher density hosing across Canada. As with the gas tax shift, some of those new higher density homes would come to Langley.

2. Does your party support the restoration of the Interurban Rail Line?
When thinking about public transit that works, especially in an area as large as the Fraser Valley, one must think of something other than buses. That means rail. The most expensive part of any commuter rail project is the investment to build the rail line initially. With the BC Electric rail, we already have that. I think that a government that is both serious about public transit and serious about fiscal responsibility would have to look at the right of way in a very serious way. I would like to see a study on the feasibility of using the existing rail line for an inter-urban rail like we had over fifty years ago. I think it should be the first place a government should look when making decisions about public transit expansion in the Fraser Valley. Of course, as above we would have to work with the provincial government and other stake holders to make sure that we had a plan that would work.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

UPDATE: Rather be Taking Rail - Video

The following video submission was sent to us from Township of Langley Councillor Jordan Bateman and Councillor Charlie Fox in support of the “I’d Rather be Taking Rail” campaign. Remember this is open to anyone. If you want submit a video, and you don’t have a Flickr Pro account send a link to your submission to


CHP Ron Gray QA

This is part four of a series asking two simple questions to Langley federal candidates. You can read part one, part two, and part three in previous posts. Here is the response from Christian Heritage Party candidate Ron Gray.

1. What will your party do to improve public transportation in the South of Fraser Region?
The CHP's 'Infrastructure Program' would make interest-free loans
from the Bank of Canada available to local and regional public
authorities for needed infrastructure. The regional districts and
municipalities South of the Fraser River know better what is needed
than Ottawa does. But the funding can be made available from Ottawa.
However, the funding MUST NOT be borrowed from the chartered banks,
because then the funds are created as interest-bearing debt; and
compounding interest on such borrowed money accounts for more than
half of the current half-trillion-dollar national debt.

2. Does your party support the restoration of the Interurban Rail Line?
Yes, emphatically.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Green Candidate Patrick Meyer QA

This is part three of a series asking two simple questions to Langley federal candidates. You can read part one and part two in previous posts. Here is the response from Green Party of Canada candidate Patrick Meyer.

1. What will your party do to improve public transportation in the South of Fraser Region?
Earlier this month the local papers asked the candidates what they thought were the three biggest current issues. My response included the following:

Top local issue 1 - Traffic congestion
Most Canadian cities are build in a way that demands long commutes and much congestion on the roads. Though traditionally Langley had been self sufficient, the new development style is leading to traffic congestion. Commutes to other cities for work, shopping and recreation are becoming unbearable.The Green Party would provide funding to reshape our cities to promote sustainable development leading to reduce car dependence and less driving needed. Funding would also be made available for light rail transit and a dependable and convenient bus system to all major centres throughout the Fraser Valley.

Top Issue 2 - Sustainable Infrastructure and Development
There hasn't been appropriate investment into infrastructure or planning of development in Langley. Langley's character is being stripped away by rapid unrestricted development at the cost of our rural character and natural beauty. Nothing has been done to make up for the expansion of train service to and from the expanded Delta Port. We need significant and immediate investment into changing the route of commercial rail traffic, public transportation, wastewater treatment, parks, roads and water supply. The Green Party would provide zero-interest loans to municipalities for low-carbon emission and community promoting infrastructure.

2. Does your party support the restoration of the Interurban Rail Line?
Yes, we are in favour of interurban rail. Whether this takes the form of restoration of the old line or the creation of a new one would depend on their viability. But it is clear that investment into rail transit is necessary and desirable from a economic, social, and environmental sustainability perspective.There is a limitation on what the federal government can do with regards to public transportation as it is a municipal, regional, or, in our case, a provincial issue. The Green federal government would, on the other hand, create a financial climate in which social and environmentally sustainable initiatives become more economically sound as well. The first thing which should be done is eliminate perverse subsidies to oil, coal, and gas. The next step is to choose what should receive federal funding. This should be based on the degree to which the infrastructure contributes to our country's sustainability. I wouldn't, for example, grant money to an overpass on 204th, which is Mark Warawa's pride and joy. This is very expensive short term thinking. We need to move the freight rail traffic out of town. Especially when we know that the volume of traffic will be increasing. Spending money on transit is a good investment. Translink has done only a partial job on setting up a bus system south of the Fraser. By providing sub-par service they have ensured that the transit system is not convenient to use and, therefor, not used by vary many people. We need a full bus system which runs more often and with more direct routes. A Green government would make funding contingent on providing a full transit service. But what we really need to see happen in Langley (and other communities throughout Canada) is a more conscious planning of our communities. Planning that would allow people to live and work in the same area, would allow people to walk and bike to work, shopping, and recreation. Planning that is people-centric, not car-centric. We need smart sustainable communities.

16th Avenue In The News Again

16th Avenue is in the news again. If you haven't realized it, this road is becoming increasing more important to Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford. Its an ever-increasing gateway from Whiterock straight out to Abbotsford Airport.

At tonight's Regular Township Council Meeting, Councillor Charlie Fox will present a Notice of Motion requesting that the Township write to the Ministry of Transportation (MoT) and the City of Surrey to request that they support a northbound onramp from 16th Avenue onto Highway 99 that will take 2 miles off individual commutes and improve access. Of course this plan would also reduce hydrocarbon emissions. Here is the full text of this Notice of Motion:

Installation of Northbound Onramp from 16 Avenue onto Highway 99

Whereas 16 Avenue is a major east-west commuter route; and Whereas the present access to Highway 99 forces traffic to make a two mile drive to access the onramp at 8 Avenue; Be it resolved that a letter be written to the Ministry of Transportation and the City of Surrey requesting their support to install a northbound onramp from 16 Avenue onto Highway 99. This will take two miles off of individual commutes, improve access to Highway 99 from 16 Avenue and reduce the onramp traffic at 8 Avenue and reduce the hydrocarbons emitted from the commuting vehicles accordingly.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Liberal Candidate Jake Gray QA

This is part two in a series asking two simple questions to Langley federal candidates. Here is the response from Liberal candidate Jake Gray.

1. What will your party do to improve public transportation in the South of Fraser Region?
The liberal party has committed 70 billion over ten years for infrastructure reinvestment. It would be up to individual MPs to fight for this funding. As you are aware our current MP fails miserably at this task. As your MP I can assure you I will deliver.

2. Does your party support the restoration of the Interurban Rail Line?
The Interurban is not specifically mentioned in our platform, nor is it mentioned in any party's platform, so I can't say that my party supports the restoration of the Interurban. I can say the liberal party supports development of public transportation. I can say that I support the restoration of the Interurban. For that matter I can also say that I support… an integrated lower mainland transportation system incorporating rail, road and water.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Federal Candidates Question and Answer

We at South Fraser OnTrax sent requests to all the Langley federal candidates asking them two simple questions: What will your party do to improve public transportation in the South of Fraser Region? Will your government support the restoration of the Interurban Rail Line? As you are well aware the federal government does not have jurisdiction on public transit in Canada, but it does have the ability to contribute money and deal with related federal infrastructure. We will be posting the responses in the order in which we received them.

Today we wanted to inform you that we won’t be receiving a response from the Conservative Party candidate and Langley MP, Mark Warawa. He told us that they have a policy of not responding to questions unless it is major media outlet or local media like the Langley Times or Langley Advance. He also added that he does not read blogs and apparently does not view them as legitimate media or a place for constituents to find helpful information.

Our first response will be from Liberal Candidate Jake Gray.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gateway in the News

There happened to be a copy of the Vancouver Courier in the lobby of my work today. Headline: Roads to nowhere - Opposition to the provincial government's Gateway Project is heating up. But it may be too late.

"The real irony is that right next door Vancouver is being held up as a model of high density for the world to follow," says Perl. "The Fraser Valley really needs to replicate that model. Building Gateway will lock in sprawl for at least another 20 years. These new roads will be obsolete by the time they are built. It's very expensive and totally wasteful to spend so much money on such a quick fix. What we need is more rapid transit that attracts high-density development."

Electric buses and trolleys provide the most potential to move people around, says Perl, in particular the old Interurban tracks of the B.C. Electric Railway that ran from Chilliwack to Vancouver. It's a huge hidden asset, says Perl, and will provide zero emissions at the same time as attracting new development along the line. When the old Interurban shut down in the 1958 due to a lack of passengers (many people had switched their commute to cars), the 40-year-old system still carried nearly 70,000 people.
This is a feature length report; check out the Courier’s website for the full story.

Streetcars Returning to Vancouver

South Fraser OnTrax member and Langley realtor Herb Klein reminded me this morning about my constant statements to members that anything (The Interurban, streetcars along 200th St., etc.) are all possible with political will and leadership behind it. Well, the political will is there in Vancouver and the city will see a streetcar demonstration project for 2010, as reported in today's Vancouver Sun and elsewhere.

Now its a great thing that we will see streecars in the area and people will be able to ride this line to Stanley Park and False Creek/Granville Island during the Olympic and Paralympic games. But I guess that communties south of the Fraser are not worthy of such an Olympic legacy? We have a Golden Ears bridge almost completed here in Langley. We have a growing 200th Street with shopping and other amenities surrounding the urban Township, not to mention the gems along Fraser Hwy. and 56th Avenue in Langley City.

I find it very comical that this streetcar system will be a "demonstration" and the CEO of BC Rapid Transit Co., Ltd. considers this part of a "wonderful catalyst" for transportation innovation. Folks , streetcars have been used successfully the world over and there is nothing more to demonstrate than that they work and people will get out of thier cars and ride them! As for innovation, the only thing innovative about LRT and streetcars are that if TransLink stops to think about the cost of SkyTrain expassion, we might see more of these "demonstrations" around our region.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to see the streetcars making a much-needed comeback, but the political BS to hype it is pathetic. Vancouver is not the centre of the universe and the south Fraser will soon be home to more people than that of the City of Vancouver. Let's get moving with the creation of our light rail and streetcar legacy out here!