Friday, November 28, 2008

New Chilliwack Mayor Cautiously Supportive of LRT

The Chilliwack Times reported today that mayor-elect Sharon Gaetz is being cautiously practical in her support for light rail transit in Chilliwack. As many are aware, former Mayor Clint Hames questioned the immediate need for LRT in Chilliwack and felt that because of density and other issues he could not support it at this time.

"Am I in favour? Well, ya, but we need to outline some of the difficulties because each crossing grade costs the city $500,000," she told the Times Thursday.

Another concern she has is that trains would only be able to travel at 50 kilometres per hour over some stretches making a trip to Vancouver about three hours, something RFV says is untrue if rail upgrades are completed.

That and the fact that parking and transfer stations would have to be built and at least some would be on farmland."

-- Mayor-Elect Sharon Gaetz

But people in the Fraser Valley are very supportive of light rail. The BC government through the Ministry of Transportation has agreed to study it. Even today's Langley Advance published a letter from TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie which rebuts a previous letter from Malcolm Johnston. Hardie ends his letter by saying,
"...SkyTrain, while proven to be an extremely efficient way to move large numbers of people, is not in any way, shape, or form assumed to be the only choice. Indeed, we join with many, including Mr. Johnson, in believing that LRT's time has come."
For the record we here at South Fraser OnTrax would like to say:
  1. We are supportive of a study that is professionally managed by a firm with good credentials, and which is fair and reasonable. We trust that older data will be reviewed, but will not form the entire basis for the results.
  2. A professional study is what any prudent business or government manager would do. You do not embark on projects in the millions of dollars without a proper study and accounting for an order of magnitude budget for your project. To do any less is failing to exercise fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the taxpayer, and would amount to political suicide.
  3. Rail advocates MUST realize that any system be designed with passenger safety as a hallmark. Safety systems cost money and are not thrown together overnight.
  4. Proponents must be open to alignments that make technical and practical sense. The communities along the routing must examine their current and future density and advocate for an alignment that meets these needs.
  5. Finally, we must remain open-minded and supportive of refined recommendations from the experts. We must put aside suggestions of conspiracy theories and act on the facts.
We congratulate Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz for her rational and prudent leadership. It is very apparent to us that Mayor Gaetz is embarking on her new role in a very professional and purposeful manner.

The Economy and Carbon Tax

Well it looks like the economy is on peoples minds in BC, according to a poll released by Mustel Group Market Research. What is interesting to note is the other top issue (thought it’s like comparing iPods to Zunes) is the environment.

I was listening to a speaker on Monday night talk about how, in the hard times, societies can change for the better. Take the Great Depression in Canada. We got the Bank of Canada in 1934 to control the money supply, federal government funding for public infrastructure, and the introduction of unemployment insurance and other forms of social security. Now, I’m not saying that depressions are good, but because they take us out of our comfort zones, we are more apt to trying new ideas.

If you know me, you know that I have some issues with the current government at the federal and provincial levels. I will stay this very strongly: the Provincial government should be praised for introducing a carbon tax while at the same time lowering our income tax. I don’t know why the “lowering income tax” message is not getting across. Incoming tax is not a good idea; it’s confusing, costly to manage, and unfair. By shifting to a consumption tax we can ensure that everyone pays their fair share taxes (no matter how much income they are hiding), encourage savings and investment (a consumption tax would not be levied on savings, investments or capital gains), and use the tax in the same way as our PST (Social Service Tax) for the good of the province. That is why I support Carbon Tax. In fact if we move to a complete consumption tax system, I’m sure it would energize the economy, lift stagnant wages, give people more money in their pockets, and create jobs in this hard time: all this while doing well by the environment and providing revenue for things like light rail. In this new era, our governments have the chance to try out new ideas. Let’s give consumption tax and carbon tax a try.

Shame on ANY political party that tried to oppose a carbon tax or any other consumption tax that reduces our income tax. It’s time for consumption tax; we must keep the carbon tax.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Intersections Can Be A Killer

Now that we have your attention, it is not really true that intersections can be killers. Leanne gives us the real truth here...
"Generally, intersections on the top crash location list tend to have very high traffic volumes. When you combine that with high-risk driving behaviours the crash incident numbers are high. The important thing to remember though is that crashes can happen at any intersection, not just these locations."

-- Leanne Cassap, ICBC
I spent much of today keeping track of world events in Bangkok, Thailand and Mumbai, India (formerly Bombay). Constant checking of current crisis conditions and investigating the possibility and route options to facilitate the evacuation of a an important C-Level executive from one of these global hot spots. I lived in Asia for over 10 years and know the "roads least traveled." At least it was 2:00 am for her and not for me this time around. I don't know how many hours of sleepless night's I've had over the years, but it must number in the hundreds. It all started for me at 08:00 hours this morning when I got a call from California's Silicon Valley. The voice was stern but worried. I know immediately by the tone what I should expect before any details were spoken. My kidnapping and ransom training kicks in and I speak like a calm negotiator to ease the nerves on the other side of the line. Such is the life of a global security consultant. Now I can blog.

I've been wanting to introduce our latest Public Service Announcement (PSA) from ICBC related to intersections. ICBC's Leanne Cassap served together with me on the TOL Community Safety Commission and we stay in touch. She works day and night on the various projects and I like us to help her out when we can. South Fraser OnTrax loves light rail transit, but we also realize that passenger vehicles will not totally go away and this is a transportation and smart growth blog.

ICBC has produced this great web page that gives us the latest details on intersections and where the problem areas are. They tell us that more than 40% of all motor vehicle crashes in BC happen at intersections and that since 2003, more than 1 million drivers have been impacted. Here are the bad intersections for Langley. Thankfully we didn't make the Top Crash Locations in BC List for 2007 though.

So, what can you do? Well, ICBC has identified these high-risk driving signals that can give you a clue that you need to be more careful!
  1. Passing on the right hand side, unsafe lane change, unsafe speed.
  2. Left hand turn, failure to yield to pedestrian at crosswalk
  3. Illegal u-turn at signalized intersection.
  4. Late left turn on red signal, following too close.
  5. Following too close during left hand turn.
  6. Unsafe right hand turn from through lane.
  7. Unsafe lane changes, tailgating.
  8. Motorcycle, riding on shoulder.
You can also watch a video they have produced. Its only 2 min. and 48 sec. You can also be aware of these...

5 most common driver actions involved in intersection crashes
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Disobeying a traffic control device
  • Following too closely
  • Speeding
  • Driver error

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

East Clayton

The busiest bus stop (save for the terminus stops) on the 502 bus route that runs from Langley to Surrey Central on Fraser Highway is by the strip mall in East Clayton. There is a good reason why this stop is the busiest on the route, the neighbourhood was designed with Smart Growth principles. Smart Growth BC has a webpage that details the principles that went into the design of this new neighbourhood:

-Conserve land and energy by designing compact walkable neighborhoods.
-Provide different dwelling types (a mix of housing types, including a broad range of densities from single-family homes to apartment buildings) in the same neighborhood and even on the same street.
-Communities are designed for people; therefore, all dwellings should present a friendly face to the street in order to promote social interaction.
-Ensure that car storage and services are handled at the rear of the dwellings.
-Provide an interconnected street network, in a grid or modified grid pattern, to ensure a variety of itineraries and to disperse traffic congestion, and provide public transit to connect East Clayton with the surrounding region.
-Provide narrow streets shaded by rows of trees in order to save costs and to provide a greener, friendlier environment.
-Preserve the natural environment and promote natural drainage systems (in which storm water is held on the surface and permitted to seep naturally into the ground).

For the most part this plan has been followed. If you look around the strip mall, you’ll see the mix of housing option, and higher densities as you move closer to the mall. The original plan was to have mixed-used on 188th Street. Also, between 188th Street and 192nd Street along the Fraser Highway was planned as a business park to provide local employment options.

It remains to be seen what the commercial/mixed-use component, which is key, of East Clayton will look like, but the housing plan seems to be on track.

When you build smart neighbourhoods, you can provide alternative forms of transportation that people will actually use.

Find out more on East Clayton at the City of Surrey’s website.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Are Bad Times Good Times For Light Rail?

We've all see the articles and news stories that suggest the US federal government under President Obama will spend billions of dollars on infrastructure projects, much like that which was done under FDR. Our own federal government is talking the same talk and we can only HOPE that this spending will include massive amounts of transit, to include light rail!

A Globe and Mail editorial yesterday spoke of economic stimulus and government infrastructure spending. It was interesting that they noted interurban passenger trains and the expansion of the port of Prince Rupert. I know that both of these will make Nathan very happy and he has scratched his head over the lack of port expansion in Prince Rupert. While the Vancouver and DeltaPort operations provide considerable jobs for metro Vancouver residents, there's nothing wrong with some expansion and jobs in Prince Rupert to help reduce increased heavy rail traffic in Langley.
"Some of these undertakings could greatly facilitate trade. Commerce with Asia would be promoted by multiplying the container capacity of the port of Prince Rupert, B.C., with matching roads and railway tracks. Similarly, this would be a fine time to relieve the transportation congestion in the Lower Mainland of B.C."
We like it and it may be the only way we see something sooner rather than later here! BC Finance Minister Colin Hansen says that although BC will remain in the black, we will see an $800M decline in revenue and he warns that although budget items will be covered, no one should expect an expansion of programs or any new additions. He said that over the next 3 years we could see as much as a $3 billion dollar fall (yes, that was billion). This is all due to a number of factors colliding. They range from declining real estate sales that reduce the amount of Property Transfer Tax revenue that is collected by the province, to loses in businesses that result in less corporate income taxes owed.

Federal infrastructure spending in Canada has been pitiful for many years now and this is a perfect time for them to step up to the plate and create many jobs in the process. I'd love to see Langley become a major LRT train design and manufacturing hub as suggested by our Australia-based LRT expert Brent Graham.

Now that Councillor Jordan Bateman (our very vocal LRT supporter) has been re-elected along with Councillors Charlie Fox and Grant Ward, maybe we will see some action. Mayor-Elect Rick Green has promised to be a big advocate for light rail, as well as new Councillor-Elect Bev Dornan who supported LRT in during her campaign. I'd like to see this happen sooner rather than later, especially with the current economic times and the huge federal spending potential. MP Mark Warawa retained his position as the federal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment this year. I see a very nice environmentally-friendly infrastructure project that would generate MANY jobs right here at home. Maybe we here at SFOT will initiate a winter petition project to gather names for presentation to our MP. It will be very interesting to see how many names of citizens of the Langleys we can collect. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Province Transit Ad

So, I guess people in the provincial government have been reading and watching the same media stories about the public outcry for light rail and better transit service in the South Fraser and Valley. The first bullet point in the ad is the Surrey SkyTrain extension through Guildford to Fleetwood. As you know SkyTrain is an order of magnitude more expensive than light rail, and it is a technology is not popular with local people and government in the South Fraser due to its cost and inflexibility. Anyways, I have attached the ad for your viewing pleasure.

We can Fix Gridlock

The following post is from South Fraser OnTrax board member Bill Taylor on an article he read in Readers Digest.
December 2007, when GO Transit, the Greater Toronto Area's (GTA) regional commuter agency, extended its rail service up to Barrie of 132,000 by Lake Simcoe. "Every Day," he says, "I hear three or four people tell someone it's their first time.”

Inside, Roslyn Tyrell is still bundled in her wool coat as she waits for the train so she can commence her 90 minute journey. She works as an office manager in a tower just steps away from Union Station in downtown Toronto. She's been commuting from Barrie for eight years, either by bus or by car. The trek down Highway 400 can take up to three hours if the weather's bad-and that's just one way. “The train,” she says, "is a lot more convenient. It's still a three-hour commute both ways. But on a day like today, I'm saving a couple of hours."

Tyrell isn't just saving time. By avoiding crowded highways, she and her fellow passengers are helping to reduce gridlock, which exacts a toll on the wealth, environment and quality of life in Canada's urban areas. These problems are not unique to Toronto. In Vancouver, the bridges spanning Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River are congested, while Montreal's aging highways are chronically clogged, especially with thousands of commuters streaming in from the West Island and the off-island suburbs that circle the city. Ottawa's Highway 417 is jammed with civil servants driving in from the capital's far-flung suburbs. Booming, Edmonton and Calgary, meanwhile, are Canada's lowest -density big cities, which means car dependency is especially high.

"It's a misconception that gridlock is going to go away," observes Michael Roschlau, president and C. E. O. of the Canadian Urban Transit Association. The question is, how do you give people choices or options that simplify their daily routines.
As someone indicated in one of the Township meetings in Langley, there has been a lot of money spent in the South Fraser on new roads and the upkeep of the old roads. There is another piece of the puzzle that is missing. We need light rail. The province through BC Hydro, as I understand, still has passenger rights in the Interurban corridor. Having an under-utilized rail right-of-way through the heart of urban center (Surrey) is envied by most places in the world. By using the right-of-way we would be able to give people the choice to get out of the gridlock on our roads.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Metro Card

A friend of mine just got back from New York. Does this look familiar? Apparently New York transit uses the same system as Translink.

Sewer Lines

As you might already know, I sit on the Park, Environment, Culture, and Recreation committee at the City of Langley. Anyway last night at the meeting, Metro Vancouver was telling us that they are upgrading the main sewer trunk (west/east) through the City. What does this have to do with Smart Growth? Well, part of the Downtown Langley plan is to increase density in the core. This will require an upgrade to all sorts of infrastructure from electrical to sewer. This Metro Vancouver upgrade will allow for higher densities in the core. The sewer trunk also has an important benefit for the Township of Langley and the City of Abbotsford.

Aldergrove’s sewer is currently routed into the Abbotsford system. Due to all the growth in Abbotsford, the City requested that the Township get off their system to free up capacity. The upgrade of the sewer trunk will allow for Aldergrove’s sewer to be routed to the Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. (Of course the Township also has some work to do on their end; I believe it is one of their major projects.)

Also, Metro Vancouver will be contributing labour and/or funds to do some park improvements at the Nicomekl Park as the sewer line will be going along the edge of the flood plan.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

McKee Peak

Abbotsford has been implementing some very progressive policies when it comes to Smart Growth and urban planning. As their Official Community Plan says they want to be “a liveable, sustainable and prosperous ‘City in the Country’”. The core of the community bound by South Fraser Way, Clearbrook Road, Maclure Road, and Old Downtown Abbotsford is slated for a mixed-used city centre. Also, light rail may be making its way there in the hopefully, near future. This is all very exciting stuff, but there is one large part of Abbotsford that is developing in a business-as-usually way.

I work in television, and one of my jobs is to maintain a transmitter on McKee Peak on Sumas Mountain. Back in 2003 it was a mountain with trees, today it is a mountain full of houses. While I don’t want to question the placement of housing on a mountain that people use as a de facto park, there are some serious issues. First, there are townhouses and row houses in an area where there is minimal bus service and no walkable amenities. The nearest grocery store is on Old Clayburn Road. Second, with no walkable amenities, jobs, or mixed-used, people are forced to drive. I can see this part of town getting very busy.

Anyway as I see the east side of Abbotsford develop, I can only hope that there will be an opportunities to provide a mixed-used community core on McKee Peak. This would give people access to a walkable area, plus the mixed-used density would allow for better transit access.

I will give Abbotsford credit for installing bike lanes on Old Clayburn Road.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why the Interuban will not work today

An opinion article named “Why the Interuban won’t work today” appears in the Aldergrove Star today. In it the author says:

I'd like to see the Interurban service revived as I live only a block away from the tracks and the former "Jackman" station, about 1.5 kms north of Hwy. 1 on 264 Street. However, I'd be hard-pressed to make a solid business case for it, as there are only about a dozen families who reside within walking distance of the station. It's the same situation all the way out to Chilliwack, as urban growth has not settled alongside the rail line.

Southern Railway purchased the section of B.C. Electric rail line between Langley and Huntingdon from the province about 20 years ago, and uses it for shuttling one or two trains a day, so there would be no technical problem in accommodating revival of a transit service. The problem lies in the fact that there is no population density to justify it, nor are there any available non-ALR properties for park and rides, let alone connecting buses to travel to the urban areas from the old Interurban stations.

For that matter, this section of the Interurban is so far out in the "boonies" that none of the level crossings are controlled with lights or gates — some don't even have a street light for illumination.

There is a much better business case for running a tram along the BCR line from the Surrey SkyTrain station out to Langley City. The section of the BCR line along Glover Road was sold to the CPR many years ago and is heavily used for coal trains, but Langley Township councillor Jordan Bateman has led a worthy campaign to build a connecting tram line from Langley City along 200 Street to Hwy. 1. Willowbrook-Willoughby-Walnut Grove is a major urban corridor that would support such a transit system.

Now there is one fact that I wanted to correct from the article. BC Hydro still owns the right-of-way on the Interurban corridor. Southern and CPR own a freight license, track, and equipment. This is important to remember.

Anyway, I agree with the author that there is a “much better business case for running a tram along the BCR line from” Scott Road to Langley City. In fact, I believe that when Kevin Falcon's study comes out it will say that the Interurban line makes the most sense alone that alignment. I believe that Surrey to Langley will be best served by that route. As far as the Township of Langley goes, I believe that a tram/light rail along 200th Street makes the most sense for connecting the growing population of Langley Township with itself and the region via a connection in/near Langley City. The City of Abbotsford has come out with their preferred concept for light rail. This covers the urban areas of the South Fraser. Between Abbotsford, Trinity Western, and 200th is a lot of ALR land. Does it make sense to run between 200th and Abbotsford via the Interurban or Highway 1? At the end of the day, cost and speed will be the deciding factor.

I could get all worked up about this article, but the facts are these: Surrey wants light rail, Langley wants light rail, and Abbotsford wants light rail. At the end of the day, if all these communities (and the province) agree on how to make the system cover the most area for the least amount of money, and they system gets built in the next 10 years, I’ll be a happy camper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Main Street, Canada

I was listening to the Vinyl Cafe last night and I was pleasantly surprising to hear the host Stuart McLean talking about the importance of Main Street. He praised the people of Picton, Ontario for having a Main Street in an era when “many Main Streets are boarded up.” Here spoke about how, unlike strip malls and power centers, Main Street provides a sense of community and place. At times I though I was listening to a lecture on urban planning. He went on to explain that in the Netherlands, some communities require big box retailers to setup outlets on Main Street. Well talking, he told the people in Picton that he was glad they resisted Wal-Mart. The audience erupted into clapping and cheering. He went on to say that having people living on top of stores was important, and how in Picton they are seeing a resurgence of development on Main Street.

View of Main Street in Picton, Ontario. From:

Basically Stuart McLean was speaking about Smart Growth, mixed-use development: stuff that SFOT has been advocating for. I hope that you have time to download and listen to the first 15 minutes of the show. I leave you with this paraphrase from the show: Sure Picton has its problem, like all communities. But a community with a working Main Street is 1000 times better off then one that’s lost it.

Download the MP3 Podcast

LRT ALL Over the News

Over the busy civic election days there were several noteworthy news articles that came out in print that are very encouraging and sends the message that Light Rail Transit will not go away! Here are a few:
The Surrey Leader reported last week that BC Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon says that SkyTrain is no "slam dunk" in expanding rapid transit from Surrey to Langley. The article mentions that TransLink has yet to put the study tender out and talk has been that the results of the study will not be out until after the Provincial election. I'm at least happy to see that talk of rapid bus service is deminishing and SkyTrain vs. LRT is being discussed.

"Light rail could be the smartest, wisest thing to do," Falcon told The Surrey-North Delta Leader.

"I wouldn't rule that in or out. But for goodness sakes, let's do our homework first and make sure we actually know what we're talking about before we make a decision on what the answer should be."

-- Minister Falcon

SFOT Board Member Bill Taylor pointed us this morning to this Vancouver Sun article on LRT comments made by Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, the most popular mayor in metro Vancouver!
"Watts has asked city officials to investigate the cost of an at-grade light-rail line as a possible alternative to a costly and elevated SkyTrain extension. She said light rail would cost about one-fifth the price of a SkyTrain extension and would be more pedestrian-friendly, adding to street ambience."
Finally, not an LRT story but, in The Province newspaper today, Jon Ferry wonders why the federal government is putting roadblocks up to block more regular trains from Vancouver to Seattle and most especially high-speed rail on that route. He mentions the hoops set up by the Canadian Border Services Agency, but neglects to mention that a Washington State Department of Transportation report points to the replacement of the New Westminster rail bridge as a significant obstacle to high-speed rail service between Vancouver, BC and Seattle.

As driving from Langley to Vancouver to park at near the seedy Via Rail station downtown doesn't thrill me, I will be driving to the beautiful Fairhaven AMTRAK train station in Bellingham this Wednesday for my business trip to Seattle. The USA is getting their rail act together in a big way. If our federal government doesn't want to get on board, I have no problem giving my money to the Americans for a very reasonable, enjoyable and stress-free ride to SEA to conduct my business. Fairhaven is like our historic Fort Langley and AMTRAK even offers some decent food in the Bistro car. The AMTRAK staff are exceptional people as well!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Civic Election is Over

Storteboom Wins!
Hardworking and very community active South Fraser OnTrax board member Rudy Storteboom is now Councillor Elect Rudy Storteboom in Langley City! Rudy spends much of his time serving our community on boards and committees. He has worked extremely hard over the years and he deserves this council seat so much. Way to go Rudy!

Now that the civic elections are over we will see if candidate promises materialize and we can re-focus on the issues at hand. The political campaigns in the region have all highlighted transportation and light rail transit as huge issues for our people. Now let's see what will be done with this much-needed public infrastructure.

In other election news in the Township of Langley, Councillor and long-time LRT advocate Jordan Bateman received overwhelming public support by getting more votes than any other mayoral or council candidate with 9,273 votes. Strong LRT advocate Charlie Fox was next with 7,956 votes. Grant Ward who has been very active in the LRT discussions was also re-elected last night and we are very thankful for that.

Langley Township lost a very sincere and hard-working mayor last night with Mayor Kurt Alberts losing his bid for re-elected (6,588 votes). With his deep background in urban planning and his creative support for LRT, I will greatly miss my discussions with him on these issues, but he will always remain a friend. We know that with his background and personal integrity he will do well in future endeavors.

Langley Advance photo

The electorate in the Township has spoken and Rick Green is now the mayor elect with 7,842 votes. In the interest of keeping our community a dynamic one, we must support our elected leaders and trust that smart growth in line with the Township's Sustainability Charter and light rail will happen sooner rather than later. During his campaign, Rick Green discussed LRT and said that current mayor and council have not done enough to remove the heavy rail traffic from the Township, and to speed the building of light rail in the south Fraser region. I called Rick Green this morning to congratulate him on his victory and to let him know that we would greatly appreciate efforts to remove or reduce heavy rail from the Township. I also expressed our desire to see light rail transit now. Rick assured me that, "You will not see a stronger advocate for passenger rail".

Friday, November 14, 2008

Planning Meeting Minutes Online

Since this was a planning meeting for 2009, we decided to post paper minutes of last night’s meeting. You can download the minutes from our Document Archive. Have a great weekend

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I refer to your Brian Lewis column dated November 13, 2008 regarding candidate endorsements by Rail for the Valley. While Rail for the Valley has been actively advocating for light rail transit (LRT) in Chilliwack and Abbotsford, they have not closely followed the Langleys or Surrey councils and motions approved this year.

As a sustainable transportation advocacy group, South Fraser OnTrax remains open to LRT proposals that make practical sense for our regional transit needs. As a non-profit society, we respect our public officials and have greatly valued their input. We are not an elector organization and as such, we have refrained from endorsing candidates.

In attended every council meeting and all public hearings in the Township of Langley, we feel we must set the record straight. The voting record of current Township mayor and council has not been fully examined and we question the endorsement list. This voting record clearly shows Mayor Kurt Alberts remains a strong advocate of improved transit and LRT options south of the Fraser. Councillor Jordan Bateman has supported light rail transit for many years now. His recent motion asked for action on next steps outlined in the UMA Consulting report on the Interurban. Township council also approved other pro-LRT motions in 2008. Another such vote was for a Councillor Charlie Fox motion for the Township to urge the federal government to replace the old New Westminster rail bridge, as a new bridge would make passenger rail technically possible. Abbotsford City Councillor Dave Loewen was actively involved in the committee there. Mayor Diane Watts and many incumbent councillors in Surrey endorsed light rail over SkyTrain, yet they were excluded from endorsement. Even often-criticized BC Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said yesterday that he is not ruling out LRT in the region now, as long as the homework is done.

Future 200th Street densification and the new Golden Ears Bridge present a common sense north-south LRT need to ease traffic congestion in Langley Township. This, just as Abbotsford made their case for an east-west LRT connection to serve density there. These options will not precluded use of the Interurban from discussions. In fact the 200th Street LRT and east-west LRT in Abbotsford would be complimentary to the Interurban making it even more viable and sustainable, and may help the case to obtain system funding from other orders of government.

Light Rail Now

Well I have to say that light rail and the Interurban has been getting lots of press coverage lately. On last night's CTV News, there was a piece about the Interregional Transportation Select Committee and Abbotsford Council's support of light rail. You can read the story and watch the clip on CTV’s website.

"We felt if people in the community were serious about this, that they needed to see what it could potentially be and impact their lives,'' said Abbotsford
Councillor Lynn Harris.
If you listen to the comments from Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, it is interesting to see that he seems more kind to the thought of light rail then he did back in February when CTV ran a piece about the Interurban.

In today’s Province newspaper, Brain Lewis wrote an article about “An issue that just won’t go away.” He talks about the wide spread support for the Interurban and light rail in the Valley from municipal candidates.

If the B.C. government, which has been dragging its heels on the call for light rail in the Valley, ever hoped to sidetrack the issue, that hope is now gone.


Many Surrey civic candidates, including Mayor Dianne Watts, are also positive about light rail.

"We know that light rail is much cheaper and that you can get better value for the dollar and we could link our town centres," Watts said.

The Vancouver Sun also ran a story about the growing politics support for light rail.
A campaign to bring light rail transit to the Fraser Valley has gained momentum during civic election campaigns in the region.

Many mayoral and council candidates have spoken in favour of a light-rail system south of the Fraser River

In other news, Jeff Nagel from the Surrey Leader wrote a story on Southern Rail (who operates freight on the Interurban line) willingness to review operating rail transit.

Southern president Frank Butzelaar said he has an open mind toward a rail transit revival, but says it depends on Victoria's wishes.

"We are open to the concept," he said. "It really requires that the province comes to us and says 'Look, this is something we're interested in.'

"To date, that hasn't happened."

The article also points out that the Interurban study that was personally promised by Kevin Falcon back in January of this year may not be available until the end of 2009.

Finally, the Langley Time asked Township candidates a few questions. One of these questions deals with transportation. I suggest that you check out the story to see what the answers were.

It will be interesting to see after November 15th how the Interurban and light rail fairs. The public wants light rail, and they want it now. Not in 2030. I have a feeling that the BC government will start paying attention to the demand for light rail in the South Fraser and Fraser Valley as their election approaches early in 2009.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

SFOT Meeting Tomorrow

Thursday, November 13th
7:00pm - 9:00pm
Township of Langley Municipal Facility
4th Floor, Nicomekl River Meeting Room
20338 - 65 Avenue, Langley

This is our year in review and planning 2009 meeting. Be sure to
attend and have your say for our 2009 meeting schedule, fundraising
and project ideas. Download a copy of the agenda.


6:45pm - 7:00pm Self-Registration /Greeting

7:00pm - 7:10pm Group introductions
-Place of Residence

7:10pm - 7:25pm Reports
-Financial Report
-State of Advertising / Promotion

7:25pm - 7:45pm Recap of past speakers and main points

7:45pm - 8:00pm Comments on past speakers and information presented

8:00pm - 8:30pm Ideas - What to do in 2009 - Fundraising and Projects

8:30pm - 9:00pm Blog & Website
Help Needed
New Business
December Eggnog - Spouses/Guests

Meeting Adjourned

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
—John McCrae

Photo from:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Public Transit USA

It’s been a good November for Light Rail and public transit in the USA. With the economic slow down, congestion, and environmental issues fresh on people’s minds, now more than ever they saw the need for improved public transit. There is a website called the Center for Transportation Excellence that claims to be “a non-partisan policy research center created to serve the needs of communities and transportation organizations nationwide. The purpose of the center and this website is to provide research materials, strategies and other forms of support on the benefits of public transportation.” They track spending and ballot measures on public transit. Out of the 32 public transportation measures that were on the ballet, 24 passed; that’s pretty impressive. Check out their website to see the full list of public transportation projects that passed.

I think one of the most interesting stories about public transit comes from Seattle. This time last year, voters were asked if they would support a highway and public transit expansion measure. They voted no. Sound Transit resubmitted the public transit expansion part of the measure for this year, and of course it passed. It’s interesting to see that in Seattle people are seeing the value in a quality public transit system. Seattle will now be getting more light rail, more streetcar cars, more commuter rail, and more express buses.

Click to expand map

I wonder what would happen if we were allowed to vote for light rail and public transit expansion in BC? Would we be getting light rail?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Going Underground

Until now, a huge challenge to keeping light rail track laying costs down has been the existing underground utilities. The location of these water, sewer and other utility lines can create expensive relocation costs that drive the LRT budget high.

The UK is a world leader in light rail passenger train systems and what they frequently call "community rail". Being the smart folks they are, they have found a solution to this costly mess with the LR55 tram track system. The system allows for quick installation and uses the existing road structure to support the load. This is revolutionary!

"To avoid or reduce these problems NET proposes to use the revolutionary LR55 rail system. This is laid in the road structure itself so that there is little or no disturbance to underground services. Instead a slot is cut in the road and the track laid in. The track exploits the strength of existing highway pavements by transmitting the static and dynamic loads from the upper surface, rather than the foot of the rail as in conventional track. This results in the load on the railhead being distributed onto the sub-base of the highway, being of a sufficiently low value not to require a separate foundation. Up to 100m can be laid in a night"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Open Platform - The BC Liberals Want Your Input

The BC Liberal Party has created a website to allow all British Columbians to voice their opinions that will shape the policies and priorities of the BC Liberal Party for the 2009 provincial election. You can become a member here and post away on some or all of the issues. Please note that there is a transportation and infrastructure topic section and South Fraser OnTrax hopes you will take some time to post some intelligent support for the Interurban revival and Light Rail Transit (LRT) in general.

This website is not run by the provincial government, rather it was created by a political party. As such, you may be contacted by the party if you register here. If you object to this, then perhaps you may not want to log on. I'd also like to say that it is my hope that all LRT advocates who post on this site will not resort to name-calling, lecturing or ranting criticism.

The site was designed for the party to review the issues that are dear to all British Columbians, and then use this information to formulate a platform and/or policy. I'm certain that rants and related posts will be promptly ignored and deleted. This is an opportunity as a group to speak intelligently to our leaders, possibly shaping their 2009 provincial election platform. Please use it wisely. I plan to formulate my ideas in bullet points and post after I have worked through that. We encourage all LRT advocates to log on today!

PS: If you know of any other website by any other party in BC that has a similar thing going on, please let us know by posting a comment or emailing

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Washington State Says YES to Light Rail Transit

Voters in Washington State have said NO to single occupancy vehicles by defeating Initiative 985 to help solo drivers and YES to Proposition 1 that will allow them to build a light rail transit (LRT) system that will have a 40 year outlook.

"Sound Transit plans to extend light rail to Lynnwood, north Federal Way and the Overlake Transit Center, near Microsoft, by the early 2020s, through a half-cent increase in sales taxes. The $17.9 billion plan would expand express-bus service 17 percent and boost capacity by two-thirds on Sounder commuter trains between Pierce County and Seattle.

Alex Fryer, spokesman for Mass Transit Now, said he was blown away by the lead in Snohomish County, where campaign models predicted just under half the voters saying "yes."

One explanation is that people liked the recent openings of a Mukilteo commuter-train station and the South Everett park-and-ride, he said."

If we could only have such a vote here in the South Fraser. You can criticize Americans for lots of things, but you must give them credit for getting things done with regards to transit and infrastructure and leadership. They must also be given credit for turning a very major page in the history books by electing Barack Obama yesterday. The TV coverage was very moving for me as a dual citizen and I was very pleased with the outcome and movement to a more progressive leader. Look at all this light rail coming to the metro Seattle area. I'm jealous!

Map Courtesy of The Seattle Times
Click on Image to Enlarge

Results From Abbotsford City Hall

Linda Gronkjaer of the City Clerk's Office and Councillor Lynne Harris have confirmed for us this morning that Lynne's motion was well-received by council and that Abbotsford City Council voted to support all four recommendations that included a call for a possible demonstration rail run by 2010. Councillor Harris is the chair of the IRTSC and has promised in her message to follow up with the new City Manager to see what the next steps should be. She has vowed to keep us informed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Comments From City of Abbotsford Mayor and Council

As Nathan has said, he and I have been attending the Inter Regional Transportation Select Committee in the City of Abbotsford. I was present in the city council meeting at 1:00pm yesterday. The response from mayor and council was very positive. I took notes on their comments and have included them here. Consider these a paraphrase of what was said, although I tried my best to record word for word:

We must have a vision and dream big dreams. This is very similar to our Plan A and our new Community Recreation Centre that we just opened. I see that the federal government under the new transportation minister will be throwing money at transportation infrastructure. We need to get provincial buy-in to this plan if we are to realize any of those federal dollars. We must get our MLA's support with regards to this initiative.

- Mayor George Ferguson

In response to the mayor's comments, Councillor Lynne Harris who was very instrumental in this committee work, along with Councillor Dave Loewen pointed out that MLA John van Dongen had originally suggested something like this committee to gather that support and a plan that he could take to the provincial government. It should be noted that this MLA and his staff have worked very hard on transit issues.

This transportation plan shows great vision. The recommendations put our community first and then addresses and incorporates our regional transportation needs. I would like to see this report go to our Economic Development Commission (EDC). We must set aside these transit corridors NOW! Before the densification plans came to full light, I had been laughed at in the past. But people aren't laughing any more. Business people in Abbotsford and others in our community need to travel west. They cannot be expected to wait in Vancouver for the return West Coast Express all day long.

- Councillor Patricia Ross

The committee has done some great work here and this is a good report. I'm wondering why we aren't connecting better with the West Coast Express (WCE) and making better use of that? I like the districts outlined in the presentation and I like the way it speaks to connecting nodes where people need to connect with. I beleive we do need a north-south connector with the hospital as was added into the plan.

- Councillor Christine Caldwell

I'm concerned with this report's Recommendation # 4 and also the 2010 due date for this demonstration. From the latest census we can see clearly that 2/3 of our population live and work here in our community. So, I want to see this transportation plan first serve the 80% of residents who live and work here. About 8,000 our our residents travel outside of Abbotsford daily, in addition to those who may travel to sports and recreation events outside of our city. I would want to see a rail system that serves our airport (YXX), our new hospital and cancer centre, and the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) that I see as vital to our community and I would favour this routing over an interurban. I like the horseshoe concept and want to see that first, before we look outside of Abbotsford. We are hearing much these days about the 100 mile diet and we also need to consider the 10 mile career.

- Councillor Bruce Beck

Recommendation #4:
-Support for and possibly host a potential demonstration project in Abbotsford for light rail in conjunction with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic demonstration project.

Councillor Lynne Harris pointed out that in serving YXX, we need to consider the regional transit needs and connection requirements. She also pointed out that although the committee looked at an improved connection to the West Coast Express (WCE). Councillor Patricia Ross also spoke to the WCE concept and talked of the challenges to providing more trains - can't do it. So, this light rail system would connect with Surrey and provide another option.

We all know the Fraser Valley is growing tremendously and Surrey will surpass Vancouver in population. This report and the recommedations are very good. I'd like to see the decision-makers be consumers of public transit. If they were consumers of transit we would see far better service and options. I was recently in Spain and was astounded by the amount of public transit use by the citizens and the range and frequency of service available.

- Councillor Simon Gibson

I hope we don't overlook or loose the value of this framework. This report and the recommendations are a valuable tool when we meet with the provincial and federal governments, as well as the new federal transportation minister. McCallum Road is important to our community. The MLA and MP should get encouraged by this plan. If feel an important next step is to talk with our western neighbours.

- Councillor Dave Loewen

As of this writing on Tuesday morning we are awaiting word from Councillor Lynne Harris as to the status of her motion that we believe was voted on last night in council. We will report back to you soon.

Brian Lewis of The Province wrote a column in today's paper about this. Read the full article on their website.

This committee was formed in early 2008, due in part to the disappointment stemming from the Campbell government's $14-billion transit plan that more or less kissed off the Fraser Valley despite the region's explosive growth.

"Our report is fairly visionary and, for many people, it's out-of-the-box thinking," says Coun. Lynne Harris, who is the committee's chair.

Basically, the committee report has four key recommendations:

1. It protects Abbotsford's existing key transportation corridors which link the University of the Fraser Valley, the new Entertainment and Sports Complex, downtown, the business district, Abbotsford International Airport and the new Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre.

2. It endorses regional transit principles outlined in the Livability Accord which Langley, Abbotsford, Surrey and Coquitlam signed last year to co-ordinate their robust growth.

3. It recommends formation of a light rail committee to include mayors and councillors from the entire South Fraser region.

4. And it recommends a light-rail demonstration project in Abbotsford in time for the 2010 Olympics.

SkyTrain Time

Good morning. I’m now back to day shift, so that means I get to deal with rush hour transit again. Anyways, on the SkyTrain today I happened to notices two interesting things. First there were about six firefighters from the Township of Langley, in uniform, riding SkyTrain. Good on the Township staff for using transit for work. Now if only more of our (federal/provincial) politicians took transit on a daily bases in the South Fraser, imagine the kind of changes we would see to our system. And fast. Speaking about change, Translink has new brochures on SkyTrain about Broadway Station. They are upgrading the station to include:

-A new 10th Avenue entrance
-New glass walls at the concourse level
-Removal of the elevator at the north end of the station to be replaced with a new south end elevator
-Replacement of concrete walls with glass walls at the top of the stairs and escalator for visibility.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Inter Regional Transportation Select Committee Report Released

So, today at the City of Abbotsford Council the Inter Regional Transportation Select Committee presented its interim report. We’ve blogged extensively about this report and the meetings, and both Joe and I have attended the Committee as members. (Search "Inter Regional Transportation Select Committee" on this blog.) Abbotsford Council will be voting tonight to accept the recommendations of this report. I’ll post the results later tonight or first thing tomorrow. In the meantime, here is the report.





Key Considerations or Assumptions:

1. The Livability Accord (Langley, Abbotsford, Surrey and Coquitlam) projects that 65% of the growth in the Lower Mainland in the next 10 years will be accommodated in these 4 communities;
2. Key investments and planning strategies are required in public transit both in and between these communities in order to progress from car dependent communities to more sustainable forms of transportation;
3. Investment in transit will pay for itself by encouraging the higher density called for by Abbotsford’s OCP as the City seeks to become more sustainable;
4. Local, regional and senior levels of government need to work as partners in the achievement of important shared regional and inter-regional transit objectives;
5. There is growing public support for alternative modes of transportations such as light rail. Indeed, experience elsewhere suggests that rail is the mode of transit most likely to persuade large numbers of the public to abandon their automobiles;
6. It is important to look beyond the current situation and design transit to drive economic and smart urban development in the valley for the future; and
7. Now is the critical time to focus on the “big picture” and to develop a vision for transportation for the future, both within Abbotsford and Inter-regionally.


Be it resolved that the City of Abbotsford approve in PRINCIPLE the visionary concept presented by the Inter Regional Transportation Select Committee including the following recommendations:

-Protection and development of all transportation corridors associated with the “Horseshoe” concept within Abbotsford (between UFV, the Entertainment and Sports Complex, Historic Downtown, Civic Plaza, South Fraser Way business district and the Abbotsford International Airport) including potential inter-regional transit connections: This would include the McCallum Road and Clearbrook Road / (Whatcom Road) interchanges; and McCallum Road, Marshall Road; South Fraser Way; Mt. Lehman Road and Clearbrook Road.

-Support for the principles regarding regional transit as outlined by the Livability Accord.

-Support for the establishment of a Light Rail Committee to include the Mayors and Councillors of all South Fraser Regions to explore further at grade rail opportunities and in particular, development of a working partnership with the City of Langley, the Township of Langley and the City of Surrey to establish a transportation network supporting the light rail concept.

-Support for and possibly host a potential demonstration project in Abbotsford for light rail in conjunction with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic demonstration project.


Abbotsford is one of the fastest growing communities in B.C. with a strong economy and business focus. We are poised to be leaders in transportation within our community and inter-regionally. The City is home to University of the Fraser Valley, the Abbotsford International Airport and the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre – all of which require significant transportation improvements in order to fulfill their mandate successfully.

With a common vision, Abbotsford will lead the way for the next 20-30 years working with all levels of government which can no longer ignore the desire of citizens to move throughout the community and region more efficiently and with expanded transit choices.

Can you imagine a common goal for all communities south of the Fraser to coordinate and plan transportation needs well into the future and to contemplate options that provide for a sustainable and economically viable transportation vision, meeting environmental, educational and social needs?


All levels of government need to work together with the communities south of the Fraser to provide support and funding for the most economically sustainable mode of transportation for the future. It is important to note that the light rail transit is considerably cheaper than for a Skytrain concept.


Working with City Staff, this plan is achievable in incremental stages. Embracing the concept is absolutely essential and the time is now!


Councillor Lynne Harris
On behalf of the Inter-Regional Transportation
Select Committee

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Seven Wonders for a Cool Planet

I was reading this morning about a fairly new book, Seven Wonders for a Cool Planet. In it the author has a section on bicycles. I recently bought a nice "hybrid" bike to enjoy the trails in and around my home in Walnut Grove. A hybrid bike is a cross between a mountain bike and a cruiser, so its a bit more comfortable than a mountain bike.

Some things you may not have considered about bikes from this book that I found very interesting:
  • The bicycle is the most efficient vehicle ever devised; a human on a bicycle is more efficient (in calories expended per pound and per mile) than a train, truck, airplane, boat, car, motorcycle or jet pack.
  • Nearly half of all trips in the US are three miles or less; more than a quarter are less than a mile, distances easily covered by bike while saving you money and getting you fit.
  • Bicycles outnumber automobiles almost two to one worldwide, and their production outpaces cars by three to one.
  • Only 1 percent of Canadian commuters report bicycling as their usual mode of transportation.
  • If Americans replaced just one in five of their average length car trips by bicycling, each driver would spare the atmosphere more than one ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Collectively, the effect would be comparable to taking 48 million vehicles off the road.
I will definitely buy this book and it has more information that just some data on bicycles. To see more bike facts, look here. There are also links to other fact sheets from this amazing book at the bottom of the first link I provided.