Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Township Mayor Green on wrong side of transit history

On October 6th, Mayor Rick Green of the Township of Langley found himself on the wrong side of history. He issued a press release opposing TransLink’s Moving Forward plan and in the process opposed having RapidBus service at the Walnut Grove Park and Ride, improved service in Walnut Grove, improved service in Willoughby, and improved service in Brookswood. Besides opposing the plan, the real issue is the adversarial tone with the Province. People being people, when the Province comes to town with a cheque will the Township be first in line? Another issue I had with the press release was the twisting of facts.
Gloucester Industrial Estates, a 700 acre industrial park with 8,000 to 10,000 employees a day going in and out of the park. Property owners in Gloucester submit $1.4 million per year for absolutely nothing. It is indefensible.
Beside a large vacancy rate and the fact that a large number of employees come from Abbotsford (which is not part of TransLink), the real issue with Gloucester is that it’s a business park literally in the middle of nowhere and is probably the least transit friendly development in our whole region. Conventional bus service would be a real challenge. For example, the $1.4 million that Green speaks of would provide about 2 to 4 buses a day into the business park which is not meaningful transit. A better option would be to work with TransLink on van-pooling.
Our residents are penalized by tolls on the Golden Ears, the Port Mann and the Patullo when it is re-built, with absolutely no rapid transit, unlike that on the north side of the river. Our rail corridor comes at no charge while north of the River costs around $8 million per year.
On the matter of the Golden Ears Bridge, the option was a new bridge that gets you across the river in 2 minutes or waiting up to an hour for a tiny ferry. I hardly call that being penalized. Also the Port Mann project will see transit service. We are building the widest bridge in North America! Without the toll, there would be no Port Mann. Let's not forget that TransLink has nothing to do with the Port Mann bridge anyway.

Of course the Interurban comes up as a “no charge” solution for the Township. That is a lie. Besides having to work out a deal with BC Hydro, the whole corridor would need to have the tracks replaced, trains purchased, and staff hired. Even with complete track replacement, there would only be 20 minute service which is not rapid. While I’d love the Interurban as I live in the City, the Interurban would not service Walnut Grove or Willoughby effectively.

TransLink’s Moving Forward plan did pass and that is a good thing. With the Evergreen Line out of the way, the region can now focus on finding a long-term funding solution which will allow for rapid transit in the South of Fraser. Mayor Dianne Watts and Mayor Peter Fassbender supported the plan because they know the next round of rapid transit projects will be in the South of Fraser.


Anonymous said...

Good work, Nathan. Just a couple of points:

In the current year, TransLink is paying $71 million for the financing and operation of the Golden Ears Bridge; forecast toll revenues of $35 million will cover only half this amount. In other words, Langley and Maple Ridge are getting the benefit of support from other parts of the region on this facility.

Second, before the Evergreen Line project can begin, we will need provincial enabling legislation on the two-cent fuel tax lift that the mayors have approved; it's my impression that we also lack a formal and detailed funding agreement between the Province and the federal government.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog Nathan. I wish more people were involved in these discussions. As for the actual content...

As far as the Golden Ears bridge is concerned and your point about it being far faster than the ferry, well, yes it is, but the ferry happened to be free, yet with it being decomissioned, the commuters no long have the option of a free route. I have a big problem with that. That's the problem with privatization; now the government essentially has an obligation not to compete with their private partner or they wouldn't be able to attract the investment.

Second, I don't know much about the geographic layout of the Interurban route in relation to the communities it would service, but the costs you point out are basically one-time costs, not recurring costs like you have north of Fraser. The investment would pay off.

My concern with continuing to relay on buses is that buses will not be a game-changer. Buses have and will always have a stigma of being inconvenient transportation for the poor man. I doubt they can shape land-use patterns toward dense urban nodes the way passenger rail would. Basically, I think that without a dramatic revisioning of transportation services, we will continue to be a car-dependent region for generations to come. Thoughts? I'm not sure where Mayor Green's criticism's come from, but I believe he has supported the Interurban?

Nathan Pachal said...

Just a quick comment. Any light rail service would also have an operating cost as you have to pay drivers and also maintain the system. I certainly think we need rapid transit in the South of Fraser, but we have many corridors to choose from...

As for Langley, the major growth area is along the 200th Street corridor. Except for Langley City, the Interurban route will not service the any major residential area of Langley Township (within 10 min walk)