Thursday, August 8, 2013

Future transit plan for Abbotsford and Mission

Last weekend, I took transit to Abbotsford. This got me thinking about what was happening with transit planning in that community. Abbotsford and Mission have an underfunded transit system for a region of its size in Canada, and their transit system is the least funded system per capita in BC. This City of Abbotsford and Mission are slowly trying to correct this, and in 2012 increased transit service hours provided. At the same time, they began working with BC Transit to lay out the short, medium, and long term goals for transit expansion in their communities.

Inter-Regional & Regional 25-Year Vision. Click map to enlarge.

One of the first thing that I noticed about their future transit plan is that there is a large focus on inter-regional transit with planned service to Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Langley City, Langley Township, and even Burnaby. Getting service from Abbotsford to Chilliwack, and to Carvolth Exchange are short-term priorities.

Abbotsford 25 Year Network Vision. Click map to enlarge.

Medium term priorities for the Abbotsford transit system include implementing a phased rapid transit system along the South Fraser Way/UFV corridor. At the same time, the frequent transit network would gradually be implementing over the 25 year period of the plan.

Of course a plan is useless without funding. Just like in Metro Vancouver, Abbotsford and Mission need to make some hard funding choices and will need the support of the Provincial government to implement their vision.

In the short term, the region will be relying on property tax increases to fund transit expansion, but in the future they are considering:
-A 1ȼ to 5ȼ per litre fuel tax.
-A $1 to $2 per month utility levy (Like the BC Hydro levy in Metro Vancouver).
-An annual $12.50 to $25 vehicle levy.

Abbotsford also plans to look at land value capture tax which would allow the city to capture some of the windfall profit that comes when land value goes up near rapid transit lines. They will also being look at commercial revenue opportunities.

The largest potential future funding source that they are looking at is providing every household in Abbotsford and Mission with one annual, mandatory transit pass for $135 to $270 per year. The fee would be included in the annual property tax bill. This would be similar to the former TransLink community pass program that the 3,000 residents of UniverCity on top of Burnaby Mountain were part of.

I am excited about the future of transit in Abbotsford and Mission, but given the history of limited action on transit, I wonder if local politicians will be willing to spend political capital to implement the funding measures needed to transform the transportation system in their communities.

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