Thursday, August 30, 2007

An open door?

While I'm not keen on TransLink vice-chairman Marvin Hunt's implication that light rail ideas are "crazy," I'll take what I can get in this Tri-City News story:
A rising clamour for more rapid transit lines around the region is about to get TransLink's full attention.

The authority will consult the public and other stakeholders and experts later this fall as it starts to draw up a first-ever 30-year vision for Lower Mainland transportation.

Where new light rail lines ought to go and anything else armchair transit planners want to float will be fair game for debate.

"Every crazy idea everybody has, let's put it on the table and have a look at it," said TransLink vice-chair Marvin Hunt. "This is a golden opportunity for us to be able to look at all the different possibilities that are there and work on the ones that are the most viable today."

Already there have been growing calls for light rail lines running from the SkyTrain system out the Fraser Valley through Langley to Abbotsford.

And one of the most ambitious ideas is to super-size the existing plan for the Evergreen Line, which is to run from Burnaby's Lougheed SkyTrain station through Port Moody to Coquitlam Centre.

Langley Coun. Jordan Bateman wants its scope expanded to run the light rail line further east, all the way to Maple Ridge, south across the new Golden Ears Bridge, down 200 Street to downtown Langley and back northwest on the Fraser Highway to the SkyTrain terminus at King George station in Surrey.

The proposed billion-dollar Evergreen Line, however, has long been planned but is still struggling to get the final go-ahead and money needed to start building it as far as Coquitlam.

A big bang approach to do much more, faster would require a massive injection of new money – far beyond what the reformed TransLink will even be permitted to raise through higher gas and property taxes.

"If somebody has got big bucks, we can do a big bang," Hunt said.

(clip)

Hunt and TransLink officials also question how long it would take before light rail is justified on the 200 Street corridor. "There's no ridership to make it viable," he said.

TransLink's traditional approach has been to incrementally ramp up transit service – from community shuttles to full-sized buses to B-Line express buses – as the number of people served by a route grows.

The next step up is a bus way, which gives frequent express buses a dedicated corridor separated from other traffic and much improved stations. Bus ways would eventually be upgraded to light rail.

So far, TransLink has identified King George Highway and 104 Avenue in Surrey and the Fraser Highway to Langley as routes to get median bus ways between 2013 and 2021.

The push to move other routes up the agenda draws caution. "Will there be a market for a lot of commuters going back and forth between Surrey and Maple Ridge?" asks TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie, referring to the 200 Street corridor.

He says a key consideration in weighing routes to prioritize will be where homes and jobs will locate in the decades ahead. That will depend in part on Metro Vancouver's redrawing of its regional growth strategy and any changes in the areas where it determines future growth should concentrate.

The worst outcome, Hardie suggests, is if a state-of-the-art light rail line were built but the passengers don't come.

Quick note: after talking with Terry Lyster, I'm convinced that the Surrey leg of this loop should run on the Southern Railway line between Cloverdale, Newton and Scott Road. It's underused and is already under consideration by Surrey.

As for ridership concerns, everything in this region is going to change when Golden Ears is built. A region that is used to moving east-west will suddenly be able to flow north-south. Research shows that lines that go over water can count on at least a 30% boost in ridership. Lines that connect with other options like SkyTrain also receive higher than normal ridership. And a line that serves that many urban centres is bound to be used. And I know Langley: we will use rail. It's in our blood and heritage.

Ambitious? Maybe to old school politicians. I see it more as absolutely critical to giving people options other than cars. And as for money... don't forget the feds, Marvin. They're moving into another election cycle with $13.4 billion burning a hole in their pocket.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Walk a mile in our shoes!

Public Eye Online has a follow-up to this story:
Last week, newly-appointed provincial New Democrat transportation critic Marine Karagianis told us the fact she isn't from Vancouver will actually help her hold Lower Mainland transportation initiatives to account. And Society Promoting Environmental Conservation campaigner David Fields seems to agree. Speaking with Public Eye, he said, "I haven't had a chance to speak with her directly. But her comment that being an outsider gives her a certain freedom in dealing with issues in a new way makes me optimistic. And I think that - give what I know of her record - she seems to be on the greener side of the NDP. So there's a good opportunity here that the NDP will come out on the side of right" and oppose the Campbell administration's controversial Gateway Program.

SPEC is as out of touch as Ms. Karagianis. At Get Moving BC, we prefer that decisions be made as close to the people as possible--and in the communities that are directly affected.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Give us someone who cares about our region

You'll often hear south of the Fraser residents complain that the Vancouver-Burnaby power base simply don't understand what it's like to have to cross the Port Mann every day, or drive all the way to Whalley to get a SkyTrain, or take a bus anywhere. It's a common refrain; we hear it a lot in Surrey and Langley. "I'd like to see Derek Corrigan spend a day in our shoes."

Well, Public Eye Online reports that NDP transportation critic, Esquimalt MLA Maurine Karagianis thinks being away from the Vancouver gridlock is a good thing:
"It's probably better that I - as a critic - am not directly involved politically in the local communities over there. I think it allows me to bring more objectivity to both those issues and to look at them from a much broader perspective and look at them without the local politics and local attachments interfering with my views. So I think it does give me a better opportunity to look at this in a cold-blooded way and to look at it in a practical and political sense without a lot of background in the community affecting my thinking one way or another."

That being said, Ms. Karagianis added she has "great concerns" about Gateway because "it doesn't have any sustainable solutions attached to it." Although she intends to "continue to meet with the communities affected and gather information" in advance of the fall, when she says the party will finally announce its position on the 19-month old highway-expansion program.

First off, the NDP should realize it has already taken a position: its agricultural committee is part of the anti-Gateway group. At least come forward and be honest about it.

That aside, Karagianis's comments are ludicrous. We here at Get Moving BC believe that the closer you are to the people, the better the governance you can provide. We don't believe in seagull leadership--swooping in from out of town, making a lot of noise, dumping on everyone, and swooping out. We want our decision makers to intimately understand what our region is facing. We'll leave the last word to one of Public Eye's commenters:
What the heck is she talking about? Is she slagging Chudnovsky? (very classy) Since when does living in a community/region and caring about it make a politician biased? Is Karagianis seriously saying that she'll be a good critic for Gateway because she really doesn't care about Lower Mainland communities? Isn't "background in the community" (or at least input from the people who actually live in the affected areas) something the NDP should be listening to rather than being "cold-blooded" about?
Karagianis made very little sense as MCFD critic, and she's starting off the same way in Transportation. It's an important area, so I hope she starts putting a little more time into considering her arguments and statements before she makes them...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

We need it all!

The Vancouver Province gets it:
One of the main problems about the current debate over Lower Mainland transportation is that it always divides itself along ideological lines and is invariably presented as an either/or proposition: Either you build more public transit or you build more roads.

But the fact is that we need both, and then some.

We need both more roads, for use by the vast majority of commuters, and more bus routes, light-rail lines, walkways, bicycle paths and other transportation infrastructure.

That's because, mercifully, we live in a fast-growing region with an expanding economy and a population that likes to get around.

Eco-activists will no doubt say this is a bad thing. But consider the alternative -- a region with a shrinking economy and a dwindling population. That would clearly be far worse.

As readers of Brian Lewis's column will know, a new group has been formed to press for passenger rail service in the Fraser

Valley. Founded by SFU graduate student John Buker, Rail for the Valley states on its website that our governing politicians "want to spend billions of dollars on highways, but they continue to neglect basic rail transportation needs south of the Fraser River."

As we said, though, this is not an either/or proposition. The Fraser Valley needs an expanded Port Mann Bridge, better roads and more truck and bus routes.

And it needs passenger rail.

Above all, it requires a decently-funded, comprehensive travel system that offers people as many transportation alternatives as possible.

We need both roads and transit because we are horribly underserved in both. This is the crux of Get Moving BC's message.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Light rail in Coquitlam, PoCo, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Langley and Surrey?

Because I don't have enough websites on the go, I am pleased to announce the launch of Langley2020.com.

Langley2020.com is an ongoing collection of ideas, thoughts, plans and other discussion starters I'll be putting forward on a semi-regular basis. These papers should be considered a starting point for dialogue, and I welcome and appreciate your comments on them.

The first Langley2020.com document is now live on the site, and it contains my thoughts on light rail in Langley (spoiler alert: I think it needs to go north-south along 200th). When you have a few minutes, give it a read and leave a comment over there telling me what you think.

(In a happy coincidence, the Province has a column on light rail in the Valley. I must confess, however, that I don't understand the strategy of some groups of attacking the Minister of Transportation--the one guy who can get light rail funded. It seems to me it would be wiser to cultivate a relationship with him and preach the merits of light rail. With $4.1 billion in provincial surplus last year alone, there is plenty of money to do a lot of work in transportation--both road and rail.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Meet the New Boss

Although it completely escaped the notice of most people in the Lower Mainland, Delta-based APE (a small group opposed to the expansion of Deltaport) has hired a paid Executive Director to help them expand their “profile and presence” on the anti-Gateway battlefield.

APE's Executive Director position is reportedly being funded by a “donation” from a mysterious, unnamed APE supporter.

And just who is APE’s new front man? Well, he’s none other than Roger Emsley, APE's existing front man/spokesperson!

Like the song by the Who says: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Emsley has quite the unexpected background for a hard line environmentalist/anti-Gateway activist. Instead of chaining himself to trees in the forests of BC, Emsley appears to have spent his entire career working as an executive and consultant in the airline industry, hardly a carbon-neutral, environmentally-friendly industry.

Maybe it's just me, but I would have thought that a person with Emsley's sober-minded business background would be a supporter of economy-building projects like Deltaport and Gateway.

Interestingly, Emsley does appear to be in favour of expanding at least one BC port beyond the pale of his Delta backyard: The Port of Prince Rupert.

So I find myself wondering whether Emsley is truly concerned about the environment, as APE's website portrays, or whether the environment is merely a convenient tool that Emsley and Co. have slipped into APE's handy, dandy NIMBY tool box?

Carl Congestion

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Driving efficiently

Double Blind has a great post and link to an article on driving more efficiently. It's worth a read:
If people could see how much fuel they guzzled while driving, Wayne believes they’d quickly learn to drive more efficiently. “If the EPA would mandate FCDs [Fuel Consumption Displays] in every car, this country would save 20 percent on fuel overnight,” he says. “They’re not expensive for the manufacturers to put in—10 to 20 bucks—and it would save more fuel than all the laws passed in the last 25 years. All from a simple display.”

The same phenomenon occurs with water and power meters--when people see how much they are consuming, they usually rein themselves in.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Getting desperate

So the Against Port Expansion people are trying to get a rally together for this weekend, and have sent around the following e-mail.

Anyway, the email shows the mindset of the anti-Gateway folks. Judge for yourself:
If you could please put out the word that we could use some help to bump up our numbers for the day. The Port Event is from 10:00 - 4:00. If individuals could join us for a couple of hours during that time frame. (Our group is quite small to begin with, and Summer with it's attendant holidays etcetera is taking it's toll on our size.) The core group has been nothing short of amazing to date. This will not be a funereal display but more of a "come as you are" type of thing. We need bodies to be present. Remind everyone that the Port is the "head of the snake" from which emanates so much of the ensuing devastation and destruction. Volunteers can contact me. The exact location will be announced in a day or two. Somewhere on the route into the Port. (Looking for "prime real estate") Glad you like the Porta Potty designation. Goes well with "excremental" benefits from the port, don't you think? A couple of other little numbers we've come up with:

"Truck you Falcon", "Gate Rape" (These are currently in use on signs)

What do you think of the idea of citing Kevin with a "Contempt of Life" charge? Could be signed by members of the all the groups. We've certainly got a wealth of "evidence". You know, Whereas ... etc. that sort of thing. Perhaps with a big media splash for the "citation" presentation, to be Tried in the Court of Public Opinion, representing the people of British Columbia etc.

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on ..."

Thanks
Perry

Inflammatory and frightening language to say the least. I mean, "Gate rape?" That's the slogan you want to go with?

And the "Court of Public Opinion" has already spoken and support the Gateway Project. And they certainly support the economic growth and diversity that comes with expanding our Asian trade cycle.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Price hearts Falcon. What?

It's nice (and all too rare) to find a Gateway opponent able to see past their anti-bridge agenda and congratulate Kevin Falcon and the provincial Ministry of Transportation for something. But Gordon Price does just that in a recent blog posting lauding Falcon for funding new bike routes on the North Shore:
And that’s thanks in part to the Spirit Trail funding coming from the provincial Ministry of Transportation. That’s right - Kevin Falcon! And kudos to him for pushing for a bike trail across the North Shore, and providing the money to do it.

I'm sure this excellent news that three firms have been shortlisted to bid on the Port Mann twinning won't be as well received by the Gateway 30 folks:
The three firms – Connect BC Development Group, Gateway Mobility Partners, and Highway 1 Transportation Group – were selected through a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process. These groups all have significant experience in financing, building and operating toll highways in an urban setting.

The PMH1 project is part of B.C.’s Gateway Program, which will improve roads and bridges for people, goods and transit throughout Greater Vancouver. The PMH1 project will widen the highway, build a new bridge at the Port Mann crossing, upgrade 17 interchanges and improve access and safety from McGill Street in Vancouver to 216th Street in Langley, a distance of approximately 37 km. Highway improvements include adding one lane in each direction west of the Port Mann Bridge, and two lanes in each direction east of the Port Mann Bridge, one of which will be an HOV lane.

The PMH1 improvements will restore transit service across the bridge for the first time in 20 years, and expand networks for HOV, cyclists and pedestrians. The new bridge will be built to accommodate potential future rapid transit.

Vaughn Palmer has more on these firms in his Sun column.