Monday, April 21, 2008

So What Happened At Langley Township Council Today?

Township engineering staff, UMA consultants, and TransLink representatives presented the Township's Community Rail study. Here is the powerpoint from that presentation:


As I previously wrote, I filed a notice of motion on this issue:
Whereas transit service in the Township of Langley is the poorest, per capita, in the Lower Mainland, and

Whereas the vast majority of trips south of the Fraser stays south of the Fraser, and

Whereas a desire for light rail, streetcars, and community rail has been expressed throughout the south Fraser region, including the Township of Langley,

Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue the following measures:

1. A study of the possible routes for community rail within the South Fraser region,

2. An EMME2 and micro-simulation ridership study, as recommended in the UMA community rail report, for community rail improvements in the South Fraser and Fraser Valley regions,

3. The Township continue to protect key right-of-ways for possible community rail or other transit use, including, but not limited to, the Interurban rail line, 200th Street, 208th Street, Fraser Highway, 88th Avenue, and 96th Avenue.

4. Send a letter of support to the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society reinforcing the Township's support for their efforts, and

5. Send an update to the TransLink Board, Ministry of Transportation, and the Mayors and Councils of the Cities of Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack regarding this motion, and offering these agencies an opportunity to participate in the routing and ridership studies.

The rail motion comes back at our May 5 meeting.

Langley Township Talking Rail Today

Today's scheduled presentation from our UMA emgineering consultants on the high level review of Langley Township Community Rail report is getting a lot of buzz around the blogsophere already. (UMA will present at 4 or 4:30 today, at the Council meeting in the Fraser River Presentation Theatre).

Having read the UMA report carefully, I have come to some conclusions and have put together a notice of motion for our May 5 meeting.

I think the most perplexing part of this issue is the resistance of the transportation establishment to really look at the growing desire for light rail in the South Fraser. In TransLink's own trip diary report, we read the following statistics:
- The vast majority of trips in Langley and Surrey stay within their municipal boundaries (1.1 million internal trips in Surrey every day, 284,200 in Langley--that's almost 1.4 million total trips).
- A grand total of 78,000 trips are made from Surrey and Langley into Vancouver. To get there, they have all of the local transit options--every bus route in this region is designed to feed SkyTrain, which is designed to get our residents into Vancouver.
- But almost twice that number, 140,000 trips, are made between Surrey and Langley every day. And we have the lowest per-capita transit service to help them get there.
- On top of that 140,000, another 37,000 trips leave Langley and Surrey to go outside the GVRD, presumably Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

More than double the trips are happening amongst the Interurban communities that happen from Langley and Surrey into Vancouver--let alone the trips that stay within our own municipal borders. These are the people that light rail and streetcars can serve, and in a way that will attract riders who would never set foot on a bus.

Community rail, based on the British model and proposed by UMA in this report, makes sense to me. It's a good place to start--and I think it would so successful that we would soon be upgrading both its frequency and its reach. Whether it ends up on the old Interurban line, or on a new alignment through Langley and Surrey, I don't know. Local Interurban enthusiasts, please don't panic over that statement. I'm merely saying that we should look at options for the Fraser Hwy. and Hwy. 10 corridors, as well. While the Interurban line may be the cheapest, it may not be the best value for dollar, and we need to keep all of the options open at this point. If the Interurban is as viable as many of us think it is, it will stand up to that type of comparative scrutiny.

There are some exciting things happening around the world with community rail and streetcars. I read on the weekend that Charlotte, North Carolina, has designed their system so light rail vehicles and streetcars can use each other's tracks. This is the kind of innovative thinking we need south of the Fraser.

I do know that we need to get rolling. We need a plan, the research and documentation to support it, and the will to move it forward.

I prefer light rail to SkyTrain in every way. It is less intrusive, and has a better community feel. It is also far more saleable politically to our communities. SkyTrain frightens many people, with its industrial, concrete, overhead guideways, and the perception that crime springs up around every station. Light rail is also much, much cheaper. And when light rail is one-quarter the cost of SkyTrain, that means you can go four times further.

None of the obstacles in this report seem insurmountable. The key now is to get TransLink's attention with some well-researched business plans, ridership studies, and development scenarios.

This leads me to some practical questions. Clearly, we need to approach Surrey (whose mayor, Dianne Watts, is already on record as supporting light rail) and see how we can work together to get this done.

I read on page 24 of the UMA report that "EMME2 and micro-simulation modeling be completed for these rail service scenarios in combination with future employment and potential scenarios for various combinations of bus, bus rapid transit, and rail improvements in the South of Fraser area and outside the region to the Fraser Valley." I also know that from recent changes at TransLink, that the transportation authority will look carefully at options that can be funded through development of stations and surrounding areas. I think Surrey and Langley are better positioned than any other community in the Lower Mainland to provide that type of financial upside for TransLink.

So my question to the UMA folks today is simple: how do we get this rolling? What are the next steps? UMA's answers, some of which are in their report, will refine a notice of motion I plan to put on the agenda for our May 5 afternoon meeting (a draft version of which is below):

Whereas transit service in the Township of Langley is the poorest, per capita, in the Lower Mainland, and

Whereas the vast majority of trips south of the Fraser stays south of the Fraser, and

Whereas a desire for light rail, streetcars, and community rail has been expressed throughout the entire south Fraser region, including the Council of the Township of Langley,

Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue the following measures:

1. A study of the possible routes for community rail within the South of Fraser region,

2. An EMME2 and micro-simulation study, as recommended in the UMA community rail report, for community rail improvements in the south of the Fraser and Fraser Valley regions,

3. The Township continue to protect key right-of-ways for possible community rail or other transit use, including, but not limited to, the Interurban rail line, 200th Street, 208th Street, Fraser Highway, 88th Avenue, and 96th Avenue.

4. Send a letter of support to the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society reinforcing the Township's support for their efforts, and

5. Send an update to the TransLink Board, Ministry of Transportation, and the Mayors and Councils of the Cities of Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack regarding this motion, and offering these agencies an opportunity to participate in the routing and ridership studies.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Evergreen route announcement is welcome news

Get Moving BC
For Immediate Release
April 18, 2008


EVERGREEN ROUTE ANNOUNCEMENT IS WELCOME NEWS: GET MOVING BC


Vancouver, B.C. – Today’s announcement that the Evergreen Line will follow the northwest route comes as no surprise, but it’s still welcome news to people living in the Lower Mainland’s fast-growing northeast sector according to Get Moving BC Spokesperson Sheri Wiens.

“We’ve been eagerly expecting this northwest route announcement for more than a month,” said Wiens. “It’s great to know the Evergreen Line project is now officially on track and moving forward.”

Wiens says building the Evergreen Line is as important to a balanced transportation system for the Lower Mainland as twinning the Port Mann Bridge and improving Highway #1. “Commuters need convenient choices,” she said. “I’m pleased the Evergreen Line is soon going to be one of those choices.”

Wiens says she is also pleased about the new Rapid Bus Network that was announced in January as part of the province’s $14 billion transit plan.

“The Rapid Bus Network is going to have a huge positive impact on the reach and effectiveness of the Evergreen Line and the region’s other rapid transit lines,” said Wiens. “The Rapid Bus Network puts POCO, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission into the rapid transit picture, and we really needed to be part of that picture—it’s a very good start.”

Wiens says she is also relieved that fears the Evergreen Line would be pushed aside in favour of a westward expansion of the Millennium Line have finally been put to rest.

“Last October, when Sam Sullivan said completing the Millennium Line was Vancouver’s top transit infrastructure priority and that he would get it done, we called on the Provincial Government to fully fund the Evergreen Line and get the project underway,” said Wiens. “Our biggest fear at that time was that the Millennium Line would get built before the Evergreen Line, which would leave POCO, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission out of the rapid transit picture for years to come, and we felt that was just plain unacceptable.”

Wiens was quick to add that Get Moving BC is not opposed to extending the Millennium Line, and is pleased that the Millennium Line project will move forward too, but not at the expense of the Evergreen Line.

“The Evergreen Line was on hold for way too long now,” said Wiens. “I’m glad it’s finally becoming a reality—it really can’t wait any longer.”

The TransLink board approved plans for the Evergreen Line in principle in October 2004. When completed, the Evergreen Line will serve the people in one of the fastest growing areas of the Lower Mainland—the northeast Sector.


– 30 –


Get Moving BC is dedicated to holding governments accountable for a balanced transportation system and was formed to provide a voice for the majority of Greater Vancouver residents who support improving our roads, bridges and transit systems.


For more information please contact Get Moving BC at 604-678-5567 or by email at info@getmovingbc.com

Online References and Attachments:
· http://www.getmovingbc.com/
· The Evergreen Line: http://www.translink.bc.ca/EvergreenLine/default.asp

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Use P3 to bring streetcars back to Vancouver

CKNW recently ran an online poll that asked whether Vancouver city council should consider using a P3 to bring streetcars back to Vancouver? 64.48% said “Yes” and 35.51% said “No.” This is a very interesting result.

As we recently saw with the City of Burnaby’s online Gateway project poll, online polls can produce highly questionable results. But in the case of CKNW’s poll the question asked was very direct and very straightforward and their website receives more than enough hits everyday to provide some random statistical substance to the poll results.

What strikes us as being noteworthy is the fact that two-thirds of the CKNW poll respondents were in favour of the P3 approach to bringing back streetcars; a fairly overwhelming endorsement of the P3 approach when you consider the vast amount of time and money that different vested interest groups have spent spreading anti-P3 propaganda in B.C. over the past few years.

Lately, P3 success stories have been piling up in B.C. faster than gridlocked cars on the Port Mann Bridge: The new Abbotsford Hospital, the new Kicking Horse Canyon Bridge, the new Canada Line, and the Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre at VGH are just a few examples of notable P3 successes we can point to here in B.C., with the Port Mann Bridge and the Evergreen Line soon to join the list.

There is an old saying that you can’t argue with success. Unfortunately the great success of P3’s in B.C. hasn’t stopped the anti-P3 vested interests from trying. But if I was an anti-P3 propagandist I would probably be thinking about making a career change sometime soon.

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