Chilliwack Progress – A transportation vision for the future

A transportation vision for the future

Published: July 27, 2010 9:00 AM

Updated: July 27, 2010 9:50 AM

Re: Chilliwack not on board with commuter rail (Chilliwack Progress, July 20). Kudos to Mayor Gaetz for being patient and waiting for the results from the Fraser Valley transit study currently underway. But if she’s hoping to hear something new on utilizing the Interurban line for passenger rail, I can save her the wait. The results will be just like those from the report released last week that looked at the feasibility of utilizing the E&N Line on Vancouver Island for an upgraded passenger rail service. In short, the Fraser Valley will also be told that implementing a passenger service at this time is too expensive, and should be postponed until sometime in the future. The cost per passenger for each ride will be too much they will say, and the current population densities along the line don’t support the investment at this time.

But the powers that be are looking at rail, and transit for that matter, without a vision for our future. They assume that the status quo never changes, that people will be driving for the majority of their trips 30 years from now just like they do today, and future ridership estimates for rail are made under this assumption. It is in effect a self fulfilling prophecy that allows investment in real transportation alternatives to the car to be avoided. Forget for a second that the baby boomers will be increasingly relying on public transit in just a few short years. Forget that despite all our wailing about air quality here in the Fraser Valley, more cars means more pollution. Forget that global oil production is projected to peak in the next few decades (if it hasn’t already) and our increasingly desperate search for oil is causing untold destruction both here in Canada as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. Under the status quo, we are looking at more roads and overpasses to service an ever-increasing number of cars, and more importantly, more traffic and more congestion. Rather than plan for more of the same only bigger, we need to be planning our communities around a different way of living in this world. Our decisions here at the local level matter, and influence the bigger issues playing out across the country and the globe. If the communities of the Fraser Valley are serious about the issues they claim to be serious about – improving the environment and livability, air quality, aging in place for retiring boomers – then we need to look at a new way of doing business. We need leaders with a vision for the future, not leaders whose goal is just the status quo only bigger. If we follow the same path we are on now, growth will bring us the same problems – only more so – 25 or 50 years from now.

A few examples to think about for when the Province trots out its “too expensive per ride” number once the study is finished: when the West Coast Express (WCE) was implemented, the cost per ride was somewhere around a whopping $40 per person, much more than a ticket cost, and service was heavily subsidized. But as the service gained a reputation for a relaxing and comfortable ride (something cars will never provide by the way), ridership increased and costs per ride came down substantially. Today, no one could imagine getting rid of such a great service, and indeed it has shaped the way residents live and work north of the Fraser. (Don’t forget to think about the low densities north of the Fraser in relation to the success of the WCE when they trot out the “not enough density” argument also!)

Today, the automobile no longer represents that same freedom of mobility for our communities. In addition to air quality and pollution impacts, congestion and over-use has killed the automobile as the saviour of freedom of movement. Today, we are moving towards a world where public transportation systems, walking, and cycling are the real tools for improved mobility and health for all ages, and leaders with vision will recognize that and act accordingly.

James Watt

via Chilliwack Progress – A transportation vision for the future.

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