Buses, not rail, laid out in Valley transit vision

ByAi??Ai??Jeff Nagel – BC Local News

The Fraser Valley needs to get A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??and pay for A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??a much higher level of bus service, but a rail transit service that would wind its way along the old Interurban line is not among the recommended options.

A long-awaited provincial government review of Fraser Valley transit concludes a new commuter rail service on the Interurban corridor from Abbotsford to Surrey would cost $70 million a year A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??almost as much as a much more urgently needed expansion in local, regional and inter-regional bus service that would take the current system from $11 million a year to $90 million.

Providing premium express bus service on Highway 1 in dedicated lanes would be much cheaper than rail, it says, freeing up more money for the improved bus service, which is estimated to serve 20 times as many passengers.

“Although an inter-regional railway service between the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver may be part of a long-term future, a strong foundation of local, regional and inter-regional services as presented in the Vision is an essential starting point.”

A rail service all the way from Chilliwack to Surrey would cost $112 million a year, it says.

That rail option cost is based on a peak-only service using heavy diesel trains like the West Coast Express A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??not the light-rail modern trams that Rail For the Valley fans contend could provide an all-day community-oriented service at modest cost.

More passengers would likely be served using light-rail trains, the analysis shows, but at a higher cost of $108 million per year to Abbotsford and $176 million to Chilliwack.

Rail For The Valley spokesman John Buker said the analysis is flawed and the results are “strongly biased” against light rail, particularly in terms of its ridership estimates.

The report recommends a five-fold increase in local bus service in the Valley to 420,000 service hours over the next 20 years, up from 85,000 today.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines would let passengers board every 10 minutes or less on the high-traffic South Fraser Way and Yale Road corridors.

Express bus routes using more comfortable highway coaches would link Abbotsford west through Langley along both the Highway 1 and Fraser Highway corridors to SkyTrain in Surrey or else Burnaby via the new Port Mann Bridge.

Another express route would go north from Abbotsford to Mission and then west through Maple Ridge and on to the Tri-Cities. Others would connect Abbotsford to Chilliwack and Chilliwack to both Agassiz and Hope.

The highway buses would range from service as often as every 10 minutes to hourly (to Agassiz) and five trips per day to Hope.

Also envisioned are grids of interconnected frequent transit corridors A?ai??i??ai??? guaranteeing buses every 15 minutes, 15 hours a day.

Those plans recognize the fact 80 per cent of all trips in the Valley are by residents traveling in their home community, so future service must be largely geared to local destinations, not commuting long distances across the Lower Mainland.

Local transit service should increase from 350 per cent in Abbotsford to more than 600 per cent in Chilliwack, it says, much of it concentrated on the urban areas.

Consultants also looked at extending West Coast Express 11 kilometres across the Fraser River into downtown Abbotsford.

Various upgrades would be required, including new Abbotsford and Silverdale stations, new or expanded park-and-rides and a relocation of the Mission WCE station, along with transit tie-ins.

But the $11.6-million annual cost of the Abbotsford WCE extension would be far greater than the proposed new express bus service to Mission, which would operate much more frequently (every 10 minutes at peak times, 20 minutes off-peak versus 30 minutes for WCE at peak times only, no service at off-peak times.)

Ten per cent of West Coast Express traffic already comes from the Fraser Valley. About 6,000 daily passengers board at Mission A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??10 per cent of total WCE traffic A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??with about 56 per cent of them from Mission and 38 per cent from Abbotsford.

The Interurban assessment assumed nine stations A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??four in Surrey, three in Langley and just one each in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Adding more, consultants said, would increase trip time and deter passengers.

Since expanded rail isn’t discarded forever, the reports say rail corridors should be retained for a possible future service.

Buker said rail lines shouldn’t be shelved.

“There are some nice ideas presented of enhanced local bus service which deserve a closer look, but the hard truth is it is extremely doubtful that ridership will be high enough to sustain these levels of services without a light rail backbone,” he said.

“If the Fraser Valley can support hourly, or even half-hourly, regional bus service, it can also support light rail, whose operating costs over the lifetime of the vehicles tend to actually be lower, when all costs are taken into account.”

The Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley was conducted by the transportation ministry in partnership with TransLink, the Fraser Valley Regional District and B.C. Transit and analyzed travel patterns across the region.

It warns a paradigm shift in how local communities work together is needed as well as “dramatically different land-use plans” from what community plans now envision, with denser development along transit routes and more mixed uses.

The vision requires “fundamental shifts” that may take up to 30 years to achieve, but it calls on all agencies to work to accelerate the implementation.

Also needed are dedicated bus lanes, queue jumper ramps, and coordinated traffic lights to help speed buses through congestion on key corridors, such as South Fraser Way, Yale Road, Highway 1 and Fraser Highway.

Local cities and BC Transit are to work on shorter-term plans in the next few years to start delivering the 20-year strategy.

‘Modest’ gas tax could revenue to improve dismal transit service

Just one per cent of trips made in the Fraser Valley Regional District are on transit, compared to three per cent in Kelowna and Kamloops, eight per cent in Victoria and 11 per cent in Metro Vancouver.

The findings of the province’s Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley show the region is woefully underserved by transit relative to other areas.

The Valley gets less than 0.5 annual transit service hours per resident A?ai??i??ai??? one-third as much as Kamloops and Kelowna and one-fifth as much per capita transit service as Metro Vancouver.

Even Alberta communities like Strathcona and St. Albert get more than twice as much transit service as the Valley.

Valley residents also pay less in property taxes for transit A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??just $4 to $14 per person compared to $26 in the Okanagan cities and $130 in Metro Vancouver.

The existing transit system in the Valley needs steady revenue increases of 7.6 per cent per year from local, regional and provincial sources.

Higher property taxes, fares, provincial contributions and “new revenue sources” will all be needed to deliver the needed cash.

Adding a one-cent per litre gas tax in the FVRD A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??much less than the 12 cents charged in Metro Vancouver A?ai??i??ai???Ai??Ai??would generate $4.1 million a year, the report shows, by way of example.

The report notes TransLink’s fees and taxes could simply be extended to the Valley.

Or, it says, a Valley transit commission could be set up like one in the Capital Regional District that charges a 3.5 cent per litre gas tax.

“If the FVRD remains outside TransLinkA?ai??i??ai???s service area, a relatively modest fuel tax would be able to provide an adequate funding stream to allow significant improvements to be implemented,” it says.

“Without increased funding which is also more stable and predictable, the needs of the valley residents cannot be planned or developed in an optimum way.”

The FVRD population is projected to climb 70 per cent to more than 450,000 over the next two decades.

The reports target an increase in transit mode share to 4.1 per cent by 2040, up from one per cent in the Valley today.

Summary: Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley

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  1. Jim says:

    I don’t see any Valley politician forcing their community to join Translink any time soon.

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