Bus vs trains

Bus vs trains

Transit study favours buses over rail


A much anticipated study about the future of transit in the Fraser Valley has been released, and it favours expanding bus routes over re-establishing the Interurban rail service.

“We’ve been waiting for it for a while and are thrilled it’s out,” said Abbotsford Counc. Patricia Ross and chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District.

“Now we know what we should focus on and what it will cost. It’s a given we have to improve the system, and this is a guide to help us do that.”

The Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley, which covers the FVRD communities of Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Kent, Harrison Hot Springs, and Hope, was initiated by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in November 2008.

It set out to determine the best options for transit services within the region and to link up with Metro Vancouver.

One of the more interesting facts to come out of the study was that 80 per cent of all trips in the Fraser Valley end in the region itself, said Ross.

“It clearly shows us we have to improve the system within the Fraser Valley Regional District significantly,” she said.

“We obviously need linkages with communities within the Fraser Valley itself.”

The estimated cost of improving the system is a “staggering,” said Ross.

That new system highlights the development of new regional and inter-regional bus routes over the next 20 year, and would see yearly costs go from approximately $10 million up to $80 million.

The strategy includes increased service at 10-minute intervals during peak periods along Highway 11 between Abbotsford and Mission.

An hourly service between Abbotsford and Chilliwack as well as service from Abbotsford along Highway 1 to Langley and Surrey, and the available RapidBus connections to the SkyTrain and Vancouver.

Mission would also be connected along Highway 7 to Maple Ridge, and its connections to the proposed Evergreen SkyTrain line.

The system would see an increase from approximately 40 buses to more than 75 buses over the next two decades.

Light rail was evaluated but was determined to be too expensive.

“The 2031 annual operating and debt service cost for a commuter rail service along the inter-urban line between Abbotsford and Surrey of approximately $68.9 million would almost equal that of the entire investment required to achieve the [transit] Vision,” stated the report.

John Vissers, spokesman with Rail for the Valley, a group advocating the establishment of light rail in the region, said the provincial numbers are inflated.

“Sure, for a deluxe WestCoast Express style commuter train, if you include all capital costs up front and serve free caviar in the dining car,” said Vissers. “We calculate annual operating costs for a full service light rail tram/train system on the Inter-urban track at less than $3 million.”

Residents in Abbotsford and Chilliwack are among the nations lowest per capita users of public transportation, he said, and buses, while a good thing, primarily attract “captured” riders.

“Trams and Trains attract new riders who choose to leave their cars at home or at a station . . . and add a whole new rider base,” he said.

The provincial study is reactive planning that in fact promotes urban sprawl while light rail encourages sustainable growth along the corridor, he added.

Ross noted all the stakeholders in the process will now set about looking at the information and looking to the community for input before proceeding.

“We [all] still have to discuss it. We’ll have to sit down and evaluate both [the transit strategy and light rail.]“

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