Pivotal transit study still stalled at provincial level

Pivotal transit study still stalled at provincial level

Further delays could impact local budgets

By Rochelle Baker, The Times October 22, 2010 8:05 AM

Fraser Valley politicians are growing increasingly impatient as they wait on the provincial government to release a comprehensive study around the future of transit services in the Fraser Valley.

Abbotsford Coun. Patricia Ross and Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District said the delay of the Fraser Valley Transit Study is raising concerns at both the regional and municipal levels.

“It’s a very important piece of information we need so we can all move forward,” said Ross. “It’s somewhat frustrating.”

The Fraser Valley Transit Study, which includes 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.

The anticipated completion date was late 2009 and municipalities had expected to have it in hand by February, said Ross.

Community planning and detailed regional and local transit plans by municipalities and BC Transit are being held up by the study’s delay.

“We need to plan our communities around transit routes,” said Ross.

Additionally, Abbotsford and other municipalities in the region are planning their budgets for 2011.

If the study is delayed much longer, it won’t be able to shape budgets until 2012, said Ross.

Local governments and the FVRD need the study to help meet their commitment to become carbon neutral by 2012 as part of the province’s Climate Action Charter, she said.

The FVRD also intends to use the study to help establish green house gas reduction targets and strategies for its Regional Growth Strategy due in May 2011.

The FVRD has contacted via letter the ministry twice – in June and September – and hasn’t received any reply about when to expect the study.

At Monday’s council meeting Abbotsford Mayor George Peary said he’s seen the draft document, and cannot imagine what is causing the delay.

Peary and Mission Mayor James Atebe met briefly with the Minister of Transport Shirley Bond in the early fall and raised their concerns, but were not given any indication as to when to expect the report.

“It might well be that the provincial government doesn’t have the resources at this time to come to the table and help us achieve the vision (outlined in the study),” Peary said.

Ministry spokesman Dave Kreb said the report is undergoing an internal review and should be available to the municipalities and public sometime this fall.

“It’s just due diligence. It’s a pretty comprehensive document,” Kreb said.

The study – largely funded by the province and developed with the FVRD, BC Transit and TransLink – will address future demand in the region and also examine the viability of using the Southern Rail Corridor or Interurban Line from Chilliwack to Surrey for commuter rail.

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