Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Planes, Trains, Cars, Boats, Horse Carriages and Walking

Anyone who has drives in the Fraser Valley knows that we need massive investments in transportation. Transit, roads, and highways are all inadequate for the volume of people and goods attempting to move through and in the Fraser Valley. We have under-invested in Transportation for several decades, and now the problems are coming home to roost. The Provincial Government is spearheading the Pacific Gateway project which is targeted at removing road bottle necks to goods transportation throughout BC. I am going to express some concerns I have with the direction transportation investment is going, but I am by and large in favour of Gateway. However I would like to see a more comprehensive plan that addresses public transportation, rail corridors and roads.

What I like about Gateway.

Mary Hill/Pitt River Bridge Interchange
I've never lived in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows or the Tri-cities area, but I have had to get through them on occasion. The whole area near Pitt River is a traffic gong show. The bridge is too small and the traffic lights are a complete bottle neck. They are also dealing with this area properly from a transit point of view. They have decent bus service, the Evergreen line is going ahead, and they have the West-Coast Express. Good use of multi-mode transportation options.

Fraser Perimeter Roads
This has been a long time in the works. The Fraser River is the natural corridor for transportation through the valley. The current roads up and down the Fraser are completely inadequate for the current volume of traffic, let alone the volume that is projected.

Economic impacts for Prince Rupert
Prince Rupert was wasting away. It is now set to become a second major port for BC. This will only be good news for the north of the Province.


Delta Port Expansion and Rail Traffic
A third berth is likely going to be added to the Roberts Bank terminal for container traffic. The trains that carry this traffic run on the old BC Electric/Southern Railway rail line which runs through the heart of Langley, Cloverdale and Delta. These trains cause havoc with traffic in Langley. The current plan calls for the addition of 9 more grade separations. There is an alternative. The existing CN line can be joined to the BNSF line and then to the CN Delta Port Spur, or a dedicted new line could be built parallel to the South Fraser Perimeter road. The first option would be much cheaper than the estimated 300 million for the new grade separations, and get the rail traffic out of the heavily inhabited areas. This would free up the Southern Railway line for passenger use.

Allows Increased Car Traffic Without Increased Transit Options
Adding bridges and roads generally does not provide a long term solution to congestion. Many major cities in the US that have much larger highway systems have realized that adding lanes just adds more cars. These cities (Boston, LA, Seattle) are now investing heavily in light rail in attempt to get people out of cars. Gateway adds lanes with out adding much for transit. If transit is not a significantly better alternative to the car, why will people get out of the car?

Does Not Help Traffic That Stays in The Valley
Much of the traffic these days south of the Fraser stays south of the Fraser. The gateway project does not address the inter community congestion problems of the Fraser Valley. This is not what the planners had in mind. They expected that traffic would be centered around getting in and out of Vancouver. That is no longer the case. People and goods are moving between suburbs.

Spending Heaps on Roads and Bridges, Not on Rail
A good transportation system uses all modes of transportation, using those modes in the most effective manner. Gateway is heavily focused on roads. Yes the lower mainland needs investment in roads for the movement of goods and people, however that investment needs to be in a balanced plan that takes account of multiple modes of transportation, the needs of communities, and the desires of the electorate.

So what are the alternatives?

The Valley Transportation Advisory Committee (Valtac.org) is working hard to promote a rail or light rail transit alternative through the Fraser Valley.

The Delta MP, John Cummins, who unfortunately is a member of the *gasp* conservative party, is making some very interesting proposals and comments on his website, and I encourage those interested to check it out. It's too bad he is having to fight to get himself heard within his own party.

What can people do? Get involved. Join a group that aligns with your interests, and if you can't find one start your own. You can go to Translink's public consultations and speak up. Write letters to your local papers (they do make a difference). Write to your council members, MLA, and MP. If they don't give you the response you like, find one of their competitors (citizens of Langley, I am always looking for volunteers!) and help get them elected.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead.

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