South Fraser Community RAIL

An environmentally friendly hydrogen powered passenger train connecting the Pattullo Bridge in Surrey to Chilliwack

Revival of interurban line will help create more sustainable cities, advocates say | Globe and Mail

By Kerry Gold for the Globe and Mail

Metro Vancouver has as much of a traffic crisis as it has an affordable housing crisis, with thousands of cars backed up on major arterial roads between Vancouver and Abbotsford every day.

But TransLink, the transportation authority for Metro Vancouver, doesn’t believe that reviving passenger service on the old interurban rail line is the solution. Interurban passenger service was routine more than 100 years ago throughout North America, including a route from Vancouver to Chilliwack. Most jurisdictions sold off the lines once the car came along, but the interurban land in Metro Vancouver remains publicly owned, which has triggered proposals to revive it. A story in last week’s Globe and Mail explored that idea.

But TransLink cites the legal difficulty in negotiating with private companies that currently use the track for freight. They say the interurban does not support a more immediate plan to provide better transit to the region’s second downtown of Surrey Centre.

As well, it would be pricey to refurbish the line and because of its many stops, it would be too slow an option for commuters. Studies have been done over the years, which did not favour the idea, TransLink says, including a consultant’s south of Fraser area transit report in 2007, a provincial government report on Fraser Valley transit in 2010, and a TransLink assessment in 2012 as part of a Surrey rapid transit study.

TransLink says it will revisit the issue of interurban service as one of several options as part of its new regional transportation strategy, called Transport 2050.

“The lack of connections to population centres and the slowerthan-bus travel time are more compelling reasons why the idea has not been recommended for consideration for either rapid transit or inter-regional rail options,” TransLink’s spokesperson said in an e-mail.

Housing affordability and better transit are inextricably linked.

To that end, citizen activist groups have been arguing for the benefits of restoring passenger service on the old line that runs from Surrey through the Fraser Valley. The rail line is currently used for freight, but it is owned by BC Hydro, a Crown corporation whose private predecessor, BC Electric Railway, built the line in 1910. The line was built to link farming communities with the city, serving more than a dozen tiny communities and helping grow the Fraser Valley. It got decommissioned when cars and buses ruled the day, but now that congestion is making the region unlivable, proponents want to bring the old way of train travel back.

Some say it’s a better option than the costly SkyTrain proposal to link Surrey to Langley. There are residents in those cities who vehemently oppose the idea of an interurban service over the faster SkyTrain.

Daryl Dela Cruz, a 23-year-old student, formed a citizens’ group in support of SkyTrain instead of an interurban train from Surrey to Langley. His group mounted a petition that has about 6,000 signatures and they campaigned during the civic election to make it a central issue.

“We’re saying, ‘Hey, your [interurban] line theory might not be a bad idea, perhaps more study could be done – but it’s not a replacement for the SkyTrain,’ ” Mr. Dela Cruz says.

Others say the interurban is more inclusive of the entire Valley, which is quickly expanding and it shouldn’t be disregarded because of SkyTrain. They argue that the interurban goes through Langley Centre, as well as areas that the SkyTrain would miss, including North Delta, South Newton, Cloverdale and Abbotsford.

TransLink says that while those areas are important, its mandate is to prioritize urban centres identified in the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. The interurban does not go through Surrey Centre and it takes a winding route to Langley Centre, TransLink says.

“We have been tasked with delivering fast, frequent and reliable rapid transit between urban centres – the interurban project does not achieve that goal.”

The pro-interurban groups say that the number of stops could easily be adjusted, and because it has its own path, the service wouldn’t be affected by car traffic.

It would therefore be faster than driving in gridlock.

TransLink responds: “The interurban is not completely separated. There are many crossings at road intersections. As per the facts in the agreement with BC Hydro, there would definitely be conflicts with freight operations.

Passenger trains would be slowed by car and freight traffic, if not completely separated.”

BC Hydro owns the land and two private freight companies own the track that sits on the land. Those companies are CP Rail and Southern Railway, which owns the vast majority of the track. Hydro has a long-standing agreement with CP Rail that allows negotiation of the track for passenger service. There is also a clause that permits CP to double track the line at its own cost. BC Hydro spokesman Geoff Hastings says it does not have such arrangements with Southern Railway, which would require negotiations.

Mr. Hastings says that BC Hydro and the private railways would have to reach an agreement before TransLink could enter into separate commercial negotiations with the companies on acquiring passenger service rights.

“Entering into these agreements also requires the co-operation and consent of CP and Southern Railway, as passenger service would have to be scheduled around freight movement.”

John Vissers of Abbotsford

John Vissers is a recently retired owner of a construction company that built multifamily housing. He has lived in Abbotsford for 30 years and sits on the city’s development advisory committee. On a good day, Abbotsford is a little more than a one-hour drive from Vancouver.

His city might not be as dense as Surrey, but what policy-makers are missing, he says, is that Abbotsford is expected to expand to about 200,000 people – and nobody is preparing for that. He was involved in the development of an official community plan to add density and create urban areas as opposed to sprawl, but that can only be accomplished with better transit. Mr. Vissers says Abbotsford households are so car dependent that they often own three or four cars.

He supports the revival of the interurban as an expedient way to develop affordable housing and a walkable city.

“Why aren’t we doing this?

What’s holding us back and why are the policy-makers not interested?” he asks. “That’s the thing that mystifies me. We own the land and we did it 100 years ago, why can’t we do it now? I think they are using a 20th-century model for their thinking.”

The needs of the entire Valley should be considered, he says. He is not opposed to residents in Surrey and Langley who want SkyTrain.

“I see us as complementing SkyTrain and saying, ‘Here is another tool in the toolbox, another way of adding to the capacity for public transportation.’ We are looking at how we can move people regionally and at an affordable price. We don’t want to wait another 20 years, and why should we?” Developers will embrace the interurban system because the line goes through downtown Abbotsford, he says. City council recently agreed that a proposal for a 600-unit downtown housing project should go to public hearing. If built, it would significantly densify the downtown core. His city is expected to grow by 40,000 in the next 20 years alone, and yet there is no significant plan for transit.

He says the people of Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack can’t wait for another 20 years.

“We are transitioning from a sprawl city to a livable, walkable, sustainable city,” he says. “We’ve developed an official community plan to absorb that increase, without growing our footprint, which is pretty exciting.

“But what we haven’t done is find any other regional transportation than that freeway. We know it’s a big mistake, but we haven’t really developed a plan to address that.”

Developer Michael Geller, who builds low- to mid-density projects, also embraces the interurban idea. He says the interurban would encourage development around the stations and revitalize communities. He argues that commuters would rather get work done while sitting in a train than sitting idle in a car.

“When they brought these train lines in in the old days, that’s what dictated where development went,” he says. “With trams and trains, you can have more stops than when you have a SkyTrain. And so you begin to get the development that happened 80 years ago.

“Housing development and transportation, they go together, and I think it’s just a matter of time before we do have a tram service or train service or some hybrid back out to Chilliwack … because you have housing choices out there you don’t have in Vancouver or north Vancouver, and it will help with affordability.”


Push begins to rebuild Vancouver-Chilliwack rail line | Globe and Mail

July 9th, 2019

By Kerry Gold for the Globe and Mail:

Imagine a modern regional tram that could get people out of their cars and connect communities between Surrey and Chilliwack, similar to the passenger lines that have long existed in European cities.

The line already exists. It’s the old interurban track that was built by B.C. Electric Railway and completed on Oct. 3, 1910, when then-premier Sir Richard McBride drove the last spike. The Lower Mainland was undergoing a real estate boom at the time, and construction of the interurban rail line, and streetcars, opened up major new opportunities. The cars were bigger than streetcars, and ran from Vancouver to Chilliwack. But regional trams and city streetcars couldn’t compete with cars and buses, and the last interurban passenger service on the line was discontinued in 1958.

Now, with another major boom under way, and the search on for affordable housing in walkable urban communities, there is a campaign afoot to bring it back to the Fraser Valley.

“It’s getting worse by the day – the traffic is almost impossible, and the big difficulty is, if you keep widening a freeway and build more overpasses, a freeway simply creates more sprawl and more need for transit,” says Bill Vander Zalm, the former premier whose government ensured that the ownership of the interurban line would stay as publicly owned land.

Mr. Vander Zalm is one of the spokespeople helping to launch the South Fraser Community Rail campaign. ”With proper transit, if you look at where SkyTrain was built … wherever there is a station, there is a hub of housing. It happens at stations. So if we take the Fraser Valley community rail to Chilliwack, we are going to get development hubs, more affordable housing – it will prevent sprawl, keep the green space and agricultural land. It’s all a good thing.”

A 1923 map shows the route of an interurban train line between Vancouver and Chilliwack.

The line was operated until the 1950s by the B.C. Electric Railway. BC HYDRO As a kid, Mr. Vander Zalm lived in Bradner, a small community near Abbotsford along the old interurban line, and he would ride the tram to Langley. Passenger rail service was integral to the region’s growth, and the interurban was a massive undertaking at the time. In his 1948 history of the B.C. Electric Railway Company, Lighted Journey, author Cecil Maiden wrote:

“The conception was a bold one, yet if a line could be driven to Chilliwack, 64 miles up the Valley, it might prove an inestimable boon to the growing farm communities then moving in substantial numbers into the district.”

Mr. Vander Zalm says that after many of the interurban rail lines around North America were decommissioned in the latter half of the 20th century, displaced by an expanding highway system, it was routine for jurisdictions to sell off the land. But when the B.C. government sold off BC Hydro’s freight rail division to an American company in the 1980s, it retained ownership of the land. “We wouldn’t allow the sale of the track,” he said. “We would allow the sale of the freight rights, and we had a provision that if ever we needed the track for transit, for moving people, they’d have to give it up immediately, and make sure it was in good shape, etc.”

“We saw it coming – this is 30 odd years ago – and it took a long time for it to materialize, but I think the time has come. “I think we were the only ones in the whole of North America that kept a train track for moving people.”

With increasing home prices, the Fraser Valley has grown far beyond a farming region, as people “drive until they qualify” for home ownership. Highway 1, which connects the valley communities, is overwhelmed with daily gridlock. According to the 2016 Census, 11 per cent of workers, or 130,405 people, commute for more than an hour a day in Metro Vancouver. The return of an existing rail line – one that’s in good shape and already owned by the province – for passenger service has been an idea kicked around by various groups for a couple of decades – but relatively few people are even aware the line exists. The newly formed South Fraser Community Rail Society has put forward a proposal to resurrect the old line as a means to better connect the Fraser Valley and promote growth in the region in a way that’s more livable. A new interurban transit line would create hubs around which density could grow, and walkable communities could link up with other transit services.

Former Langley mayor Rick Green, who is spearheading the proposal, says the group is self-funded and apolitical. It includes retired politicians and community activists, and supporters such as Mr. Vander Zalm and the University of British Columbia’s Patrick Condon, who is professor of architecture and landscape architecture. Mr. Green got interested in 2006 and mobilized significant interest, but then in 2011, he failed in his re-election bid and the proposal lost momentum. He and a few other advocates decided to take another run at it, particularly with talk of extending SkyTrain into Surrey. For a meeting with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Green arrived with massive binders of documentation, including a B.C. government news release from 1988, which states that the sale of BC Hydro’s freight division “does not include land under or either side of the rail bed nor does it include air rights above Hydro’s rail corridor. These have been retained in order to accommodate future rail passenger, real estate or other developments along former B.C. Electric Railway routings in the Lower Mainland.” The fact that it remained within the public domain all these years is huge, he says. “It’s amazing how many people weren’t aware of it, and as we have over the last couple of decades talked to people at various candidate celebrations, and everything else, you put up your maps, and 99 per cent of people who look at it say, ‘why aren’t we doing it?’” Mr. Green says. “The explosion in the population, the exponential growth out to the valley, is far greater than we anticipated, and why did that happen? Growth of property values. Everybody wants a home they can afford,” he adds.

Over the next few weeks, the group is officially launching their campaign and spreading the message that the interurban rail will serve the bulk of the population south of the Fraser, as well as key job centres along Scott Road, Newton, Cloverdale, Langley and beyond. Mr. Green is armed with data, such as the estimation that it would cost $200-million a kilometre to build a SkyTrain line from Surrey Centre to Langley City, as opposed to the $12.5-million a kilometre they say it would cost to reactivate the interurban line from Scott Road to Chilliwack. He says the interurban project would connect 16 existing communities, 14 postsecondary schools, the Abbotsford International Airport, several industrial parks and bring students closer to several postsecondary campuses.

There are almost 1.2 million people living in the Fraser Valley region. It is growing faster than Vancouver, UBC’s Prof. Condon says, and traffic will only worsen as people seek affordable housing. His students did analysis and found areas where they could easily fit half a million housing units, he says. Modern passenger rail cars that run on hydrogen, as used in Europe, would offer a pollution-free alternative to the automobile, he says. “I think it’s an almost immediate solution to a critical problem,” Prof. Condon says. “If we can establish this now, it will help to organize the future land uses around transit as opposed to the automobile. “Most of the lands that the interurban goes through are previous industrial areas, and I would call them almost derelict now, not being used to maximum capacity – and they are perfect candidates for high intensity, mixed-use, walkable areas with housing and jobs within a 10-minute reach of the interurban line.” His theory on why the idea hasn’t been taken more seriously is a “Vancouver-centric” view of transit and land use. But times have changed, and it’s not all about Vancouver any more, he says. “Over 70 per cent of the car trips that originate south of the Fraser River stay south. So the idea that everybody is crossing the river to get to jobs is no longer true.”


Community Rail Response to TransLink Report on Reviving Interurban Line

Patrick Condon is the James Taylor chair in Landscape and Livable Environments at the University of British Columbia’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the founding chair of the UBC Urban Design program.

TransLink has released a report dated June 6 to the Joint Regional Transportation Planning Committee later shared with the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation.

It contains several misunderstandings and factual errors, some of which are addressed below.


The overarching misunderstanding is this: the concept of the Community Rail proposal is not driven by a desire or a need to connect the larger valley to the center of the Vancouver region as the TransLink response seems to imply, but to serve what is an increasingly self-contained urban region where more than 70 percent of all trips originating south of the Fraser now end south of the Fraser, a dramatic reversal from only 15 years ago.

For example, in that time the South of Fraser Region has seen population and employment growth that is fifty percent higher per year than Vancouver’s. Air traffic out of Abbotsford International airport is increasing by almost 50% per year. Employment (such as at the new Molsons Brewery, which left Vancouver for Chilliwack) is rapidly moving to the valley in search of more affordable land, a stable labor force, and broader transportation access than that possible in Vancouver.

Any assessment that does not elevate these facts to the status of first principles for analysis will be fatally flawed. Any assessment that is more than ten years old will be of little relevance. Any assessment that does not accept that rubber-based transportation systems in the valley are already in a state of gridlock and crisis and destined to remain so indefinitely absent a government response, is negligent. Detailed point by point responses are below.

1. Under the heading of “Purpose,” TransLink falsely claims that the Community Rail proposal is suggested as an alternative to SkyTrain to Langley this is not the case. While the Community Rail serves many of the same ends as a SkyTrain to Langley proposal, at far less than one tenth of the cost, the Community Rail proposal has a far broader ambition: to serve the entire valley with affordable rail, not just the Surrey to Langley leg of the narrowly defined Vancouver Metro area.

2. Under “Background,” first paragraph. TransLink mistakenly says that the line is owned by Canadian Pacific and Southern Railway. It is not. It is owned by the Province. Only freight rights were sold. Passenger rights were retained.

3. Under “Background” paragraph two. TransLink mistakenly suggests that freight conflicts with freight movement would be a hindrance. It would not. The master agreement between the Province and the rail users stipulates that freight must give way to passenger use and that if double tracking is needed due to use conflicts, the cost will be borne by CP.

In the same paragraph TransLink suggests that the alignment of the interurban line has “limited alignment with regional land use plans” which is hard to credit while TransLink is proceeding with a plan for very expensive Skytrain through the lengthy unoccupied Green Timbers reserve, the lightly populated Fleetwood, and the agricultural lands of the Serpentine Valley before arriving at the same Langley Centre area also served by the interurban line.

4. Under “Background” paragraph three. 
TransLink suggests that the line “may be part of a longer-term future, and opportunities should be retained for future services.” which is a positive statement. However, valley citizens have long held the opinion that this future is now. Furthermore, TransLink overstates its mandate, which to date ends at the Langley border. The community rail proposal serves a region that extends at least 70 km east of that line.

5. Under “Background” paragraph four. 
TransLink states that the line “does not directly connect relevant regional destinations (i.e. Surrey Central and Langley City),” while failing to acknowledge that the line does serve regional destinations such as North Delta, South Newton, and Cloverdale that their current plans fail to serve at all.
TransLink states that “resulted in less attractive travel times between key destinations” while failing to acknowledge that travel times are a function of the number of stops per unit distance and that the number of stops can be balanced against travel time objectives. Also, that the interurban line is already in its own ROW and would not be slowed by traffic conflicts.

TransLink goes on to assert that the line “would require significant capital investments to meet safety requirements,” apparently ignorant of the fact that the Alstom hydrogen powered vehicles proposed can run immediately on the existing line without significant alteration and already meet Canadian safety standards.

Furthermore, in the same paragraph TransLink states that these misunderstood cost factors would end up “resulting in costs similar or higher than those along Fraser Highway or King George, but without commensurate benefits.” An independent assessment would prove this assertion to be dramatically misstated.

5. Under “Background” paragraph five. TransLink helpfully suggests that “A new element of the Interurban proposal includes the potential use of hydrogen fuel cell trains, as being used in Germany for passenger service. This idea has not been evaluated.” We suggest that this evaluation be fast tracked as this technology removes many impediments. Self-contained power eliminates the need to restore electrification of the line, which would be the major cost if new catenary and electrical power systems were required. With hydrogen they are not – nor does hydrogen pollute valley air.

6. Under “Discussion” first paragraph. TransLink states, that “the Interurban alignment is indirect and through lower density and diverse areas. Both directness and density are critical factors in the performance of a successful rapid transit corridor” while their own maps shown clearly indicate that the interurban line connects key jobs centers including Scot Road, Delta/Surrey, South Newton, Cloverdale, and more of Langley than the proposed Skytrain line, while again failing to place this comment in the context of the much larger ambitions of the interurban proposal.

7. Under topic: “Freight volumes are expected to increase along the Interurban corridor.” TransLink makes much of the volume of freight traffic flowing through the so called “shared section” of the line, shared by Southern Rail and CP largely to the north of the City of Langley. As mentioned above TransLink seems unaware that CP is contractually obligated to pay the costs of double tracking this section should passenger use be impacted.

8. Under the topic: “Interurban requires substantial infrastructure investments comparable to building rapid transit along urban arterials.” Much of what TransLink asserts must stem from confusion about the legal status of the line. The line is owned by the Province and available for use, for free, for passenger use immediately. Furthermore, apart from the “shared section” discussed above, the line is very lightly used and largely during off hours. Thus, any discussion of double tracking the line is wildly premature.


The detailed responses above are provided to clarify what appears to be a deep misunderstanding on the part of TransLink staff regarding the interurban proposal. However, this discussion may obscure the main point. The main public benefit of the proposal is not in how fast a few commuters might get from Langley center to downtown Vancouver, but rather in how we might lay the spine for a more sustainable South of Fraser region. This region is experiencing explosive job and population growth, partly or largely driven by the exorbitant cost of housing closer to Vancouver. This growth, now almost entirely car dependent in form, has led to region wide grid lock. This gridlock is particularly severe on Route 1, where travel times during rush hours have slowed to a crawl, and where idling cars foul the air of the entire valley floor. We are suggesting that, at very very low cost, essentially the cost of just a few vehicles, interurban service could be resumed and could restore the walkable transit-oriented structure that gave birth to the valley economy in the first place.

Patrick Condon is the James Taylor chair in Landscape and Livable Environments at the University of British Columbia’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the founding chair of the UBC Urban Design program.

The Truth about TRANSLINK Survey Results, Exposed

Learn the facts behind TransLink’s misrepresentation of our Transit options

Press Release May 26th, 2019
By Rick Green

The latest TransLink Surrey SkyTrain Survey results were released by TransLink yesterday, exposing the organization for what it is very good at: irresponsibility with your tax dollars, conducting one sided Open Houses with only one option, conducting in-house on-line surveys with only one option, and conducting market research with only one option and one question.

Add all of this up, and you get a one sided result. Surprised?

Add to the above the fact that the area being surveyed is starved for Transit options of any kind. In Langley/Surrey you get results that have been deliberately and expensively manufactured by TransLink for your pleasure. Wasting tax dollars is something they do very well.

Real market research seeks out the public’s view on a selection of issues, and provides a variety of options to choose from. Conducting telephone market research and asking the question “would you be in favor of SkyTrain to Langley City down the Fraser Highway?” with no other option or details — What do you think the answer is going to be? As stated above, they are starved for a transit option of any kind.

The Translink survey is Fake Public Engagement, designed with a preset answer, and an insult to the intelligence of the region.

On the telephone market research survey, let’s break down their numbers:

In Surrey: a sample size of 595, a margin of error of +/-4%, 85% support and in numbers 505.

In Langley City: a sample size of 67, a margin of error of +/-12%, 90% support and in numbers 60.

In Township Langley: a sample size of 180, a margin of error of +/-8%, 92% support and in numbers 165.

NOTE: This phone call research again asked one question with only one option and you get 90%-92 %? In a transportation starved community, how did they not get 100%?

On Open House, filled out survey forms?

Translink has been pouring endless amount of your own tax dollars into the following: a website, Digital ads (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Search network, Google Display Network, G mail ads), Surrey Now Leader banner ads, advertorial, Facebook Posts, Langley Advance Times Banner ads, advertorial, Facebook Posts, SMS NextBus alert ads, eNewsletters, Social Media engagement using Facebook and Twitter (Facebook events were created for each open house), direct outreach through corporate, business and community organizations, Mail out postcards to Surrey and Langley businesses and residents, Street teams (staff hours) distributing postcards at transit hubs, Community Events in Surrey, Information Boards at Surrey City Hall, Langley City Hall and the Township of Langley City Hall, and finally, transit ads. Are you surprised at the result?

The level of awareness seems to have been the question of the day!

With all the money poured into a one-sided Public Engagement Campaign, the results are not at all surprising. Throughout the survey they talk about the plan for the South of Fraser — Surrey is NOT the entire South of Fraser region, but one portion of it. Once again, asking residents one question, on one option, in a region starved for any Transit option, does not constitute a survey of any value.

Consider the following:

Doug McCallum got elected with only 13.50% of the eligible voters in Surrey

Doug promised SkyTrain at a cost of $1.65 Billion, when we know the actual cost will be $3 + Billion!

Doug promised a City Police Force at a 10% cost increase– when we know the increase will be substantially greater!

With the Safe Surrey Coalition now disbanded, Doug McCallum is the lone remaining voice, and will cost residents and taxpayers throughout the entire region increased TransLink taxation costs, on top of increased Surrey taxation for increased Policing costs. This financial irresponsibility has got to stop!

Let’s review the Per Capita Costs below on all the transit options presented to-date:

  • Original LRT, Guildford, Surrey Center to Newton
    11 kms in length 104th Guildford to Surrey Center down King George Blvd to Newton
    Pop. 312,340 @ $1.65 Billion = $5,122. Per capita
  • SkyTrain Surrey Center to Fleetwood
    7 kms in length down Fraser Highway to Fleetwood
    Pop. 62,735 @ $1.65 Billion = $25,504. per capita
  • SkyTrain Surrey Center to Langley City 
    16 kms in length down Fraser Highway (About $800 million thru a Dead Zone, 25% no population)
    Pop 157,618 @ $3.2 Billion = $20,302. per capita

A better solution for our region would be the following, but the questions regarding this option were not asked or mentioned, Why?

  • Surrey Scott Rd SkyTrain station to Chilliwack 
    99 kms in length on the Interurban Passenger Rail Corridor
    Pop. 852,846 @ $1.250 Billion = $1,465. per capita

The Interurban Hydrail Passenger Rail proposal would serve 1.2 million people on an existing public right-of-way. Why wasn’t this option presented in their survey? The reactivation cost would be pennies on the dollar, and would serve 14 Post Secondary Institutions, 7 First Nations communities, and 16 cities, towns and municipalities, and prevent completely irresponsible and unnecessary clear-cutting of the Green Timbers Urban Forest.

Translink: Stop insulting the intelligence of the Public. Start by conducting a balanced public survey that will actually mean something, seek out new and valuable information, and save all of us billions of dollars while providing far superior service at a fraction of the cost.

The whole charade would be laughable if the implications were not so serious. TransLink continues to squander your tax dollars while the region’s 1.2 million residents are losing out on the FREE use of this existing corridor.

To do better, we need the Province to look at South of Fraser as a whole, and Survey us accordingly.

For more information in South Fraser Community Rail, contact Rick Green at 604 866–5752

Horgan says BC will ‘look closely’ at interurban corridor plan

Langley Advance Times Article:

“…The premier also mentioned other issues around transportation at the announcement, including a mention of the old Interurban rail line that once ran through the Fraser Valley as far as Chilliwack. Former Langley mayor Rick Green and former Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm have been touting a plan recently to place hydrogen powered passenger rail on the line, which is currently used for freight rail:

The province would look closely at the idea, Horgan said, noting that transportation is not just about moving people to Vancouver but around the Valley as well”.

Business Council of BC Endorses need for Rail

Opinion: Bold moves needed now to resolve Lower Mainland livability crisis

Projected population increases will keep land prices rising in the long term, so more radical action must be taken now

It is time to get serious about housing, transportation, regional planning and growth in the Lower Mainland.

When thinking about the region’s future and concerns about housing affordability and livability more generally, a useful starting point is demographics. B.C. government projections point to a significant increase in the combined population of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley regional district over the next couple of decades, rising from almost three million today to 3.8 million by 2040 – an increase of 800,000 people. The expected rise is even larger than the 700,000 people added to the region’s population over the preceding two decades. Most of this increase was due to immigration. It is reasonable to expect this pattern will continue, especially considering the Justin Trudeau government plans to sharply boost immigration numbers in the coming years.

Given the steadily increasing population coupled with a constrained and limited land supply, it doesn’t take a graduate degree in economics to recognize the price of land in the Lower Mainland will continue to rise at a pace well ahead of inflation. Yes, there will be periods of softening prices, as currently evident in the real estate market. But over the medium and longer term, land prices are going only one way: higher.

How then to address the challenges of housing affordability, congestion, longer commute times and a declining quality of life for many residents?

Higher taxes on residential real estate to discourage non-resident demand and a greater focus on the supply of purpose-built rental housing may help, but realistically they won’t do much over time. If we are honest, there has been an inordinate amount of talk about the need to improve housing affordability with no substantive, longer-term solutions emerging from all the chatter. Instead, it is time for some bold and strategic action. It is time to develop infrastructure that supports regional connectivity, provides workers with tolerable commutes and allows for a broader array of more affordable options for would-be homeowners.

A new Fraser Valley “innovation corridor” anchored by a commuter rail system running from Chilliwack to the city of Vancouver would help address many of the region’s most pressing issues. It would also offer new opportunities for regional economic development and growth.

A rail system, perhaps like Greater Toronto’s GO train, would have many important benefits. By providing decent and predictable commute times, it would vastly expand the potential supply of more-affordable housing options. It would help alleviate traffic congestion. Sure, some degree of congestion will always plague the region. But if a rail system delivered an effective alternative to driving, policy-makers could then reasonably talk about tolls and other forms of road pricing to help manage congestion. More trips on transit and less road congestion aligns with the province’s greenhouse gas plans.

It would also provide an opportunity for some regional vision and “out-of-the-box” thinking. A well-designed rail system supports the development of a second urban business centre, something the region desperately needs if it is going to remain competitive as downtown Vancouver becomes increasingly cost prohibitive for more businesses.

Careful consideration should also be given to developing the “innovation corridor.” Rather than picking a particular industry sector to champion, government should focus on building infrastructure that enhances the benefits that will flow from having a larger and more robust regional urban agglomeration.
A new commuter rail system, of course, comes with a hefty price tag. But there are good reasons to consider making such a large and bold investment at this time. Most importantly, the long-term economic returns from this kind of transportation infrastructure are virtually certain to exceed the cost of money borrowed to finance the project, particularly when borrowing costs for the province are likely to be below 3 per cent.

It should also be noted the province’s current debt load is manageable; the government could absorb $7 billion to $9 billion in debt to help finance capital costs without pushing its debt-to-GDP ratio up to levels that would concern rating agencies.

The federal government would also participate, and a strong case can be made that it should make a substantial contribution because a disproportionate number of new immigrants will settle in the Lower Mainland.
Such a large undertaking should also embrace creative financing options. Private pension funds are looking to invest in infrastructure. There is also the opportunity for government to capture some of the resulting increase in land value to help finance capital costs. From our perspective, financing the project is manageable.
A bigger challenge may be having sufficient capacity to build the project. But the greatest hurdle of all is political will: the project will need to be conceived and implemented by the provincial government but will also require co-operation and planning across numerous municipalities.

Jock Finlayson is the Business Council of British Columbia’s executive vice-president and chief policy officer; Ken Peacock is the council’s chief economist.