April 28, 2008

Event recap: VALTAC forum on Rail for the Valley

On Saturday I attended a forum put on by VALTAC (Valley Transportation Advisory Committee), hosted at the Langley Township Hall. (Nice building!) It was a statement toward our poor transit network South of the Fraser that all five speakers drove to the venue. Stephen Rees joked that the TransLink trip planner wouldn’t even give him a trip itinerary because it would take either more than 3 hours or more than 3 transfers. My proximity to the Hall made it easy enough to get there, if you consider a bus late by 7 minutes then a 20-minute walk easy. And Langley isn’t exactly known for being pedestrian-friendly.

The forum was about getting better public transportation South of the Fraser, mainly via rail connections. There is much support for one solution, spearheaded by a group called Rail for the Valley, which would reinstate the Interurban that ran from about 1900 to 1950 all the way from Vancouver to Chilliwack. Maps at the venue showed the dense urban centres through which this rail line passes. (Today it is used only for freight.)

I attended the second half of the forum, during which our five speakers made their statements then answered questions from the (albeit small) audience. The crux of the discussion was that the only barrier standing in our way of getting rail back is political will! If only the Province got behind transit first instead of road expansion, we could potentially have at least a demonstration rail running within 6 months. Paul Hillsdon suggested borrowing a West Coast Express train on a weekend and running it along the tracks. One panelist emphasized that the government is elected by us to do as we want, therefore we should speak up and tell them what we want! In the South of Fraser region, our voices carry a lot of weight.

It was an optimistic view that also brings to light how ridiculous the provincial government’s timeline is for rapid transit out here, not to mention the cost! It was also great to put some faces to names from online discussions. Unfortunately I missed Nathan Pachal.

I’ll probably add some more links to resources later… Lunchtime is over. Hope to see you at the next VALTAC or Rail for the Valley event!