Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese commented recently in a Globe and Mail article about the Interurban Rail proposal, which would see the connection of our 16 towns and communities South of Fraser with a passenger rail spine.
Mayor Froese blames his own reluctance to support the rail proposal on the fact that it’s been rejected by TransLink in the past, and that “[it has] freight on it already and it would be slower than buses.”
Mayor Froese represents what should be a strong voice for our regional transportation network, given that he is currently Vice Chair of TransLink Mayor’s Council.
To address Mayor Froese’s statement, the problem with our regional transit network has nothing to do with the relative speed of our buses. Nor is community rail only viable as a “high speed funnel” into Vancouver.
In reality, our buses are subject to the same traffic congestion as everyone else. A highway express bus, from one community to another, is too cramped and uncomfortable to get any meaningful work done on a commute, and is simply inadequate to carry the entire transit burden of our collective region, no matter how many of them you add to our highways or how many tax dollars you throw at it.
Rural interconnectivity is a major point in favour of Community Rail, as those living all over European towns and countrysides are well aware.
Our buses’ biggest challenge lies in the fact that they, too, rely on the same highway as everyone else.
It will take a dedicated rail spine to create something for buses to reliably and regularly connect to. It is rail that will form a reliable interregional backbone for our sprawling region, separate from the highway.
This will especially address the cost conundrum of servicing our more rural areas, which much of our region consists of.
Mayor Froese should be well aware that the Township of Langley contributes nearly $50 million dollars to TransLink coffers every year. This doesn’t just go to Langley’s lagging highway-dependent bus network (our major Industrial park, Gloucester Estates, still doesn’t have a single bus despite being home to thousands of jobs) but towards projects as wild as the recent proposal to spend billions of dollars dredging out the Burrard Inlet to replace the Seabus with a Skytrain tunnel.
We can’t afford to waste our limited transit dollars on expensive projects for the benefit of a few, while our broader region is chronically underserved or outright ignored.
Highways and buses are not good enough on their own. Nowhere in the world has another bus or highway lane by itself cured congestion.
But according to elected leaders like Mayor Froese, these are supposedly our best and only options, while we go along merrily paying for other communities’ overpriced Skytrains and Gondolas.
This is what we are seeing from our Township of Langley Mayor, who through his political goggles, somehow sees the yet-unfunded $3 billion dollar SkyTrain to Langley City proposal as having trickle down benefits for the Township of Langley.
Never mind the fact the Township’s patchy roads are so congested that even getting to Langley City is a pilgrimage. It’s a common case that one might as well go straight to Scott Road station and skip the headache of trying to cross town.
In fact, projects like these cost us all, big time. Insiders profit off land speculation on the proposed-route corridors while residents are priced out of their own communities.
All the profits the line produces wind up in the hands of overpriced condo developers, while the taxpayer has no capture mechanism in place at all to recoup any of the profits from the new density and land lift we create, which is money we need to pay for the infrastructure costs we will still be paying off for decades to come.
The reason the Interurban Passenger Rail is such an incredible opportunity for our region is that it not only creates the much-needed transit spine to support a better regional bus and transit network, but it does so without the expensive procurement of new land, and without the need to build new density to raise the taxes to pay for it.
The line already exists. We own the passenger rights. We now need the political will and courage to use it.
Brittany Gardner, South Fraser Community Rail Advocate
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