Who should run the Interurban? A recommendation.

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Now a recap of the earlier posting, Who should run the interurban?”

TransLink

TransLink has been against the ‘return of the interurban’ from the start and the recent study done by an engineering firm that had no background in modern LRT was predictable. Why would you consider commuter rail on a route that was not designed for standard passenger cars, but for light-rail in a form of an interurban? TransLink knows this, yet preceded with a transit study that was not only questionable, but next to useless. If the study was so good, why do another (after the election)? Traditionally TransLink has thought of LRT as a poor-man’s SkyTrain that has inferior service, even believing that just by building with SkyTrain, will attract about double the ridership. Funny though, TransLink never offers any studies that would substantiate this claim. But TransLink is the regional public transit operating authority and maybe compelled to plan and operate the interurban.

A South Fraser Transportation Agency

The new interurban service may herald a new South Fraser Transportation Agency to run public transit South of the Fraser River, from Delta or Surrey to Chilliwack. Certainly when South Fraser taxpayer’s, faced with large property tax (read TransLink tax) increases to pay for very expensive ‘metro’ in other municipalities, may want to walk away from TransLink and even ‘Metro” Vancouver. In the very near future, the municipalities with RAV and/or SkyTrain, may have to pay the full shot! A new South Fraser Transportation Agency may be created out of the chaos and wish to plan for and operate much cheaper light-rail, in its various forms, instead.

Southern Railway of BC

As the proposed interurban service will operate on largely S.R.R. trackage they may be asked to run the service. Who knows better how to run a railway than those who run railways. Certainly if the interurban connects to Vancouver proper, via the existing Fraser River Rail Bridge, the S.R.R. will be asked to negotiate pathways (with historical rights going back to the BC Electric) with the CNR and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, to operate the service. The S.R.R. may be asked to run the interurban as a separate subsidized service for the province  or TransLink or even operate the interurban as a private venture. The S.R.R. maybe very interested in operating the interurban, light-rail, and tram-trains as the operation maybe a successful template for the E&N railway on Vancouver Island and many other short line railways.

TransLink & BC Transit

The Province of BC  may operate the interurban, strictly for political reasons, through BC Transit. BC Transit is TransLink’s older brother and has a dubious history with modern light-rail, which TransLink inherited, but may be compelled to by the transportation ministry and the Minister of Transportation.

An opinion by Zweisystem.

Both TransLink and its earlier cousin BC Transit have never wanted to plan for or operate light-rail and their entrenched anti-LRT stance makes both organizations unsuitable. BC Transit was once in partnership with Bombardier Inc. to sell SkyTrain abroad and there are several other close connections to the light-metro/SkyTrain lobby. The problem is simple; operating modern LRT may embarrassingly expose their published biases about light-rail and embarrassing bureaucrats is a major political no-no; let us not forget Gerald Fox’s shredding of TransLink’s business case for the Evergreen Line and the silence from the “Ivory Towers” on Kingsway.  Both organizations could not be trusted to plan and operate any LRT project in the region.

A South Fraser Transit Authority is intriguing, but a long way off and I doubt that a new transit organization would want to take on the Interurban which leaves the Southern Railway of  BC as a very good contender.

Even thought the SRR of BC is a freight carrier,they have good experience with operating railways and would understand signaling nuances and track up-grades needed for safe operation of tram-trains and freight trains. A bonus for the SRR of BC is that they are also involved with the E & N Railway on Vancouver island and the same passenger rail solutions could be used in that locale as well. In an era where transit organizations are beginning to realize that cheap ‘rail’ transportation solutions are desirable, a successful Vancouver to Chilliwack Interurban could provide the very solution needed elsewhere in North and South America. The management of the SRR of BC may even embrace the idea of tram-train operation and sell their expertise abroad, with the Fraser Valley and the SRR of BC being the very centre of a 21st century public transport revolution – cheap rail transit!

Anyone can build a metro at $150 million a km. or more, one just hires the experts to design and build it; only true ‘rail’ experts can build modern LRT (tram-train) on the old BCE Interurban route for $10 million a km. or less.

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