It seems that TransLink, which is in deep financial trouble, is on the verge of dumping the Evergreen SkyTrain Line. No surprise here as the proposed Evergreen line follows a route with little ridership potential.
Despite claims and opinions to the contrary, there is little demand for a SkyTrain metro extension to the Tri-Cities as peak hour bus ridership is still less that would sustain a bare bones tram system. Why then TransLink’s penchant for SkyTrain and light-metro?
It’s all about land development and not providing an attractive transit alternative, nor building a customer friendly transit system. Land values near SkyTrain, especially at stations rises considerably as municipal politicians relax zoning and allow much higher densities. This in turn creates large windfall profits for the landowners. The lands adjacent to the Evergreen line have already been rezoned for higher residential and commercial densities and there was little scope for large profits. The $450 million shortfall in funding, poor ridership, and little scope for property rezoning and redevelopment, means the Evergreen Line will remain a vague political promise, with little chance of fruition.
What does this mean for the valley interurban?
The deferral of the Evergreen Line could be good news and I stress ‘could be’ good news for the valley interurban. Why so? TransLink is ‘tapped out’ and taking on another short metro line will only add to their current financial woes. There is an ever increasing demand from Fraser Valley politicians and residents that they too want to see ‘rail’ transit.
Including RAV, total spending on SkyTrain light-metro network is past $8 billion dollars (those huge annual debt servicing charges do add up), yet there is little to show for it south of the Fraser. If RAV/Canada Line doesn’t meet projected ridership numbers by August 2010, there possibly could be a demand by politicians (mindful of 2011 municipal elections) in the Fraser Valley for a more affordable and quicker ‘rail’ transit solution than a $3 billion or more ‘pixie dust’ SkyTrain line to Langley by 2040!
A hourly Vancouver to Chilliwack diesel LRT service could be put in place for about the same cost of two or three km. of SkyTrain and completed in under two years!
The collapse of the Evergreen SkyTrain metro will not herald a new era of light rail in the lower mainland, but may compel transit planners to build a cheap ‘rail‘ showcase light railway project fueled by political demands of the taxpayers south of the Fraser River, tired of funding ‘other people’s’ rapid transit lines!