From the Vancouver Province – Inter-Urban exhibit sparks debate – ‘B.C. Electric Railway: More Than Just a Tram’ an example of light-rail transit

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It seems that the momentum for the return of the Fraser Valley Interurban is gaining strength. If we can get the consensus of Valley mayors to support the return of the interurban, the next big hurdle is to take on the SkyTrain/light-metro lobby, because they desperately do not want much cheaper light rail operating any where near SkyTrain, lest it expose the light-metro’s huge construction and operating costs.

TransLink’s transit planning has come off the rails a long time ago and too many bureaucrats are afraid to have their dirty little secret exposed, by the reinstatement of the interurban. The impending $450 million deficit is just more evidence that we are squandering far too much money on transit, that has failed to create the model to attract the motorist from the car. Is it time for TransLink to go and a more locally and fiscally responsive organization should be created?

The valley interurban is coming and sooner than many people think and the great wailing and gnashing of teeth of those against the project is almost laughable; the question to be asked is: “When will METRO and regional politicians realize that modern light rail, track-sharing by using existing tracks, can be built as much as one tenth the cost of SkyTrain!” Much cheaper LRT means light-rail can penetrate into areas never dreamed of by current transit planners, creating more destination opportunities, thus attracting for ridership. How long can TransLink resist the power of modern light rail?

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Inter-Urban exhibit sparks debate

‘B.C. Electric Railway: More Than Just a Tram’ an example of light-rail transit

By Brian Lewis, The Province – October 17, 2009

The call for establishing light-rail transit throughout the Fraser Valley is strengthening and now some of its advocates are reaching into the past to show us the future.

On Saturday, the Chilliwack Museum officially opened a year-long special exhibit — “The B.C. Electric Railway: More Than Just A Tram” — that tells the story of the Inter-Urban electric rail service that operated from downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack from 1910 until the 1950s.

However, as the exhibits title suggests, the B.C. Electric Company brought far more than a simple rail service to the Fraser Valley.

The private-sector company, which was run by British Empire entrepreneurs out of its London headquarters, also played the major role in establishing and developing the Fraser Valley as we know it today.

Most importantly, it brought electricity to the Fraser Valley, electricity it produced via the region’s first large hydro-electric dam and power station at nearby Buntzen Lake.

Not only did the BCE provide the power and the trains to the valley, it also established the first stores to sell electric appliances and other products to households and industry.

And as the exhibit demonstrates, the BCE’s rail presence had equally huge social and economic implications for the valley.

Farmers could quickly ship their fresh products to Vancouver’s market, food-processing operations became economically feasible all along the Inter-Urban route, valley sports teams joined Vancouver-based leagues, crop pickers from the city were easily transported to valley farms and the region’s towns, lakes and streams were suddenly accessible to city-based tour- ists.

“The idea for this exhibit grew out of the current public discussions on re-establishing rail service in the valley” says Chilliwack Museum executive director Ron Denman.

“We want people who see this exhibit to understand the extent of the long-lasting impacts the first rapid-rail transit system had on the Fraser Valley.

“And we want them to think about what would happen if we had a rapid-transit system in the valley today that was on a similar scale.

“I think it would have a similar effect on our future development and it certainly would be a greener and more efficient way to move people,” he adds.

“The BCE Railway was a green initiative long before going green became popular.” Meanwhile, as the staff at Chilliwack Museum (www.chilliwack.

museum.bc.ca) put the finishing touches on the special exhibit, equally intensive action has been taking place on the political front.

The various community groups that have called for rail in the valley are joining the region’s city councils and post-secondary schools to establish the South of the Fraser Community Rail Task Force.

Under this umbrella, the valley rail campaign is about to enter a more sophisticated phase.

Led by Langley Township Mayor Rick Green, it’s calling on the federal and provincial governments to help establish a full-demonstration project on part of the Inter-Urban line, one that would utilize the latest light-rail technology.

“One of the things we’ve been lacking up to this point is a common voice,” Green explains. “Now this task force will be the unifying voice for the communities we represent.” Details about the new task force will be announced shortly.

http://www.theprovince.com/opinion/Inter+Urban+exhibit+sparks+debate/2116793/story.html

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