Rail advocate quotes Gretzky to push plan


Another fine article on the proposed ‘valley’ rail. There is an ever growing support for the ‘return of the interurban’ but please, there is really no such thing as ‘community rail’ and it would sad if the proposed interurban project were to be side-tracked by an unproven transit philosophy. Any form of rail transit is expensive and it must be built to cater to to specific customer demands and wants, if not the public (the customer) will not use it. Community rail is a figment of an academics imagination, which makes good copy, but has little substance. The modern development of the interurban, is now ”TramTrain‘ and is built to satisfy longer distance travel, rather than a short distance travel and definitely should not be seen as a feeder to the SkyTrain metro system.

Rail For The Valley supports a Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain, a 21st century transit philosophy that has proven to be not only affordable and successful and is now used in over 20 locations around the world. The term, Community Rail, like the SkyTrain light-metro are only mentioned in the METRO and Fraser Valley region and it is time that we join the rest of the world in designing and building proven light rail transit.

TramTrain in the country

Rail advocate quotes Gretzky to push plan

By Brian Lewis, The ProvinceMarch 28, 2010

If more of our federal, provincial and municipal politicians who represent constituents south of the Fraser River thought like Wayne Gretzky, then moving throughout this vast and fast-growing region would be as enjoyable as it once was watching the Great One score hat tricks.

“Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is now,” was Gretzky’s advice to fellow hockey players.

But his straightforward lesson still applies to far more than jocks chasing a little rubber disc on the ice. It’s also tailor-made for public transportation planning, for example.

This is why engineer and community-rail guru Peter Holt used the Gretzky analogy in his recent presentation to the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce when he spoke about why he and many others strongly feel that the Fraser Valley’s best long-term transportation solutions are riding on the rails.

The eloquent ex-Brit and former Royal Navy engineering officer has an extensive professional background that includes a number of senior roles in Canadian aerospace programs and with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Since moving his family to Surrey in 1997, Holt has focused on regional issues and served as executive director of the forward-thinking Surrey Board of Trade between 2004 and 2007. That’s where he also furthered a keen interest in urban and regional growth, public transit and, of course, trains.

On the nostalgic side, he’s an enthusiastic spokesman for the Surrey-based Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society, which is well along in restoring one of the original cars from the old B.C. Electric interurban rail line that ran from downtown Vancouver and up the Fraser Valley to Chilliwack from 1910 to the early 1950s.

On the practical side, Holt sees the “Fraser Valley Heritage Railway” and its refurbished vintage rolling stock as an excellent medium for creating awareness of the potential to fully restore the 103-kilometre right-of-way, which is still owned by the B.C. government, to accommodate a new, state-of-the-art community rail system.

Not only is the interurban right-of-way a wholly-owned public asset, Holt points out, but the legal authority to use it for public transit has also been established.

An introductory “heritage tourism” service during the summer on part of the line could be introduced by late 2011 for as little as $700,000, he suggests, and the City of Surrey is very serious about backing the initiative.

But the primary goal for Holt, his rail-heritage pals and a number of Valley rail advocacy groups, is a full community-rail service that would link SkyTrain in Surrey with Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

Holt told the Chilliwack business group that about 20 years from now, another 400,000 people will be living in the Fraser Valley. That’s equal to another city roughly the size of Surrey today.

But, he warns, expanding the road system to accommodate this growth will be much more expensive and far more environmentally damaging than choosing a community-rail option.

“Of course cars are more convenient today, but as our roads become more congested and expensive to expand, people will have to look at other transit options,” Holt says.

In other words, plan transit based on where it’s going, not where it’s at today.

That’s how politicians can score with taxpayers.



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