Myths & Facts
Here are some myths you might have heard about passenger rail.
1. We don’t have the population yet. Maybe in 20 years.
In 1910, we had 18,000 people in the Fraser Valley, and we had
Interurban passenger rail service all the way from Chilliwack to
Vancouver. In the 1950s, we had 80,000 people, but the Interurban was
shut down because people were driving cars instead. Today, the Fraser
Valley has 10 times the population (800,000), and traffic headaches
you’d never dream about in the 1950s.
And if we reach some never-specified magical population number in 20
years anyway, why not prepare for it today?
2. We don’t have the density.
We don’t have the density for expensive Skytrain, but we don’t need
Skytrain. We need regular trains like we used to have, and we have
plenty of density for that.
All around the world, light rail is being built in regions with
comparable or lower density. We don’t even need to look to Europe – the
sprawling spread-out city of Calgary has the C-Train, carrying 250,000
passengers a day.
3. Laying track is just too expensive.
Think about this. There are tracks everywhere. All across Canada. We
could afford to build those thousands of miles of track when we were
relatively just a few people, but now it’s too expensive to build a bit
more track in order to connect the people of the Fraser Valley? This
idea that with all our population and wealth of today we can’t afford to
build a few kilometres of new track – is laughable.
When politicians say laying track is too expensive, it just means
they want to spend our money on something else.
But in fact, WE ALREADY HAVE TRACKS just waiting to be used. The old
Interurban tracks could be upgraded to passenger service at low cost.
All totalled, it would end up costing from about $250 million for a basic
service, to $1 billion for an extremely comprehensive service from
Chilliwack to Vancouver, which would include a new rail bridge over the
Fraser River. These amounts include stations, trains and everything else.
It sounds like a lot of money, but compare this to the $2.4 billion being
spent on Vancouver’s 19km RAV line, $2.8 billion for a planned 12 km
Skytrain extension to UBC, and the $7 billion and rising pricetag of the
proposed Gateway highway-expansion projects. Why not spend a bit of money
on rail transportation in the Fraser Valley for a change?
4. The geography of the Interurban line makes it too slow and
impractical to use.
Some sections of the Interurban track have a slight grade to them.
This makes some politicians and bureaucrats claim that trains running
uphill on them would be too slow, only travelling at 50 km/hr. It’s
completely bogus. Once the track is upgraded, we can expect speeds of
80-90 km/hr in areas where the density of stations is not too high.
From its terminus in downtown Chilliwack, the Interurban track runs
through Sardis, Yarrow, down to Sumas and up past UCFV to Abbotsford.
From there, it runs westward past Trinity Western University, through
Langley, Cloverdale and Surrey, currently ending near the Scott Rd.
Skytrain station. It’s walking distance from ALL of our south of Fraser
colleges and universities, most commercial centres, and a short shuttle
ride from the Abbotsford Airport.
5. The Interurban, and trains in general, are slower than
The eastern sections of the Interurban track don’t take a perfectly
direct route, so an Interurban train wouldn’t get you from Chilliwack to
Vancouver quite as fast as a car would (in good traffic and GOOD
WEATHER). The train ride would be much more relaxing though, and you
would actually enjoy the trip. Ideally, another line would serve
longer-distance commuters from the eastern Valley, such as an expanded
West Coast Express or a new track along the highway.
It’s NOT generally true that trains are slower than cars. The
West Coast Express, for example, travels at 110 km/hr and takes 73
minutes to get from Mission to downtown Vancouver – easily faster than a
car, and ridiculously faster than a car stuck in traffic.
6. Rail services like the West Coast Express are heavily
Not true at all. The Westcoast Express would actually be profitable
if it were not for the expensive lease fee that has to be paid to CP for
the use of their track. Unlike roads, trains can make money.
And unlike the West Coast Express, the Interurban right-of-way south
of the Fraser River is owned by the government, as well as the rights to
run passenger rail on the track. No expensive lease fees here.
7. Trains would create bedroom communities.
The argument REALLY is: in order to keep outlying communities from
becoming bedroom communities, the powers that be must artificially
restrict the mobility of their citizens by denying us the right to
travel in a relaxing, environmentally friendly way.
It’s backward thinking, an iron curtain mentality. And it’s wrong.
The train goes both ways. Just as good “rail” transit makes it
attractive to live in outlying communities, it would also be a sure
inducement for businesses wishing to relocate from the higher-taxed and
congested Vancouver region.
Forget about bedroom communities. How about polluted communities?
Increased smog, air quality alerts, growing levels of asthma and lung
disease resulting from more and more vehicles on the road creating
greater traffic congestion, emissions wafting eastward? That’s what
we’re looking at in the eastern Valley without rail.
Passenger rail will help clean up the air we breathe!
8. We’re not a train culture. We wouldn’t get the ridership.
One second, one politician will claim rail will create bedroom
communities. Then, another will claim that we wouldn’t get the ridership
because we’re not a train culture.
Which is it, guys? These are just excuses for the status quo – the
easiest answer is always inaction.
Anyone who uses the Skytrain or the West Coast Express knows that we
are as much of a train culture as anywhere in the world, and if we are
less so south of the Fraser, it is only because we have no trains.
9. The government is spending lots of money on transit. We need a
balance. There’s just no extra money available right now.
Other than Surrey Skytrain, we have ABSOLUTELY NO RAIL TRANSIT south
of the Fraser. This is not balance.
There’s loads of money. Both the federal and provincial governments’
pockets are overflowing with surpluses of our money.
It’s a question of priorities. There’s plenty of money available for
costly Gateway road-building and glamour projects for Vancouver such as
RAV. For the price of the over-budget Vancouver Convention Centre, we
could have already had rail all the way from Chilliwack to Vancouver.
Re-establishing the Interurban rail line is an incredibly
cost-efficient thing to do, with the right-of-way and tracks already in
place. It’s been said that the premier recently had an “epiphany”
regarding climate change and the need to reduce our greenhouse gases.
Rail for the Valley would do that. It’s an idea whose time has come.
Now is the time to get our rail.
10. Yes, it makes sense to have rail, but it’s not going to
happen, because we’re just ordinary people, not big-money special
To learn more, here are some additional resources on the web:
Valley needs passenger rail service NOW! facebook group. If
you look enough, you’ll find a lot of information in all the past
discussion boards and wall posts.
Fraser Valley Light Rail – A detailed SFU Urban Studies proposal for
light rail in the Valley.
Light Rail Transit Association
– a worldwide resource for all things light rail.