It is all too simple, the tracks are there from Vancouver to Chilliwack, the diesel light-rail vehicles are available from many manufacturers and have been proven in revenue operation, and the precedent of the Karlsruhe two-system or zweisystem LRT with almost 20 years of safe operation track-sharing with mainline railways, makes the return of the interurban an almost shovel-ready project. Why then does Premier Campbell and his Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, not want the “return of the interurban” for the Fraser Valley. There are five main reasons.
1) The interurban is not seen to be a Metro Vancouver rapid transit project. The monied ‘West-side types’ (locally known as the creme de la creme) who run and finance the provincial and federal Liberal Parties, see the interurban as a non-vote getter, thus not essential – not needed. It’s the same Liberal ‘West-side types’ that forced the now $2.5 billion (over $1.2 billion over budget) RAV/Canada line subway on TransLink because they did not want LRT operating on the former interurban rapid transit route, the Arbutus Corridor.
2) Because LRT is much cheaper to build, there is less chance of ‘friends of the government’ or ‘ ‘friends of the bureaucracy’ getting contracts to work on the project. Simply put, light rail is too cheap to build for political or bureaucratic benefit.
3) 30 years of the SkyTrain myth has ingrained itself on planning in the region; transit is no longer built to move people affordably, rather it is built to facilitate land development. For developers, the bigger and more expensive a transit project is, the better it is. Building SkyTrain in the region has been like forcing round pegs into square holes.
4) The BC Liberals think ‘valley‘ seats are safe seats and don’t care about any transit improvements because they think Fraser Valley voters, like sheep, will always return Liberal MLA’s to the legislature.
5) The trucking industry and the Road Builders Association are big supporters of the BC Liberal Party and Campbell’s and Falcon’s ‘rubber on asphalt’ transportation policies favour theses two groups. Rail, unless there is political benefit, is not even on the radar screen. ‘Rubber on Asphalt’ is the credo of the Transportation Ministry.
There are many more reasons why the Liberals do not want the ‘return of the interurban’ to the valley, but here are the top five. It is up to ‘rail’ advocates to make ‘rail for the valley’ an election issue, to force both the BC Liberals and the NDP, to come out of the closet with real (not empty promises) plans for the return of passenger rail service from Vancouver to Chilliwack. The clock for this May’s election is ticking down……………………………..