Transport Action BC

2014, December 5

“BC on the Move” Online Survey Closes Soon

The BC Government’s online survey for its latest 10 year transportation plan closes on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone announced the next 10-year transportation plan (“BC on the Move”) and consultation in October 2014. Consultation documents and details are here. Take the survey here.

SFU’s Gordon Price notes that funding for the planned projects is not subject to voter approval even though Vancouver area transit projects are subject to a “Yes” vote in the upcoming transit funding referendum. According to Price, the plan continues the province’s current highway projects with a bit of a sop thrown to cycling and transit.

The plan does mention rail but only as a mode for moving bulk goods and containers efficiently. Improvements to / support of intercity bus and rail passenger services are not considered.

2012, June 27

The slow death of passenger rail in Canada continues

Transport Action BC calls VIA Rail Canada cuts ‘inexplicable’ and ‘wrong to the core’

‘Death by a thousand cuts’ continues while hundreds of millions invested in VIA’s renewal

VIA rail fading away slowly.

KAMLOOPS, JUNE 27, 2012 – Matthew Buchanan, president of the public transportation users and advocacy group, Transport Action BC, said that today’s announcement of yet more cuts to Canada’s nationwide rail passenger service is wrong and inexplicable given this federal government’s recent investment of $923 million in a renewal of VIA Rail Canada’s trains, stations and other assets.

“While the rest of the G20 nations invest heavily and wisely in expanding their rail passenger services, Canada’s longstanding policy of cutting VIA continues,” said Buchanan.

“These cuts are wrong to the core and the destructiveness of this latest round will soon become apparent, much to the detriment of the more than four million passengers who use VIA annually.”

In 2009, VIA began receiving $923 million for the largest capital renewal program in its 35-year history.  Transport Action BC applauded that wise decision, especially the leadership role played by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, who are strong supporters of public transportation, in general, and VIA, in particular.  Some of the investments in that capital renewal package are now being undermined by cuts to the very trains they were meant to benefit.

Respected sources, such as the U.S. Department of Commerce, have determined that every dollar invested in rail projects yields three to four dollars of economic spin-off, not to mention vast social and environmental benefits.  Furthermore, VIA’s public funding for its national network of passenger trains costs the average taxpayer only $1.60 per month – less than the cost of a large cup of coffee.

“We can only believe today’s shocking announcement is part of the usual Ottawa game,” said Buchanan.  “From the day it was born as a publicly-owned Crown corporation in 1977, VIA has been under attack by high-ranking civil servants at Transport Canada, Treasury Board and Finance.  They have engaged in a 35-year campaign that can only be described as ‘death by a thousand cuts.’  It appears these civil servants have once again misled the elected officials who have championed VIA and convinced them this is the right track to take.  Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The cuts – which are being portrayed by VIA as “the next phase of its modernization project” – will severely and negatively affect the following routes:

  • The Canadian (Toronto-Vancouver) cut from three trains weekly to two from the end of October until April each year;
  • The Ocean (Montreal-Halifax) reduced from six times weekly to three, cutting VIA service to Atlantic Canada in half;
  • Montreal-Ottawa;
  • Toronto-Stratford-London;
  • London-Sarnia;
  • London-Windsor; and
  • Toronto-Niagara Falls.

Deeper cuts will occur next year and in 2014, as VIA’s operating budget is reduced further.

2012, June 8

6-lane Pattullo bridge not in best interests of Metro Vancouver

Filed under: Studies — Tags: , , , , — Matthew @ 8:32 am

Letter that Transport Action BC sent to TransLink this week.

We are writing regarding TransLink’s decision to replace the aging Pattullo Bridge with a wider, 6-lane facility. We do not think that a higher capacity Pattullo Bridge is in the best interests of our region. It meets neither the goals of TransLink’s 2040 vision, nor does it fit into the strategies set out to meet TransLink’s goals. Given the extraordinary cost and risk of this project, the relatively small constituency it serves and the exemplary opportunity in this corridor to create the 2040 mode shift which is so critical to the economic viability and livability of our region, we urge TransLink to rethink its plans for this bridge.

image of the bridge arches

Pattullo Bridge details, photo by Flickr user GS+

When it opened in the 1930’s the Pattullo Bridge was the primary crossing of the Fraser River for vehicle traffic and served as a regional connection between the Burrard Peninsula and the Fraser Valley/USA. With the opening of the Port Mann Bridge and the Hwy 1 corridor in the 1960’s this role was, however, lost. Indeed, the primary role of the Port Mann Bridge was reinforced recently by the Provincial decision to replace it with a massive 10 lane structure and to widen Hwy 1. The Pattullo now serves mostly the local needs of Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby residents; a connection which is largely duplicated by the SkyBridge and the extensive SkyTrain network which has successfully served the residents of these communities and remains less than full capacity. In short the local needs of the Pattullo Bridge users (typically less than 40,000 users/day – 2 way trips) do not justify the almost 1 billion dollar investment from the regional Transportation authority, particularly when other options are available.

TransLink’s models have predicted significant traffic growth in the Pattullo corridor yet these predictions cannot reflect our region’s changing demographics, the influence of peak oil on travel patterns and choices, and the improved land use patterns throughout the region, all of which reduce the need to travel distances to get to work or amenities. These factors have already resulted in a considerable reduction in travel demand in many cities throughout North America. TransLink has an opportunity to encourage this shift in travel behavior by investing in quality public transit and preferentially supporting energy efficient modes for goods movement. To achieve this mode shift TransLink must invest in the quality transit connections to SkyTrain, particularly in Surrey where lack of transit services continues to fail the expectations of residents. In addition, improved transit connections within Surrey will promote land use changes which will reduce the need to travel throughout the region.

Much of the growth in goods movements envisioned for this corridor can be handled through the rail and river modes using existing or modestly upgraded facilities and investments in better intermodal connections. In the future the role of these modes will be much more important if our ports are to compete on the international stage in a world of high energy costs and unsolvable congestion challenges.

Finally we are concerned that the high cost of a 6 lane Pattullo Bridge could have detrimental impacts on transportation throughout the region if the traffic predictions are not met and TransLink is left with unfunded liabilities similar to the current situation with the Golden Ears Bridge. It seems that TransLink’s traffic models over-estimate the traffic demand when tolls are involved. Additional debt servicing costs could leave other essential elements of the transportation system starved of operating funds.

In conclusion, we ask the board of TransLink to reconsider its determination to build a 6 lane replacement to the Pattullo Bridge. TransLink should be using the strength of its multi-modal mandate to ensure that transportation corridors and facilities are used as efficiently as possible and that all major investments contribute directly and effectively to the important goals outlined in TransLink’s 2040 vision.

2012, May 11

Kamloops Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge

Filed under: Pedestrian — Tags: , , , , , — Matthew @ 10:25 pm

The long awaited bridge and paths linking the eastern end of downtown with the Rivers trail and the Valleyview are complete. See the bridge and trails on OpenStreetMap. The bridge and trail will do a lot for walking and cycling in Kamloops; linking parts of the city that have been disconnected for decades. The highway interchange (the Trans Canada and the Yellowhead Highway junction) and the Canadian Pacific mainline go through the area. There hasn’t been a safe way to walk between Valleyview and the central area of Kamloops until this new path opened.

Some people complained about the high cost of the trails and bridge, saying that the money would have been better spent building more parking spaces at the hospital. It certainly was expensive and did go over budget, but it was a difficult site with the railway and highway on-ramps in close proximity, and both had to remain open at all times. A lot of retaining walls had to be built to squeeze the trail in between the existing lanes. Poor decisions in the past when the interchanges was built led to this expensive solution today. Why didn’t they build a proper sidewalk at the time? That’s a good question, but I think the idea was that people should be forced into cars or the infrequent bus. Walkers and cyclists were just not thought important enough. We’ve come a long way since those dark days, but it is still an uphill battle to get proper and safe sidewalks, paths and bike lanes so that there are real alternatives to driving. I think Kamloopsians will grow to appreciate this important link on the eastern side of the city.

Coincident with the new bridge and paths is a new designated bike lane through central Kamloops. Aligning along Nicola and St Paul streets, which see less car traffic then nearby roads, it links the new bridge to the west (downtown). The north side of the bridge connects to the River’s Trail and an unpleasant sidewalk on the Yellowhead highway bridge towards Tk’emlups Band territory. The east link connects to on-road bike lanes on Valleyview Drive.

These links will certainly attract a lot of users once they discover it, but the bike route will soon frustrate commuter cyclists due to the number of stop signs and “Stop and Dismount” signs.

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