Now that I guess we’re all in a sort of transit thinking mindset with yesterday’s Mayors’ Council plan reveal, here’s a bit of transit history!
I found this old transit map dating from about 10 years ago while on a recent internet browsing rampage. Here are some highlights about our previous transit network:
Unbuilt/nonexistent:Canada Line SkyTrain, VCC-Clark Station, 96 B-Line
Other nonexistent routes: 84 VCC-Clark/UBC,555 Port Mann Express, 301 Newton/Richmond, 791 Maple Ridge/Braid Stn, 620 Tsawassen/Vancouver, 430 Metrotown/Richmond, 531 White Rock/Langley, 364 Scottsdale/Langley, C12 Lions Bay
The routes were coloured in red!
Different route numbers! The #10 was part of the #8, and the #14 was the #10
No #9 service whatsoever past Alma
#135 continues to Stanley Park Loop
Today’s C21 and C23 were previously the #1
Today’s C5 and C7 were previously the #114 and #115
Today’s C71 and C73 were previously the #317 and #328
Richmond had several peak hour express routes (491, 496, etc) that complemented local routes and ran to Vancouver
The #41 used to do an evening detour onto Thunderbird Blvd at UBC
The #640 was the Tsawassen Ferry route!
The #319 portion between Scottsdale and Newton was served by separate #322
The #340 was one huge, confusing mess of a route running on today’s 340 and 341 bus routes
As I have a feeling that this is going to spark some further controversy regarding my comments and my stance on transit, I’d like to offer some additional comments as to why I have set my foot on this position.
The Fraser Valley interurban right-of-way has long been a target for transit advocates here in the South of Fraser (take note: Rail for the Valley initiative, South Fraser on Trax, other groups and individuals), largely on what seems to be a established bases of:
Having been a previously-used transit service
Being a public-owned right-of-way, therefore:
Being “ready-to-build” for a relatively inexpensive Fraser Valley rail transit service.
Between these advocates and official transportation planning and funding authorities like TransLink, BC Transit and the Province in general, there has been a lot of argument. Conflicting studies suggesting different capital costs per km have been thrown around here and there and claims of bias have been called by some of these advocates, pitting one study over another and citing differing reasons as to why.
Yet, at the same time, it seems that many of these advocates haven’t answered certain questions important in determining what investments are useful and what are not; in particular, the first question I note in my newsletter: “What is the current demand, and how will it change”. How many people are even travelling between Abbotsford and Chiliwack, and between those two points and Metro Vancouver. It’s reasonable to want a constantly-running alternative to driving, but in a province mired with billions in debt, I would think that the alternative has to be very well justified.
It also doesn’t seem that any of them have bothered to look at other alternatives to providing quality transit to the Fraser Valley from Metro Vancouver. An official proposal by B.C. Transit, albeit it is without funding and without a (detailed) implementation timeline, suggests a 10-minute peak rapid bus service extending from the new Carvolth Exchange in Langley Township to Abbotsford via the Trans-Canada Highway, and a 15-minute peak service to Chiliwack. I like this idea. I think that this is a very responsible and reasonable alternative, because it does provide a quality service, and only costs enough to warrant debate if demand warrants more buses or an upgrade to trains.
I’m not an anti-history person. On the Interurban cars and service, I believe they are a truly fascinating subject on how our region has grown and how people used to get around. Last week during the Salmon Festival in Steveston, I decided to check out Interurban car #1220 (as the admission was free for the day) and found myself fascinated by the ability to switch the seat backs from forward-facing to rear-facing (driver cabs are on both sides, so the seats can be re-oriented when the train reversed), something not done even on our current SkyTrain system. I must remind myself to soon check out that actual running interurban car – no thanks to the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society – in Cloverdale right now, which lets people relive the past transportation experience in addition to just being around it.
While it’s great to see that a part of our history is back to be celebrated for being a part of what has created today, I sent this letter and wrote what I did because I believe it’s important that people know why history is deemed history, and that looking at doing better for the now and for the future isn’t a simple matter of looking at the past and making a suggestion that is vague, somewhat unsupported, and sole among other potentially good alternatives.
Next up on this blog: an examination of why the Interurban has been largely rejected, and an examination of reasonable alternatives that haven’t been suggested by advocates.
Until then, I have put a snippet of the letter below, and you can read the rest of it on the Surrey Leader website:
Great transit is like the SkyTrain, or maybe it’s like the new 555 rapid bus: It’s reliable, frequent, runs several times daily, and is filled with choice riders – riders who justify transit over driving, largely because the services they choose are of high quality.
In one survey of riders on the new Canada Line SkyTrain, trip speed is the favourite aspect.
The old Fraser Valley interurban, which was recently described in a Frank Bucholtz column (“Surrey had great transit… 100 years ago”) as “great transit”, ran only thrice daily.
When the service started in 1910, not many could actually afford the recently invented car. It’s easy to see why ridership declined after the 1940s as the car became more affordable and routes became straighter. For many, the new options won over a three-times-daily service that cannot be missed.
I agree that it was inexcusably short-sighted that the recently partly restored interurban was ended in 1955 without a reasonable alternative, but the old interurban was not great transit. It was just… transit.