Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Want to see what a real transit plan looks like?

with 8 comments

If so head on over to Paul Hillsdon’s web site. The file is a 30 MB pdf but well worth downloading and saving. He shows Translink how transit planning should be done – but hasn’t been done like this since I have been here. And it is far more accomplished than the South of the Fraser transit plan that the Mayor’s recently rejected.

For one thing this is a labour of love and commitment. Anything that has to be done by any bureaucracy has to be a committee process, which almost guarantees that any creativity or initiative is killed early on. Interdepartmental rivalries and professional jealousy are much more important than producing something that might actually improve the lives of the people of the region. It does not look as though it has been dragged through several rounds of re-editting, which all  public sector reports get, which turns the language into a sort of meaningless mush. And it looks good too.

And of course the one man who will dismiss this plan out of hand is Kevin Falcon. Because the last thing the ex-realtor and puppet of the development industry wants to see is a real alternative to his pet project.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 10, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Posted in transit

8 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the linkback and supportive comments Stephen. It’s great to hear how much everyone loves the plan, especially over the official one by TransLink!


    January 11, 2008 at 12:56 am

  2. Nicely done.
    WRT attention south of the Fraser, I would also factor in the vocal lobbyists from Vancouver focussing attention on Vancouver rather than Surrey. It has only been recently that the South of Fraser has been vocal.
    Also, without the municipally weighted voting on the Translink board, the need to “appease” Vancouver and Burnaby may ease and allow the South of Fraser region to be addressed.
    BTW I wouldn’t be surprised if the Southern Railway ROW DMU project comes about sooner rather than later.

    Ron C.

    January 11, 2008 at 1:38 pm

  3. It doesn’t say much for Translink’s planning process that they can be bested by a high school student.

    It’s in the Translink annual planning statement that they are going to do a long term study of the options for the West Coast Express. When I asked them how much the study would cost, what its terms of reference were, who the consultants were, and when it might be completed, I got a complete blank for an answer. Nothing had been decided. To me, that implies that they’re not at all serious, and most of the directors from areas other than the Tri-cities and the Ridge-Meadows-Mission area would be happy to simply let this service plug up with extra passengers and eventually be cancelled and replaced with an extension of the Evergreen line.

    Budd Campbell

    January 11, 2008 at 2:50 pm

  4. Let’s start with Budd first. The study RFP underway for the WCE is research only at this point — sure, we’ll have a budget in mind for it but won’t put it out there when we’re shopping for service.

    As to Paul’s material, let’s see how it stacks up against the province’s view of things, which will be rolled out on Monday morning — this is the big provincial vision. Stephen, I’m sure you know from long, hard experience, that what might fly with planners isn’t necessarily in sync with the public’s view of things. If that was the case, we’d have all our rapid transit lines by now. But the reality is that the public’s view, as ‘interpreted’ by politicians holds sway because at the end, they (the public) pay the bills and the politicians are either re-elected or not. Planners don’t have to re-apply for their jobs every three years.

    Paul is a bright guy, although I was astounded to see his blog recently propegate some nonsense from someone who said all of TransLink’s bus purchases were replacements only. In any event, if Paul were to take his plan on the road to municipal councils and public meetings, he would inevitably find out that life, the universe and everything is pretty ‘Newtonian’ — for every good idea there’s a critic and no good deeds go unpunished.

    Hope you and yours had a great Holiday Season!


    Ken Hardie

    January 11, 2008 at 5:58 pm

  5. Ken – given that Translink has been roundly condemned by all five of the south of the Fraser Mayor’s for the most recent transit plan for their area, I would not be so eager to suggest that this amateur effort is so unworthy. So far as I know the action of these Mayors is unprecedented. But dissatisfaction with transit planning, especially outside of the “urban core” is not at all unusual. It is just more apparent now.

    Polling by the LRC shows that people in general do not want freeway expansion – even in the area that is presumed to benefit from lots more traffic. What we hear is that more transit is needed – not just more than we have now, but much than than present plans allow for.

    The other thing that I notice is that the anger over the last fare increase seems to be much greater this year due, I think, to the size of Translink’s current account surplus. Moreover, much of the current dissatisfaction with transit service quality stems from the fact that Translink stimulated demand at UBC and SFU with absolutely no clear idea of how to expand capacity to cope with that. Not exactly a great endorsement of Translink’s service planning capability, in my view.

    Stephen Rees

    January 11, 2008 at 7:34 pm

  6. Stephen,

    If you look at the real substance of the complaints by the five muni’s South of the Fraser, their issue is with timing. What we’ve proposed is in line with what we heard from the public and stakeholders, and the timing is dictated by what we can afford to do given the current revenue streams. If we get more provincial support…which may well be indicated on Monday…then of course we can do things more quickly.

    The only outstanding issue — and I’d like the opinions of others — is the development of the old Interurban line. The analysis we did was on the basis of fairly frequent service rapid transit service and providing that level of service would require extensive infrastructure improvements along the corridor. Personally, I don’t know a great deal about ‘community rail’ but I don’t get the sense that it would provide nearly the frequency needed. As well, the development and density along the corridor is not there…so what, other than absolute commitments to development along the corridor, would justify spending money on it that could be better used elsewhere in the area?

    While your perspective on the U-Pass has merit, as a non-technical observer, I have found that historically the big public support for major investments only comes after it is obvious that they are needed. It is a horribly manic existence for planners who believe (quite rightly) that transportation infrastructure should lead demand. How well you recall the constant sniping we received about ‘big, empty buses’ on bad routes…and how well you know that within six years, those complaints really reversed.

    In times of limited resources (and when aren’t we in those times?) the public and political support for transit will always be where demand has overtaken capacity. Indeed, the craftier amoung your craft will undoubtedly allow things to get to the point where the citizens circling the office with burning torches…DEMANDING that you buy more buses and build the rapid transit lines. Not that this happens…of course… ;o)

    Ken Hardie

    January 12, 2008 at 9:25 am

  7. I hope the much anticipated announcement turns out to be more significant that the last one – a few buses for an express service in six years time.

    The commitment to rail for the valley would change a number of perspectives. For one thing developers look at rail quite differently to a bus service. I noticed that when a diesel rail car service was recently added to an existing freight line in San Diego a local realtor was already using its existence to promote her properties. Developers also regard a service with significant investment in infrastructure as more likely to be permanent than a bus which could be withdrawn at any time.

    The use of smaller buses in the ‘burbs must have dealt a blow to the “empty bus” lobby. I would much rather see more frequent service than bigger buses as way to cope with increasing demand.

    “Limited resources” is not so effective a defense when you are sitting on a big cash cushion – even if it is committed to other projects in the future. But the point really is that our provincial government can find billions for roads but not very much for transit. If their commitment to ghg reduction was real (as opposed to a light greenwash) then those priorities would change.

    The idea of burning torches had not occurred to me – thanks for that thought!

    Stephen Rees

    January 12, 2008 at 9:43 am

  8. […] in response from TransLink officials concerning my plan, we know that the Livable Region Coalition, Stephen Rees, VALTAC, Gordon Price, the City of Surrey planning department, and a handful of transit riders love […]

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