Painful Truth: Rail line necessary but not enough

A rail line through the South of the Fraser would be complicated.

Let’s build a rail line through the South of the Fraser!

It’s a good idea, but it’s not enough.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson is the most recent proponent of the rail line, bringing it up at a meeting of the TransLink Mayors’ Council in late July.

There’s the longstanding plans to expand the SkyTrain network, all the way out to Langley City.

And there have been plenty of boosters in Langley and Surrey for rebooting the old B.C. Electric Railway line. That used to run from Vancouver to New West, into Surrey and as far east as Chilliwack. Shame the last trolley was taken out of service in the 1950s.

But geography and politics have made our landscape difficult for transportation.

We’ve got to deal with natural barriers of river, ocean, and mountain, and with political boundaries. And with the ALR, which is both a boon and a problem.

Put a rail line through any point from the Massey Tunnel to Chilliwack, and it will go through farmland.

We have increasing density – South Surrey/White Rock, Willoughby/Clayton Heights, and Surrey’s core are all booming.

But they’re islands of density, still divided by farmland or low-density suburbs.

The solution may seem like we need to just keep adding rail lines, loops or spurs. Send one line down Fraser Highway, another down 88th Avenue, another down Highway one to Clearbrook Road and beyond. How about a loop down through Surrey to White Rock, with a stop in Crescent Beach? Tie in Walnut Grove, Brookswood, even Murrayville. And a trolley to the Fort, for good measure.

We will need a rail line, and soon. But we need to stop acting like it will fix everything. In 30 or 40 years, maybe we’ll have spur lines running up and down 200th Street. But for now, we need to push for buses as much as rail. Rail to Chilliwack would be great, but buses are cheaper, and they can run on existing roads. Rubber tires will bridge the gaps before steel rails.

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