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Chilliwack's transit transformation starts this summer

The Transit Future Plan for Chilliwack has been in the works for more than a year, incorporating feedback of more than 600 bus riders and non-riders alike.

The public consultation phase is over and the draft plan is being circulated to stakeholders.

The key change for Chilliwack ridership is a new Yale-Vedder line starting as early as next month, described as a “network spine” with buses arriving every 20 minutes along the way.

There will also be three new routes at 30- or 60-minute frequencies, and priority placed on getting a transit connector established between Chilliwack and Abbotsford.

Chilliwack council received the plan at city hall on Tuesday, after getting an update from Michelle Orfield of BC Transit.

“Let’s start with the positive,” she said about feedback from the public. “Many were excited to hear we were going to be improving frequencies.”

But some critics also expressed frustration with routes that were streamlined and eliminated to provide that increased “frequency” of 20 minutes, as well as the fact that buses no longer drive into the parking lots to the mall doors but rather drop riders off on Vedder Road.

“We are taking all these comments very seriously,” said Orfield, adding that a report addressing the concerns would be forthcoming.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz described some of the transit changes as “incremental” since there isn’t adequate funding available to make all the improvements at once.

She said she didn’t want to see anyone “left in the lurch” by the bus route changes, adding that sometimes service agencies and churches can step up to help.

“But I’m really excited to be getting on with it,” she said about the plans to implement faster service along Yale-Vedder.

The transit plan will now be forwarded on to the transportation advisory committee for approval and comments, before coming back to Chilliwack council for final approval.

“The Transit Future Plan envisions the Chilliwack Area’s transit network 25 years from now and describes the services, infrastructure and investments that will be required to get there,” reads the executive summary of the plan from BC Transit.

Coun. Chuck Stam called it a “much more compact” transit plan.

“That’s where there are going to be some growing pains,” he said. “In order to get that 20-minute frequency, we had to realign and reduce some existing routes.”

He admits it won’t be perfect.

“We can’t afford perfect, but we’re going to get close to it. We ask the travelling public for patience in that regard.

“Given our budget, I think they did a good job.”

To see the future transit plan, go to http://www.transitbc.com/transitfuture/chilliwack_latestupdates.cfm.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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