Candidates share vision on mass transit in the Valley

As the Fraser Valley struggles to develop public mass transit, the Progress asked candidates how they would tackle this issue.

Public transport in the Fraser Valley is notoriously deficient, forcing residents to make 90 per cent of daily trips by car, and owning more cars per household than most established communities in the Lower Mainland. The Progress asked every Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Hope candidate how they would promote mass transit in the Valley.Local New Democratic candidates plan to use proceeds from a higher carbon tax towards mass transit. “What we do know, is that when reliable and regular transit is introduced, ridership increases and this has a very positive impact on reducing air pollution and traffic congestion,” said Chilliwack-Hope candidate Gwen O’Mahony.According to Chilliwack candidate Patti MacAhonic, the Liberals’ long winning streak in the Valley has prevented mass public transit from taking root.Liberal candidate John Martin said he would support existing city-led developments towards a Chilliwack-Abbotsford express bus. Chilliwack-Hope candidate Laurie Throness noted that mass transit services frequently suffer from funding difficulties. “The viability of mass transit between Chilliwack and points east and west depends on population.  As we know, the Translink network in the Vancouver area gave 232 million rides in 2011, but it still has funding problems,” said Throness.To overcome this funding challenge, Conservative candidate for Chilliwack-Hope, Michael Henshall, would like to invest 10 per cent of profits from upgrading oil and gas pipelines into developing a high speed rail line from Chilliwack to Vancouver. Henshall emphasized that any pipeline upgrades would occur in conjunction with building more refineries, because in case of a spill, refined bitumen is easier to clean up than diluted bitumen. The candidate also wants to see a reduction in motorcycle insurance in order to encourage more motorbike use.For the Green Party candidate in Chilliwack, Kim Reimer, a strong public transport network is a key issue driving economic growth because it provides a larger labour pool, which in turn supports businesses. Reimer would like to see tax breaks and funding that support cycling, transit, rail, tele-working, walking and video-conferencing, as well as distance-based auto insurance, road and parking pricing policies. She supports the continued development of a bus service between Chilliwack and Abbotsford, and says that a light rail system in the Valley is “long overdue.”Other advocates for the return of a light rail transit system to the Valley are independent candidate for Chilliwack-Hope, Ryan McKinnon, and B.C. Excalibur candidate for Chilliwack, Michael Halliday. A commuter rail connection from the Surrey SkyTrain to Hope would bring in tourism, shopping, and sightseeing, according to Halliday.”This connection will be a fast paced means of inter-city transit, which must be kept affordable and accessible for workplace commuters and students traveling between campuses,” said Halliday. McKinnon also suggests lowering the price of transit permits, to allow small private carriers to do runs to outlying communities.Chad Eros, Conservative candidate for Chilliwack, did not provide comments on this issue.PATTI MACAHONIC, NDP candidate for ChilliwackI think it’s safe to say that most of the Fraser Valley has been underserved in terms of public transit. Considering that in the valley, the Liberals had MLA’s in every seat east of Surrey up into Chilliwack-Hope from 2001-2012, little effective transit infrastructure has been developed here.  The NDP wants to promote transit infrastructure by investing a portion of the carbon tax towards mass transit. By investing carbon tax revenues back into cities like Chilliwack for green infrastructure, we will see expanded transit service and transit options.GWEN O’MAHONY, NDP candidate for Chilliwack-HopeTransit is an issue throughout the Chilliwack-Hope Riding.  Currently, there isn’t reliable transit between Chilliwack and Abbotsford.  Hope, the second largest community in the riding doesn’t even have Handi-Dart.  What we do know, is that when reliable and regular transit is introduced ridership increases and this has a very positive impact on reducing air pollution and traffic congestion.  The issue is funding.  Many municipalities are cash strapped, especially the smaller ones, and do not have the resources to invest in transit.  The NDP Platform proposes to use the existing Carbon Tax, which is currently revenue neutral, to fund alternative forms of transportation.JOHN MARTIN, Liberal candidate for ChilliwackThis is an exciting time for transit in this region.  There is a three year plan for Chilliwack’s Transit future and a steady increase of transit users.  As Councilor Jason Lum recently noted, “This is the largest transit expansion in the history of the City of Chilliwack.”  Plans are underway to hopefully put in an Abbotsford – Chilliwack express bus and extending other services.  The provincial government is committed to assist funding local transit initiatives, contributing 53% of the cost.  I look forward to working closely with the local Transportation Committee and consulting with interested parties to ensure Chilliwack’s transit needs are given the priority and attention they deserve.LAURIE THRONESS, Liberal candidate for Chilliwack-HopeThe provincial government is willing to work with any communities which want to fund local transit systems.  The province funds 53% of the cost, and local funding makes up the rest. The viability of mass transit between Chilliwack and points east and west depends on population.  As we know, the Translink network in the Vancouver area gave 232 million rides in 2011, but it still has funding problems. I would be willing to work with other partner communities to gather proposals and look for funding solutions.MICHAEL HENSHALL, Conservative candidate for ChilliwackDue to the fact that the Metro Vancouver area is second in traffic congestion in the North America and our projected population increase in the next 20-30 years is immense we need to be planning now for high speed rail. I would like to see 10% of tax revenue from the pipeline upgrades directly allocated to high speed rail from Chilliwack to Vancouver. All municipalities will prosper by this transportation upgrade so all areas will be required to allocate a given percentage of their pipeline tax revenue for this purpose. This tax revenue will not go into ‘general revenue’ but will be directly allocated for this purpose. This will be government run transportation and not privatized. This is a viable transition for Lower Mainland transportation that takes into consideration our air quality in the Fraser Valley. This future high speed rail plan needs to be considered in any current #1 Highway upgrades between Chilliwack and Vancouver. What needs to be noted in any pipeline upgrades for the Lower Mainland or in the North is that myself and the BC Conservatives want to see refineries in conjunction with provincial pipelines. The first reason we insist on refined product in BC is the environmental implications of diluted bitumen spill in our waterways or environment. Refined product is relatively easy to clean up in relation to the toxic diluted bitumen. The second consideration is the long term economic benefit of refined product for British Columbians. There would be thousands of high paying jobs with a refinery for British Columbians plus the huge benefit in economic spinoff. Higher cc motorcycle insurance needs to be reduced, to encourage motorcycles on our lower mainland roads. Secondary corridors need upgrading in our Lower mainland infrastructure for efficient transportation and alternatives to the #1.KIM REIMER, Green Party candidate for ChilliwackOne of the most central issues influencing economic growth, and quality of life in the Fraser Valley, is transportation. Better transportation encourages starting and growing businesses by providing a larger more mobile labour pool. It also contributes to better air quality which is vital to our health, our recreation, our overall quality of life. And again, that feeds economic growth: a higher quality of life attracts both workers and business investment.A need exists for improved transportation options. Currently the only viable option for Chilliwack workers is to drive to work; little is being done to change the status quo. Chilliwack has lagged behind other communities  in moving towards more forward-thinking strategies. We need more than faster highways and more bridges. We need walkable neighbourhoods, the implementation of a bicycle path system – and much more effective mass transit.Better mass transit, like bus service between Chilliwack and Abbotsford and other routes that people will actually use, with service levels that increase their appeal. I am also an advocate for an effective light rail system in the Fraser Valley – one that takes a balanced approach to costs, traffic and community demographics. This is something that’s long overdue here, and is going to be needed more than ever moving forward.This would be supplemented by measures to further encourage mass transit use, such as:- tax breaks and funding that support cycling, transit, rail, tele-working, walking and video-conferencing- distance-based auto insurance, road and parking pricing policies RYAN MCKINNON, independent candidate for Chilliwack-HopeAs a strong supporter of the LRT as well as transit to outlying communities.I will work hard to to make this a reality in the most cost effective manner.I believe there is a sensible solution that will come from the input of the constituents.Possibly making transit permits cheaper for small private carriers to facilitate runs from smaller outlying areas.MICHAEL HALLIDAY, B.C. Excalibur candidate for ChilliwackWe wish to see a commuter rail connection from Surrey SkyTrain to Hope, bringing in tourism, shopping, and sightseeing from Vancouver and the USA-Sumas border. We also wish to see an expansion of the West Coast Express between Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack and Hope. This connection will be a fast paced means of inter-city transit, which must be kept affordable and accessible for workplace commuters and students traveling between campuses.

akonevski@theprogress.com
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