More Chilliwack drivers behind the wheel: study

Chilliwack’s love affair with the automobile is as strong as ever, says an FVRD study. But where we are driving, and why, is changing.

Chilliwack’s love affair with the automobile remains as strong as ever, says a recent study by the Fraser Valley Regional District.

But where we are driving, and why, is changing.

The findings, presented to Chilliwack city councillors on Tuesday, show that our dependency on cars has grown five per cent over a three-year period, climbing to 71 per cent for all trips taken in 2011, from 66 per cent in 2008.

The numbers are based on the FVRD’s most recent Regional Trip Diary Survey. Combining census results with more than 21,000 personal ridership surveys, the FVRD developed a snapshot of transit and transportation behaviour in the region.

It then compared those results with a similar study done in 2008. The goal is to note trends and develop longterm planning priorities within the FVRD.

What the region found was that despite a slowing economy, the introduction of the Carbon Tax, and higher overall fuel prices, FVRD residents drive more now than they did in 2008.

Transit use, meanwhile, fell by half, dropping to one per cent of all trips taken in 2011, from the high of two per cent three years earlier. The FVRD study blames the decline on a transit system that could not keep pace with a growing population.

Indeed, the Fraser Valley – and Chilliwack in particular – remains one of the fastest growing regions in the Lower Mainland. Overall, the FVRD population grew 13 per cent from 2001 to 2011; In Chilliwack it grew 22.2 per cent – nearly twice as fast as Abbotsford and more than any other community in the region.

That growth is expected to continue, with another 200,000 people expected to move into the region over the next three decades. By 2041 more than 151,000 people are expected to be living in Chilliwack.

“Managing this growth and accommodating changing travel demands is essential,” the study said, “particularly in the area of reducing automobile dependence and increasing alternate and sustainable travel options such as walking, cycling and transit.”

Employment patterns are also changing, with more people working closer to their homes.

Nearly 90 per cent of the trips originating in the FVRD ended in the FVRD, with roughly 28 per cent taken for work purposes. Much of that travel was between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. In fact, there is now more travel between the two cities than there is between Abbotsford and Mission. This, said the study, came despite the fact that there is currently no transit link between Chilliwack and its western neighbour.

Meanwhile travel to Metro Vancouver has fallen – a pointed noted by councillor Jason Lum who referred to recent suggestions by some Metro Vancouver politicians that FVRD residents should contribute to TransLink’s budget.

This latest study will be used by the FVRD and its transit partners as it plans for the decades ahead.

Says the report: “This knowledge will be invaluable as the Fraser Valley Regional District looks forward to creating a future regional transportation system that meets travel demand, is efficient, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to the creation of healthier communities.”