If all goes well, by January 2021 Chilliwack residents will be able to take a BC Transit bus from downtown all the way to the Lougheed SkyTrain station.
“This is a great initiative and I want to see the expansion happen very quickly,” Coun. Jason Lum said at the May 21 meeting.
Currently the Fraser Valley Express (FVX) goes from Chilliwack to as far as the Carvolth Exchange in Langley. Those looking to get further west can take the 555 bus from Langley to the Lougheed SkyTrain station on the other side of the Port Mann.
The proposal to expand the FVX (route 66) comes from BC Transit, and at the May 21 meeting, Chilliwack city council confirmed support in principle for the 2020/2021 expansion initiative.
The cost to pay for the extended service will be $494,000 annually, 63.8 per cent to be paid by the City of Abbotsford and 36.2 per cent by Chilliwack, according to the funding arrangement in the Fraser Valley Express sub-regional transit service area establishment Bylaw.
A staff report city council received suggested it’s possible that revenues from additional ridership could cover the cost, but it’s also possible that taxpayers may be subsidizing the service.
“Should an expanded FVX service require partial taxation subsidy, it is estimated to cost $0.15 per $100,000 of assessed value for every $100,000 increase in taxation subsidy”
Preliminary calculations suggest it would cost the average homeowner in Chilliwack about 80 cents per year.
Savings to riders, however, could be substantial. The FVX is a standalone service so a rider commuting to Vancouver from Chilliwack or Abbotsford needs to pay for that bus, then the 555 in Langley, then SkyTrain.
“An individual commuting by transit into Vancouver five days a week for 50 weeks a year would see savings of $1,475 dollars per year.”
The FVX has proved to be a popular service with double digit ridership gains every year, according to a Fraser Valley Regional District corporate report.
“In 2018, the system carried an average 19,300 rides per month (232,000 riders annually). While it is difficult to predict the take-up of service expansions, the most recent expansion of doubling FVX service on weekends and holidays has resulted in an almost doubling (92 per cent) of ridership on those days, indicating a significant pent up demand for the improved service.”
Coun. Lum told council that BC Transit has a deadline on planning for this, so the city needed to make a decision to give feedback by June.
“Certainly I wholeheartedly support this,” he said. “This is something we’ve advocated for the city, the route 66 tying us directly into the SkyTrain line, which is very exciting. I just hope our colleagues in Abbotsford are able to process this as quickly as we did.”