Opinion: New era in Fraser Valley transit

The addition of the Fraser Express to Chilliwack’s transportation mix is one of the most significant developments in recent years.

Dignitaries and representatives from BC Transit wait for the 10:15 Fraser Valley Express #66 bus to depart from Spadina Avenue in Chilliwack on Tuesday.

Dignitaries and representatives from BC Transit wait for the 10:15 Fraser Valley Express #66 bus to depart from Spadina Avenue in Chilliwack on Tuesday.

The addition of the Fraser Express to Chilliwack’s transportation mix is one of the most significant developments in recent years.

For the first time since the demise of B.C. Electric’s interurban line in the 1950s, eastern Fraser Valley residents have an accessible public transportation system that links multiple cities.

That the service is wanted is clear by the success of UFV’s shuttle bus between the Chillwack and Abbotsford campuses. The buses are usually filled to capacity as students move between the two schools.

Granted, there is a captive demand at UFV. The initiative was in fact driven by the students, who all pay for the service as part of their student union fees.

The Fraser Express was a harder sell.

Although the concept was popular with Chilliwack politicians, it was only reluctantly agreed to by Abbotsford. The fear was residents living outside the Fraser Valley Regional District would be enjoying a free ride between Langley (which is in Metro Vancouver) and points east – a ride FVRD taxpayers would be subsidizing.

Indeed, although linking the two transit authorities has been a goal for some, the challenges have also left a seemingly impassable gulf.

Tuesday’s inaugural run of the Fraser Valley Express changes all that.

Residents here can now take a transit bus to appointments in Abbotsford, and eventually link up to the TransLink system in Langley, giving them access all the way to the North Shore, or BC Ferry terminals. More importantly, residents from outside the city have an affordable way to commute to jobs here.

It will take time for ridership to build. But the economic importance of this new level of municipal connectivity makes it worth the wait, and sets the stage for bigger things to come.