Letters: LRT announcement ignores less costly interurban option

Editor: The Conservatives have re-announced the committed $700 million portion for the proposed Surrey LRT. The total cost of this project will be over $2 billion, yet present passenger flows are below the amount needed to make the operation viable for light rail and it would be fiscally suicidal for SkyTrain expansion.

There is another way.

Almost five years to the day, the Rail for the Valley group released a study done by Leewood Projects in the UK, proposing a modern LRT solution, that would connect Richmond and downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack, using the former BC Electric interurban route, that would also service Cloverdale, Langley and Abbotsford, for just under $1 billion.

The study envisioned the use of TramTrain, a light rail vehicle that can be used as a streetcar or a passenger train, using existing rail tracks. TramTrain was first pioneered in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1992 and has been an outstanding success — so successful that today there are 12 lines; 265 km of route mileage serving 190 stations.

The Karlsruhe Stadtbahn has been the model for 16 other TramTrain operations in Europe, Canada and the USA, with many more being planned.

By comparison, Vancouver’s proprietary ALRT/ART mini-metro has seen operation in only seven cities, yet it was developed almost a decade and a half earlier.

A Fraser Valley TramTrain service to Vancouver and Richmond would give faster travel times than using the proposed LRT and SkyTrain Expo Lines, as well, giving residents in Abbotsford and Chilliwack direct transit service to Vancouver.

Using TramTrain in the Fraser Valley would be a win/win situation for both transit customers and the taxpayer and even former TransLink CEO, Tom Prendergast was supportive of the idea. (Which maybe why he was eased out of TransLink by its moribund bureaucracy.)

TramTrain is a 21st century innovation by providing more transit to more locations at a cheaper cost than the current transit projects proposed by TransLink.

TramTrain puts the transit customer first, which in Vancouver is a novel idea.

Malcolm Johnston,

Rail for the Valley