Langley Township wants the Interurban revived for rail public transit

Sep 14 2023, 11:59 pm

Should the Interurban running between Metro Vancouver’s South of Fraser area and the Fraser Valley be revived for rail-based public transit uses?

The idea will be considered at next week’s Union of BC Municipalities Convention (UBCM) when municipal officials across the province convene to coordinate policy and establish strategies.

Amongst over 200 resolutions that will be deliberated during UBCM will be the Township of Langley’s request that the body urge the provincial government to “reactivate the interurban rail service along the existing rail corridor that connects Delta, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.”

Part of the rationale for the Interurban is that “the Township of Langley has the highest growth rate in Metro Vancouver and public transit has not kept up with population growth, resulting in inadequate services to support current and future Township of Langley residents and businesses.”

Using the Interurban for rail transit is not a new idea. Over the years, a previously vocal advocacy group made repeat calls for such a service, but the idea gained little traction largely because the group believed it was fully comparable and an alternative to SkyTrain expansion.

The Interurban railway corridor stretches a 99-km-long, indirect route between western Surrey and Chilliwack, weaving through farmland for much of the route. Up until just after the Second World War, it was one of the routes used by the region’s former Interurban streetcar system.

But a 2019 TransLink analysis dismissed the idea, as bringing the corridor up to standard for rail public transit would carry high construction costs for low benefits. There would be long travel times and low ridership as not only is this an indirect route across the Lower Mainland, but it runs through low-density areas, with the protected Agricultural Land Reserve offering limited potential for growing ridership. A segment of the route also sees growing freight traffic.

Currently, the only interregional public transit services are TranLink’s West Coast Express commuter rail during weekday peak hours in the peak direction and BC Transit’s No. 66 Fraser Valley Express between SkyTrain Lougheed Town Centre Station and downtown Chilliwack via Highway 1.

The provincial government also has plans to push further eastward on its multi-phased Highway 1 widening and improvement project into the Fraser Valley.

In 2020, the provincial government launched a study examining the possibility of commuter rail services between Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, tied in with housing development opportunities. The findings of the study have yet to be released.

TransLink’s Transport 2050 plan also calls for establishing new long-haul regional and interregional bus services along Highway 99 to Delta, Highway 1 to the Fraser Valley, and along the Sea to Sky Corridor, in potential partnership with other operators like BC Transit.

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