The “Rail For Valley” group has recently suggested to build a “light-rail line” from Chilliwack to Vancouver. Light rail is in quotations since their plan is more of a commuter rail line than an actual light-rail line.
Much of the route of this “light-rail” line duplicates existing rapid transit investments, which makes very little sense (The Millennium Line has been built, it makes no sense…why are they ignoring the Millennium Line? It’s delusional. Get over it: SkyTrain was built.)
This light-rail supporters also assumes that such a line would be able to use the existing right-of-way (ROW) rail corridor. The thing is, Translink must negotiate with the different rail operators to be able run such a line. Depending on the situation, transit service schedules must be planned around the schedule of the rail operators, which isn’t as easy a task as it sounds, especially for busy rail corridors like the ones used by Vancouver’s Amtrak and Via Rail. In recent years, the City of Vancouver and CP Rail have gone to court, fighting over the Arbutus ROW’s usage. (Keep mind that there will be more rail freight service as Vancouver grows as an Asian-Pacific Gateway, making it more difficult for transit planning).
The plan also assumes that Broadway is a wide boulevard that can handle centre medians when light-rail is built (thus, the absurd low estimates on the construction costs they have for LRT). Unfortunately, that is not the case, which is what UBC SkyTrain Group has been stating all along. Broadway will be restricted to one to two general lanes of traffic per direction, with kilometres of parking restrictions. Referring to previous engineering plans conducted in the 1999 technical study, there will be little room for centre median stations and almost no room for station expansions.
Service frequencies for such a line will also be low and will be more akin to a commuter rail line rather than a proper frequent light-rail line.
Rapid transit has many modes, and light-rail is just one of many modes: it is not the solution for every corridor and to every situation. It’s about time that light-rail supporters grasp that concept and figure out what they really want.