Great transit is like the SkyTrain, or maybe it’s like the new 555 rapid bus: It’s reliable, frequent, runs several times daily, and is filled with choice riders – riders who justify transit over driving, largely because the services they choose are of high quality.
In one survey of riders on the new Canada Line SkyTrain, trip speed is the favourite aspect.
The old Fraser Valley interurban, which was recently described in a Frank Bucholtz column (“Surrey had great transit… 100 years ago”) as “great transit”, ran only thrice daily.
When the service started in 1910, not many could actually afford the recently invented car. It’s easy to see why ridership declined after the 1940s as the car became more affordable and routes became straighter. For many, the new options won over a three-times-daily service that cannot be missed.
I agree that it was inexcusably short-sighted that the recently partly restored interurban was ended in 1955 without a reasonable alternative, but the old interurban was not great transit. It was just… transit.
There is a growing caucus coming to the conclusion – rather blindly, I must add – that the only good solution for Fraser Valley transit is returning transit to the interurban in the form of light rail.
They need to have a business case. They need to answer questions like: What is the existing demand, and how will that change? Are there other reasonable alternatives (i.e. highway rapid buses)? Can it be phased in and how?
Every modern rapid transit project in North America requiring significant capital costs has been asked these questions.
But, in the midst of several conflicting studies coming to several different capital cost estimates (and doing that only), I have not seen one supportive business case for interurban light rail.
Until those numbers are given, the interurban is dead. It’s an important figment of our history, but it might be just that.
Daryl Dela Cruz