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‘Push for more West Coast Express time’
If Maple Ridge wants more commuter train service, or a station in Albion, it will have to push for it with some facts and figures and a plan, says Coun. Corisa Bell.
“Where are we at with the West Coast Express conversation? I would like to lobby and we need to have a plan in order to do that,” she said Monday.
But the numbers may not be there, she added later as council discussed the final draft of Maple Ridge’s long-term transportation plan, a document two years in the making.
And TransLink doesn’t sound interested.
“I don’t think that they are on the same wavelength that we are wanting,” Bell said of TransLink.
More talk may be needed to get TransLink to consider the former Albion ferry site as a possible station location.
Bell, who is considering a run for mayor this fall, said she’s been told by TransLink there is not enough demand or ridership to warrant expanding beyond the five rush-hour trains that haul commuters from Mission to Vancouver. She also asked about a feasibility study on WCE expansion done in 2011 that could provide backup data. TransLink announced the study September 2011, but it hasn’t been released.
“Long term, how can we plan to get what we’d like? Is TransLink and WCE, are they really wanting to have the discussion about having an Albion station? Have we had these conversations with TransLink?”
Maple Ridge is renewing its transportation plan, a document that sets out long-term goals, and council was looking at the final draft version at its Monday workshop. After some final tweaking, it goes back to council in May.
The plan doesn’t mention an Albion train station, said Coun. Michael Morden, who plans to run for mayor in November.
“That’s of great concern to me.”
Public works general manager Frank Quinn said council has lobbied for more train service and that’s resulted in more cars being added to the five commuter trains that run between Mission and Vancouver.
But increasing the frequency can’t happen until a new deal is reached between TransLink and CP Rail on track rental time. The current contract expires Halloween night 2015 and negotiations for a new deal haven’t started.
TransLink is also struggling with its finances, said municipal engineer Dave Pollock.
Nevertheless, the district is concerned about the “level of investment in transit in this northeast region.”
Lack of pedestrian routes and bus service bothers, Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, who won’t be seeking reelection.
“I don’t even feel we’re hitting the minimum busing that we need in this community. We’re not even getting the basics from transit. So we have to advocate for that more.”
Most people just want to be able to take their car or bus to get to work, she added.
Ashlie also wants the district to make it easier to get around Maple Ridge by making walking a priority.
“Our schools have had that complaint forever, that kids can’t get to school.”
She doesn’t want the cost of building cycling routes to interfere with improving pedestrian routes.
“I don’t want the cycling piece to be a barrier to the walking piece because of affordability. I think we’ve got to bite the bullet and get people walking.”
Urban Systems wrote the 20-year transportation plan and consulted with the public over a two-year period. Council will look at the final version in May, along with an implementation plan that will outline how and when projects proceed and how they are funded.
Some items in the plan include widening 128th Avenue to four lanes, from 210th to 240th street, with possible expansion to 256th Street, if land issues can be addressed.
But building a 240th Street bridge over the Alouette River is for the long term.
“It looks like a $40 million project,” said consultant John Steiner.
However, because traffic volumes would be modest, the district might have to partner with the provincial government, possibly as a means of giving better access to Golden Ears Provincial Park.
Growing traffic volumes will require widening the Haney Bypass to four lanes.
Maple Ridge is working with Pitt Meadows and Port Coquitlam to lobby for a RapidBus connection to Evergreen SkyTrain line Coquitlam, when that service opens in 2016.
Steiner said greater population density along Lougheed Highway would make the business case stronger for such a service.
Coun. Al Hogarth pointed out that road access to Thornhill, for either employment or residential growth, isn’t in the plan.
Neither does the plan address the growing senior population or those with mobility issues, he said.
Hogarth, a realtor, suggested one possible point for an railway overpass to the Albion industrial area could be from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure property now up for sale just west of Kanaka Way.