Here is a map of the Vancouver region

vancouver region is the Lower mainland, and the future of the region will be shaped in the Fraser Valley (click for larger map)

Metro Vancouver, fate is largely depending on which future the Fraser valley will decide. If GVRD used to be distinct of the Lower mainland, nowadays and in the future, both form a single region with a common destiny

It is nice to see this fact recognized by the Metro vancouver director heading out of the regional district to have a retreat in Chilliwack Jan 26 and 27 — the first of the kind according to Frances Bula.

The Fraser valley- offering some of the world best agriculture lands-is a fairly linear and relatively narrow valley surrounded by pristine mountains-and the US border. Its topography is not dissimilar to the one found in Riverside (Inland Empire, in the Los Angeles area) or from some valley found in the Alpes, like in Switzerland.

The region is at an important crossing roads:

  • Continue to follow the Riverside development model (LA region)
  • Or follow a swiss model

The former is largely underway, much to the credit of the Campbell government which has clearly embarked the region on a “car oriented” sprawl road, this knowing the disastrous outcome of such a policy.

The risk, is not only to have the valley to become a Riverside North, but to have also Vancouver becoming a Santa Monica North, or a Venice in the middle of Phoenix:

  • At Some point the Fraser Valley development model will acquire a critical Mass, which will cannibalize the Vancouver one, unless the later one retreat in splendid isolation, making it just a resort for tourist – “sun or historic heritage” not included.
  • And as we can already see with Surrey, satisfying the mobility needs of a car oriented model will always require more road investment, while the attempt to provide public transit will prove a very costly, and largely inefficient proposition

Thought already lot of damages has been done by the development road taken in the Valley, some can be contained if not reversed, and it is not too late to take another direction:

The Swiss model.

  • the freeways are generally tolled (via a once a time payment), but more importantly the Swisses have adopted, as soon as 1985, rail 2000, a very ambitious project indicative of a change of priority from the car oriented development to the revitalization of the public transit at first- but to also increase the competitiveness of the rail over the road for goods transportation.

Transportation choice is at the heart of this model, and it is grounded on an attractive public transit network, not only at local, but also at regional level. It is mostly achieved by train, but it is not a pre-requisite.


There is no such thing as attractive public transportation in the Fraser valley. Example:

  • Abbotsford-Vancouver : 70km, usually 1:50 hrs by Greyhound bus

…A non starter

Though some groups are advocating for the reopening of the Interurban between Surrey and Chilliwack and some other people are advocating for the extension of the Skytrain in the valley, there is not really an holistic vision of public transportation in the valley and how it integrates in the development model. Below is how such vision could starts from:

A first draft of Regional people transportation in the Valley

That is an important step, because, once agreed on the vision, which include the type of service, more noticeably speed and frequency level- the corridors can be identified, and then the development driven accordingly.

the future of the Region pass in Surrey

New Westminster has been the regional transportation node of the 19th century, but with the Fraser valley emergence, Surrey is called to be the one of the on-going century.

A wrong approach
Today the approach of transit in Surrey is a bottom-up one, basically involving 3 kind of players:

  • The lobbyist groups wanting to put some train on the interurban track, which have good ear in City Hall (noticeabily with Marvin Hunt)
  • The city wanting to see some streetcar to “foster” development
  • Translink acting in the context of its mandate, which is to service its juridiction…

Thought only the Translink approach seems to care of the transit users, Translink is still facing the task to prioritize different corridor into Surrey, Guilford, King George and Fraser Highway. It doesn’t help to see this task from a local prism.

A Better approach
Once the Region, including the Fraser Valley, agreed on a regional network,
it becomes a corollary to connect it with the Rapid Transit network of Metro-Vancouver, and clearly at this moment one of the several option pursued by Translink in Surrey will take obvious precedence on others.

Some Challenges ahead
One of the main challenge is one of a governance one:

  • How we can avoid that a city transportation plan, look likes the Surrey one [1]: an alignment of banality with not a single plan identifying future node or corridor, but with this sentence:
      advocate for good transit access to all economic lands, both existing and planned

    expressing the complete disconnection between land development and transit planning we have seen at play in this part of the region.

  • How we can avoid that a jurisdiction, like the tsawwassen first nation develop its land with a massive mall, not accessible otherwise by car, in contradiction will all the aspiration of the region?
  • More generally how we can avoid that parochialism take precedence on the general interest, and have a governance model driving vision going beyond municipalities boundary?

lot of good can be done by integrating Translink under the helm of Metro-Vancouver, but it is probably not good enough. Another part of the challenge is to integrate the Fraser Valley and metro Vancouver toward a common thinking for the future of the region.

We hope, all that will be discussed by the Metro vancouver in Chilliwack.

Transportation strategic plan, Surrey 2008