by Alex Watkins (News Writer)
Students for Sustainability has officially presented its petition to introduce a transit connection between Abbotsford and Chilliwack to both the Abbotsford council and the mayor of Chilliwack, and it is now awaiting the completion of a regional transit plan that will inform the cities’ decisions and help determine the shape that public transportation patterns will take in the coming twenty to thirty years.
Daniel van der Kroon of SFS said that while the cities have not confirmed whether or not they plan to move forward with the development, the group was “quite confident now that the cities are all on board,” and that there was even talk of “creating a mid, perhaps a one semester long trial to see what the ridership would be.”
The petition – which received more than 5500 signatures – came about because the SFS perceived a need for a reliable connection between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Currently, the only link between the two cities – apart from single occupancy vehicles – is a Greyhound connection that the SFS petition calls “expensive and infrequent, making it impractical for people who commute frequently between the two locales, such as UFV students.”
Although the campaign does address the needs of students, it also acknowledges other groups as a part of the connector’s potential ridership, including those who work or visit friends and family outside of their community, and individuals such as seniors who either cannot afford to or cannot physically operate a single occupancy vehicle.
Additionally, the SFS believes that the petition should be relevant to “all residents of the FVRD who wish to move away from dependency on personal vehicles in the name of financial savings and/or environmental conservation but feel that public transit service is inadequate to permit that.”
Overall, van der Kroon estimates the number of people currently traveling from Chilliwack to Abbotsford at “close to 18,000 every day,” adding that “it’s not just Chilliwack to Abbotsford… [because there are] close to 15,000 trips that originate in… Abbotsford and end up in Chilliwack [per day]. So it goes both ways.”
van der Kroon emphasized that although the presentation has officially been made to the cities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack, the SFS’s job is still far from over. “What we want to do in the student union group is to try to do a better job of contacting the MLA’s for support, that’s the next thing that has to happen.”
He noted that MLA support was so crucial because – regardless of whether or not the project is supported by the cities – they must still gain funding from the provincial government. van der Kroon explained that half of the funding for transit is provided by the province, one quarter is provided by cities, and one quarter come from fare revenue.
He said that because of this funding structure, the SFS must now convince “the province to commit to… chipping in their big chunk of it, their 50 per cent. That’s what’s important here.”
van der Kroon said that students who are interested in helping can still sign the petition, which can be accessed online at: www.thepetitionsite.com/1/chilliwackabbotsfordconnection/. Additionally, he said that students interested in taking on tasks to help the SFS could contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org