For a society that consumes so much stuff, it’s remarkable how we like to push industrial production and distribution out of sight.
In Fraseropolis, most industrial zones are screened from the view of people sitting in their living rooms or standing on their lawns, and the number of vehicle access points to industrial zone is kept to a minimum. The biggest issue is trucks. We don’t want them near residential streets. They rattle the teacups. They are feared as a threat to pedestrians and property values.
A couple of decades ago, decision-makers in the Township of Langley went the extra mile in banishing industry to the margins, creating Gloucester Industrial Estates in a rural area near the municipality’s eastern boundary. (We’re talking fabrication, assembly, food processing and warehousing here, not black smoke.) Gloucester has good access to the Trans-Canada Highway, but it is far from any residential area and most services.
Gloucester now has 180 businesses and close to 8,000 people coming to work on any given day, according to Bruce Heslop of the Aldergrove Business Association. It draws its water from deep wells; the mayor of another municipality told me that the cost of connecting the industrial park to the Township water system would be more than $30 million.
The more immediate concern is public transit. Metro’s regional transit authority, TransLink, has no bus service to Gloucester. This imposes costs on employees and makes it more difficult for employers to attract labour. Business and Township leaders have beaten the drum on this issue through 2011. TransLink has responded that people come to Gloucester from all directions, many from long distances, and there’s no way to make bus operations cost-effective. TransLink’s case was argued persuasively by the South Fraser Blog in October 2011.
The Aldergrove Business Association includes a few Gloucester businesses, as well as the Metro Vancouver Zoo, which is similarly transit-stranded. Mr. Heslop says the Association has abandoned hope for any TransLink action and is considering the operation of a privately-operated trolley to shuttle passengers between Gloucester Estates and TransLink’s Fraser Highway bus route. The Association is developing a business plan for long-term trolley service and may have it in operation some time in 2012. [2013 note: the trolley service was operated briefly on a trial basis in 2012 and then abandoned.]
Whatever your views on what TransLink could do or should do, there’s no doubt that the remote location of Gloucester Estates is keeping thousands of cars on Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley roads over long distances. Is it really so impossible to integrate industrial production and storage with other urban uses?