Arbutus Corridor Resurrected?


It seems the CPR is going to resurrect the Arbutus Line for freight and the wails of “shock and disbelief”, from Vancouver’s creme de la creme are echoing through the halls at city hall.

Get real folks, the CPR did not abandon the railway and the city failed to negotiate a transit solution for the route.

Maybe, the CPR has plans for a local passenger rail service along the line as American railways are finding commuter services workable and even profitable on lightly used freight lines and the Arbutus corridor would be a natural to experiment with. Just maybe the CPR can do, what the city of Vancouver; Metro Vancouver and Victoria could not do, and operate a local passenger line along the Arbutus corridor.

Trains may run again down Vancouver’s Arbutus corridor

Canadian Pacific Railway crews have been surveying and cutting brush on the line

By JEFF LEE, Vancouver SunMay 9, 2014

VANCOUVER – More than a decade after the last Canadian Pacific Railway train made its way down the Arbutus line, the company is considering putting the spur railway back into service.

On Thursday, CP said it has crews out surveying and cutting brush on the overgrown line that runs 11 kilometres between Kitsilano and the Fraser River.

That activity has sparked concern among residents and gardeners along the line since the railway ai??i?? long considered abandoned ai??i?? has become a popular strip for walks and community gardens. City hall has been flooded with calls from people complaining about the renewed railway activity.

Mayor Gregor Robertson issued a statement Thursday saying his office is against the reactivation of the railway line.

ai???Recently, the Canadian Pacific Railway began preparations to reactivate the Arbutus corridor to run trains. However, the city has very little detail from CP about their plans, other than that they intend to run trains along the route.

ai???The city doesnai??i??t support the reactivation of cargo trains along the corridor and we have expressed this clearly to CP. The corridor is a unique, green route running from False Creek to the Fraser River, crossing several residential neighbourhoods, and our vision for it is to maintain it as greenway for residents of Vancouver until thereai??i??s a viable case for rail transit use,ai??? he stated.

Robertson noted the city has been trying to work with CP Rail for years to convince them of the need for the corridor to remain a community greenway until there is a viable case for passenger rail use. He noted the rail line is not suitable for large-scale development or cargo trains.

ai???I support the Arbutus corridor as a community greenway and future transit corridor, and ask CP to respect the neighbourhoodai??i??s wishes and the Arbutus corridor official development

CP spokesman Ed Greenberg issued a statement following the mayor’s comment:

ai???CP has attempted for many years to reach a deal on this line with the City of Vancouver. Unfortunately, we have failed to reach an agreement, so we are now reconsidering our operational options. In saying that though, CP remains open to continued dialogue and

In an earlier interview Greenberg said the railway company is clearing out brush along the line as well as surveying its property lines.

ai???We are doing a new survey to ensure we have a current record of our property,ai??? he said. ai???We are continuing to explore operational options for the line, but no decisions have been made at this

Greenberg said CP did not formally abandon the line as required under federal legislation, and it ai???remains an active rail line as defined by the Canadian Transportation

However, in a letter CP is issuing to residents along the line, Mike LoVecchio, western director of governmental affairs, said the company is considering putting the line back into operation because it hasnai??i??t been able to resolve long-standing community desires for non-railway use.

In 2006 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the city had the right to designate the line for transportation and greenway uses. It affirmed the cityai??i??s right to enact its Arbutus corridor official development plan, effectively killing a proposal by CP to sell or develop the land for commercial or residential use. The line has not been used since 2001.

ai???For many years now, CP has been involved in conversations to convert the Arbutus corridor for a number of combined public uses, such as a greenway, public transportation, community gardens and eco-density development. Despite our efforts, the company and other parties have been unable to achieve a plan for the disposition of this valuable asset,ai??? LoVecchio wrote. ai???As a result, the company must look at optimizing the use of this corridor. This includes running CP

He said the track network and adjacent 66-foot-wide right of way is private land owned by CP and people entering the area without authorization are trespassing.

However, in recent years the city and its neighbourhoods have created a number of community gardens along the right of way, in some cases installing water lines. Along some of the commercial strips, people have taken to parking on or next to the tracks. Elsewhere, along the lineai??i??s Kerrisdale and Marpole regions, thick patches of Himalayan blackberry have grown, providing fertile crops for berry pies in summer.

Greenberg said CP is aware there are many community gardens along the right of way and if crews determine they are in conflict with the railwayai??i??s operations, residents will be consulted.


A history of the rails

1886 ai??i?? Arbutus corridor given to the Canadian Pacific Railway by the province, just a few months before the City of Vancouver was incorporated.

1902 ai??i?? Vancouver and Lulu Island Railway Company, a CP subsidiary, builds rail line from False Creek to Steveston.

1905-1950s ai??i?? Electric locomotives shuttle passengers and freight along the corridor.

Mid-1950s ai??i?? Passenger service ends.

1995 ai??i?? CP severs connection between Arbutus corridor and Science World by selling a single lot at 1500 W 2nd Ave., which becomes a Starbucks.

1999 ai??i?? CP discontinues the railway apart from service to Molson brewery and starts working on plans for residential and commercial development. Also offers to sell corridor.

2000 ai??i?? City passes an Official Development Plan that restricts development on the corridor. CP sues city for limiting its use of the property to unprofitable rail service. The company claims the bylaw amounted to taking the property without compensation. Also, some Kerrisdale residents oppose use of corridor for rapid transit.

2001 ai??i?? Last train runs.

2002 ai??i?? B.C. Supreme Court judge rules the bylaw was not within the city’s powers. Separately, the B.C. Court of Appeal reverts northernmost 10 acres of the unused corridor to the Squamish Nation.

2004 ai??i?? B.C. Court of Appeal overturns lower court decision, preserving the city’s bylaw.

2006 ai??i?? Supreme Court of Canada unanimously rules that the city is within its rights to make decisions about land use and it does not need to compensate CP for any loss of value, real or perceived.

2007-present ai??i?? Residents plant community gardens along the line and use the space for recreation and transportation.

With a files from Kim Pemberton and Matt Robinson


6 Responses to “Arbutus Corridor Resurrected?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Hey guys,

    You can have an nice walking and or bicycle paths beside active rail lines. The idea to reactivate the line is consistent with many similar projects the class 1 railways have done across North America. The CPR obviously feels the line is needed in their network again and is profitable or at the least its required. For everyone who doesn’t want it to run again keep in mind this fact. Even a small, one round trip per day,15 car length local freight train, takes over 100 medium to heavy trucks off the road daily.

  2. zweisystem says:

    The line did serve and may serve again the Molsons brewery on Burrard St. Some quick phone calls today indicated that the barley and malt come by train to Abbotsford, then transferred to a truck to go to Vancouver and was cheaper to do in 2002. Fast forward to 2014, a new bridge (with tolls) and much higher Diesel prices and it is cheaper to take the hoppers directly to the Brewery. Evidently there are some micro breweries along the rail route that would be interested in rail delivery as well.

  3. Thomas Cheney says:

    Seems like a good idea to use rail, glad to hear its reopening, electrification would be even nicer.

  4. eric chris says:

    This CP line is the perfect route for CP to enter the transit business to compete with TransLink and a direct route to UBC with a tram line. If there is ever going to be a transit line from Chilliwack to Vancouver, CP with funding from the provincial and federal governments is the logical choice to run it with a “combination passenger and freight” tram line.

    Transit around BRT and ST by TransLink is a failure at attracting drivers who are not motivated to park their cars to ride with druggies, rapists, criminals and creeps on ST… “I was walking to New Westminster ST station on my way to work when I heard screaming. It was just after 1500, so I assumed it was the usual noise I always heard from the kids who were freshly out of school and thought nothing of it. But I kept hearing it as I went into the station and up both flights of stairs to the platform.

    When I got to the top, I saw a man pulling his fist out of a woman’s face at the edge of the platform. Her face and shirt were covered in blood. He walked a few steps away, then whirled and threw something, I think it was a can, directly at her face and she screamed again. Then he started walking directly toward me, at the top of the stairs…”

    This is what “Rober-tson” wants for Broadway. Good luck. Developer Bob Rennie marketing condos along ST lines (in China for big bucks) invited people to pay $25,000… [bribe] for the privilege of having lunch with Gregor “Rober-tson”:

    Shady Gregor “Rober-tson” is a sham pretending to be a Greeny (allowing 99 Bees to emit 5,000,000 kg/yr of CO2 on the Broadway trolleybus route for his transportation staff to have jobs planning the ST line to UBC) when he is really just a glory seeking egotist who is too stupid to be mayor. Hopefully more voters catch on to his shtick and he is gonzo-gone in November.

  5. Haveacow says:

    CP will never be a passenger operation again. Have someone else run a rail line sure, while they collect rent and maybe provide train crews. On the whole passenger services rarely made money, that’s why during the heyday of passenger rail service in this country every passenger train had a Rail Post Office Car and or Baggage Cars. This was the rue money maker for passenger rail it was never passenger tickets. When the rail lines lost their postal contracts and the volume of packages dropped in favor of trucks, the bells of doom sounded for passenger rail. By 1971 CP gave its entire remaining fleet of passenger equipment for a dollar to CN. Today the large class 1 railways have another saying regarding passenger rail, “freight can’t sue!”

    Zwei replies: I have herd from sources that the CPR may (and I repeat may) be interested in forming partnerships in operating urban passenger rail lines in selected urban locations provided that they are paid for their efforts. It seems a few managers see some wisdom in being involved with urban rail systems, whether it comes to fruition or not, is another story.

    I would imagine that CP Rail would see additional revenue for lightly used rail lines or at least owning the line but not maintaining it, with the right to operate freights.

  6. Haveacow says:

    Yes, they will provide the lines for commuter rail no problem as long as another agency runs the show and assumes most of the operational risk (just like GO Transit in the Greater Golden Horseshoe). This way they sit back and collect rent (leasing fees) while someone else pays for most or all the negative issues of passenger operation. They are forced to do basic maintenance for active lines because if they don’t it nullifies their warranty for all their locomotives from GE (AS4400 & ES4400 models) and EMD (SD 75′s & SD 90′s models). They got in trouble with GE a few years ago in eastern Canada over this issue.