Could TramTrain be the solution for the E&N?

The following article about the rebuilding of the E&N passenger station in Nanaimo and the hint of a commuter train service causes ‘Zwei’ to speculate that; could TramTrain be the best solution for a passenger or commuter rail serviceAi??using the E&N railway in both Victoria and the Nanaimo regions.

Using the Rail for the Valley/Leewood Study as a basis…….

……… a TramTrain service connecting approximatelyAi??110 km from Victoria to Nanaimo is affordable, with a cost around $7 million/km. and with a few km. of on-street operation would cost less than $900 million. An approximately 70 km TramTrain route from Port Alberni to Nanaimo with no on-street operation, via Parksville could cost as little as $350 million! Put another way, an extensive 180 km. diesel TramTrain line connecting Victoria to Duncan, Chemainus, Nanaimo, Parksville and Port Alberni could cost a little as $1,250 billion or about $150 million less than the $1.4 billion, 11km. Evergreen Line in Coquitlam!

By using TramTrain and the concept of one-stop travel, we could even connect the TramTrain serviceAi??from the E&N spur to the Nanaimo docks andAi??travel just under 4 km., on-street,Ai??to Departure Bay with the TramTrain serving just not the very busy Horseshoe Bay ferry service, but the ferry service to Gabriola Island as well.

Properly built, an island TramTrain service, with scheduledAi??TramTrains connecting Victoria, Nanaimo, Parksville and Port Alberni, would not only vastly improve regional transportation, it would spur much needed economic development, especially tourism, in the region. With good public transit, in the guise of TramTrain, a tourist would not need a car to see the beauty of Vancouver Island.

The question is, do island politicians and transportation advocates have the foresight to see the benefits of a modern TramTrain service?


A venerable ‘Budd Car’ on the E&N
“Trains are still important transportation
The Daily News
Published: Saturday, July 28, 2012

The historical E&N Railway Station on Selby Street marked its official reopening this week in Nanaimo, nearly 126 years after it was first opened.

An arsonist torched the original heritage building five years ago, leaving it empty of both business and trains.

It was quite the celebration, as politicians, local dignitaries and members of the railway community crowded Fibber Magees Station, an Irish-style pub occupying the rebuilt building.

Rebuilding the station cost roughly $2.4 million, with insurance covering $870,000.

Local groups, such as the Young Professionals of Nanaimo, came together with a yeoman effort to raise the remaining funds. That effort must not go unrecognized.

Though the station may have re-opened without a passenger-rail service in operation at the present time, it remains an important project to the community.

The beautiful station is part of the continued revitalization of the Old City Quarter area.

The work done by groups in that area has been nothing short of outstanding.

In addition, the city of Nanaimo also announced the development of a new E&N trail that will run alongside the tracks, ending at the southern city limits.

The trail will be created with the help of Southern Rail and the Regional District of Nanaimo.

To top things off, the Island Corridor Foundation announced the return of a three-car passenger service to Nanaimo, hopefully by May of 2013.

“It would be a great thing and the tourist aspect alone would be huge,” said Mayor John Ruttan.

“The big plan is to have it run to Port Alberni.”

A commuter train service will run from Nanaimo to Victoria, leaving at 6 a.m., offering passengers a respite from driving the Malahat Highway.

As we’ve said previously, this is about much more than upgrading an old rail line.

This is about adding to the transportation infrastructure of the mid-Island, putting in place yet another piece that will be of economic benefit to the region and providing an important legacy for future generations.

While many details for the entire rail project remain to be pieced together, what we do know is that when passenger trains resume, Nanaimo will be – suitable to its nickname – the hub of the line.

The overarching idea has been to start daily trips from Nanaimo to Victoria, back to Courtenay, return to Victoria and ending the day in Nanaimo.

Rail travel is neither dead nor outmoded.

There is, in fact, a compelling argument that it is soon to return to being an important and viable means of transportation.

With gas now at $1.35 a litre and fossil fuels identified both as significant pollutants and a factor in global warming, the trend away from reliance on gas-dependant vehicles is already underway.

We may be closer than we think to seeing our reliance on fossil fuels becoming as expensive, if not more so, as rail.

Restoring the E&N line means that future Island residents will have a reliable means of travelling or commuting up and down the Island.

There is also increased tourism potential.

As Mayor Ruttan points out, that alone is significant.

It to easy to say that trains are outdated in our instant-everything world.

Easy to say – but wrong.

Rail remains viable and important for both passengers and freight. The opening of the station is an excellent step in what remains a vital project

A diesel TramTrain in Kassel Germany.


7 Responses to “Could TramTrain be the solution for the E&N?”
  1. What would it cost for the line to be electric? It seems strange to me to suggest this as an alternative to fossil fuels when it uses diesel.

    Zweisystem replies: The cost for electrification would be about $1.2 million/km. or more, drastically increasing the cost. I do not see the volume of traffic needed to warrant electrification as the proposed TramTrain may run every hour or so to begin with.

  2. eric chris says:

    Community based trams are the answer here. When you use regional transit (air trains or subways in particular) to increase housing density, you end up jamming more and more people into the same area served by the same number of roads and the roads become over loaded quickly – Metro-town in Burnaby is a prime example.

    What are the loony planners in Metro Vancouver thinking? Anyone with an ounce of common sense can tell you that Toronto is a mess because “transit” has been used to over develop Toronto along its transit corridors – as a result Toronto has the longest commutes in Canada and the 401 is stuffed full of drivers living in condos developed along transit lines:

    What’s next, the chief air head planner from Toronto moving to Vancouver to do the same here after he gets run off in Toronto? I’m going to blow a fuse !!!

    As long as the population in Metro Vancouver is growing at the rate of “three new drivers” for “every new transit user”, Metro Vancouver is heading down the same path as Toronto – longer commutes and more road congestion.

    I had to laugh to myself after reading that the Evergreen Line is going to “reduce gridlock and pollution”. I guarantee you that as soon as the Evergreen Line goes into operation (hopefully it gets cancelled for everyone’s sake), the traffic congestion will grow exponentially from all the new drivers moving into the condos being built in Coquitlam. Pollution will jump from all the diesel buses transferring transit users to the air train stations, as well.

    So called planners here keep on repeating the dumb mistakes in Toronto. When TransLink puts more buses on the roads to get people to its distantly spaced air trains (thought up by air heads), it is taking road space away from cars to increase congestion (not decrease it) because drivers aren’t abandoning cars in droves to take transit by TransLink and because freeways are not being anticipated to handle the added drivers.

    In contrast, Edmonton has an extensive freeway network and LRT network, which by the way carries more people per capita than the crap air trains here, and the commuting times in Edmonton are far less than in Vancouver or Toronto. Freeways do not lead to more cars; they lead to shorter commutinig times.

    Saying that 12 year olds, welfare recipients and mentally challenged individuals are going to drive if we build freeways is like saying that someone in a wheel chair is going to walk without the wheel chair.

    Here air trains are over loaded with students who are making many unnecessary joy rides to increase pollution and congestion from too many buses operating too frequently on the roads in Metro Vancouver.

    These students are either riding transit or they are walking, cycling, car pooling or staying at home. They are not potential single occupancy drivers as TransLink contends.

    You don’t’ need frequent transit every five minutes during off peak hours to improve ridership (Edmonton has transit every 30 minutes during off peak hours and still beats TransLink in terms of ridership).

  3. eric chris says:

    PS, I meant electric trams, rather than diesel.

  4. I. K. Brunel says:

    From my perspective, I think a TramTrain would work, certainly some on-street operation in both in the cities of Naniamo and Victoria would attract more ridership with a true downtown to downtown service.

    Diesel LRT would be the natural choice, simply because there has been no electrification on this railway and the infrastructure (bridges and tunnels if any) have not been designed for the OHLE.

    An hourly schedule to start would seem to be a good start, with added services for peak times if demand warrants.

    Again, it seems the political types in your part of the world are living in the land that time forgot.

  5. rico says:

    Hi Eric,

    Just so you know you are comparing Metro Vancouver numbers to city of Edmonton numbers with ridership. I can post the links if you want but the general gist is Metro Vancouver transit mode share is about 16.5% and Metro Edmonton transit mode share is about 10%. I did not look up the numbers but this may be at play in your per capita LRT vs Skytrain use as well (although I really like the Edmonton system so who knows, but since it is realitivly short I would think it is you are looking at the wrong set of numbers).

  6. rico says:

    Now back to the actual topic, seems to me the corridor (well maybe not to Port Alberni right now) could use some rail but a few cautions. My understanding is the infrastructure is in very poor condition so you need to take that into consideration under the cost. I also understand the route in Victoria is not ideal and it may be better to deviate from the E&N line to a street running LRT.

  7. eric chris says:

    @rico, how do you know what the mode share is in Metro Vancouver when TransLink is counting students on the U-Pass many times daily? TransLink doesn’t know what the ridership is here and is guessing.

    For a discussion on mode share and its relevance, refer to my comments in this article:

    Anyhow, you are confused – I’m talking about the average per-capita use of transit in Edmonton and it is higher than in Metro Vancouver (~100,000 people out of ~800,000 people in Edmonton use transit, 13%).

    In Metro Vancouver, with imaginary riders included, the number of real and cloned people “on average” on transit is ~264,000 (weekend and weekday) out of the 2.4 million people here or 11%.