Forward Thinking – Absent In BC

Now here is a politician who looks three minutes into the future, wanting existing rail lines preserved for future use.

We lost the rails in the Kelowna/Vernon corridor; we are about to lose the E&N; and the city of Vancouver is making damn sure that the Arbutus Corridor is not used for rail!

The political myopia on using the valley interurban line for rail transit is nothing short of breathtaking.

Forward thinking in BC is just not going to happen, not with the Luddites in charge, who see transit solely as a method to give supporters “spreadin around” money, taxpayer’s money that is.

Hat’s off to Councillor Wilkinson.

Wilkinson wants existing rail preserved for future commuter trains

O-Train-like service to Kanata before LRT a possibility: Coun.

Existing rail idea gets new support

Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson is hoping the city will move to protect existing railroad tracks so that it can eventually be converted into a commuter rail service similar to the O-Train. Existing track could serve Kanata and Nepean as well as other communities, and could potentially be ready before light rail transit gets to Kanata, she said.

Kanata Kourier-Standard

Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson is hoping the city will move to preserve existing rail lines so they could eventually be converted into an O-Train-like transit system, she said at a community meeting on Sept. 14.

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Though Wilkinson said she has yet to broach the subject at city hall, she said existing rail conversion could be quicker and cheaper than light rail transit.

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The idea of using existing rail for commuter train use was recommended by former Ottawa mayor Larry Oai??i??Brienai??i??s task force on transportation in 2007, and has continued to receive support, including during 2014ai??i??s city elections where a mayoral candidate and several councillor candidates pushed for existing rail use over light rail transit.

FASTER BUILD
In a subsequent interview, Wilkinson said she is not suggesting an existing rail transit system could replace the light rail transit plan, but that it could complement the electrified train system.

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However, as a light rail transit connection to Kanata is not due until 2031 at the earliest, converting existing rail for diesel train use could be a quicker, cheaper way of getting Kanata and Nepean some commuter train service in the meantime, she said.

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Then again, getting light rail transit to Kanata sooner is preferable, said Wilkinson, who admitted she doesnai??i??t have a good idea of when an existing rail system could be up and running.

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ai???I just think it should be in the master plan,ai??? she said of the diesel option.

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Wilkinson had opposed the existing rail idea multiple times at candidatesai??i?? events in the 2014 election, but said some new information has convinced her itai??i??s an opportunity the city shouldnai??i??t overlook.

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For starters, CN Rail ai??i?? which still owns the track from near March Road, across Nepean to near Hurdman Station and the east end ai??i?? is going to stop using those rails, said Wilkinson.

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The alleviates the problem of trying to schedule commuter trains around freight train usage, and could allow the city to acquire the land and put in track suitable for commuter train use.

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Furthermore, the city is now looking into a new official plan amendment that would allow it to place setbacks (potentially up to 30 metres) on railway corridors to both preserve them and to keep buildings at a safe distance should there be a derailment.

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ai???That gave me the idea,ai??? said Wilkinson.

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While the existing rail doesnai??i??t go downtown, it would provide service to Algonquin students living in Kanata, for example who could ride a commuter train using the city-owned line from March Road to Woodroffe Avenue just south of the college. The rails reach the existing O-Train line near Confederation Heights.

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ai???There is a lot of merit in looking at it,ai??? said Wilkinson. ai???It would be complementary to what we are doing with the light rail and the buses. But I think we need to have it in our plan, so we can protect it to do it in the future.ai???

FOCUS ON LRT
Wilkinsonai??i??s interest in existing rail conversion has come about three months after Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubleyai??i??s motion which asked city staff to look at bringing light rail transit to Kanata earlier than 2031.

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Despite Hubleyai??i??s motion passing with Wilkinsonai??i??s support, Wilkinson said she is not as certain as Hubley that light rail transit can be brought to Kanata any sooner.
ai???Frankly, itai??i??s a comfort motion,ai??? said Wilkinson, who said she wasnai??i??t convinced the city would have the money to finance the Kanata connection, short of getting 100 per cent funding from other levels of government.

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ai???I just think (existing rail conversion) needs to be looked into,ai??? she said.

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Hubley disagrees.

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ai???I think that might have been a great idea 20 years ago. Itai??i??s not (a good idea) in the future,ai??? said Hubley, adding that Wilkinson ai???tends to think in the past.ai???
Hubley said he was confident light rail transit can reach to Kanata before 2031 for many reasons.

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For one, the rapid bus transit work currently being done between Bayshore and Moodie Drive is being engineered so it can be converted quickly and cheaply to light rail.
ai???All that would be left is (laying) the tracks,ai??? said Hubley.

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The same thing will be done for the rapid transit connection to Terry Fox Drive, which is already funded, said Hubley.
Costs will also be much lower than past light rail transit stages as much of the land needed to build on is already city owned, and almost all of the track will be above ground, so no digging is required.

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With the cityai??i??s west end expected to continue to grow, and many businesses located there, the Kanata extension is a good candidate for funding from other levels of government, he said, pointing to other transit projects ai??i?? like Hamiltonai??i??s light rail transit system ai??i?? that have been 100 per cent funded by the Ontario government.
He said Wilkinsonai??i??s interest in existing rail conversion is a distraction to that end, especially if she pushed for the conversion to be done before light rail transit was finished.
ai???We have to stay focused on the LRT piece and get it done,ai??? Hubley said. ai???If we start confusing staff and the public by talking about all different ideas, who knows what else she will come out with. Maybe a zipline from Bayshore to Kanata. You are only confusing people.ai???

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Wilkinson said she plans to speak with Mayor Jim Watson in October about getting a feasibility study done on converting existing rail to a commuter train service, ai???so that when we have enough money to do it, we actually could do it,ai??? she said.

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