Transit Blundering in Victoria

Sad to say, transit planners in Victoria have not read the Rail for the Valley/Leewood Report, but then, why should they, they live in a world of gold-plated transit, where any form of rail transit is over-engineered to such an extent that it will be too costly to build. Economy is not in our transit planners lexicon!

The E&N is a logical choice to install diesel LRT, yet this has been completely ignored, or should I say transit planners in Victoria have been willingly ignorant of diesel LRT and the Rail for the Valley/Leewood report, where a 98 KM diesel LRT line from Scott road Station to Chilliwack would cost just under $500 million or just over $5 million a kilometre to build. $500 million is $450 million less than the proposed Victoria LRT, yet give the region a much larger TramTrain network than what has been offered by planners.

The estimate $950 million to build approximately 19 km. of light rail is outrageous and I can see the ghostly hand of the remnants of BC Transit's 'SkyTrain Lobby' at work, gold-plating the project into oblivion.

I would like to remind everyone that the full build, 138 km RftV/Leewood Report, connecting Vancouver and Richmond to Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Rosedale was to cost just under $1 billion.

If the light rail types in Victoria really want to see a successful light rail operation, they they must force BC Transit to hire real experts in light rail to plan for a successful and affordable LRT in their region. Using TramTrain on the E&N would go a long way in accomplishing this.


A modern Stadler GTW Diesel light rail vehicle used in New Jersey


Editorial: E&N, light rail and our future

 September 26, 2011

A pilot commuter rail service between Duncan and Victoria would cost up to $40 per passenger, far above the amount that could be recovered through fares. And that’s just operating costs; add in the required infrastructure work on the E&N and the cost per passenger is more like $200.

And even then, the service would do little to reduce road traffic.

In other words, this idea is doomed.

The assessment of commuter rail service was done by B.C. Transit and the Island Corridor Foundation, the organization which controls the rail line. It should not be ignored.

But it is only one piece of the transportation puzzle on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. No decision should be made on the E&N’s future without considering the other plans and proposals floating about, or the grim reality of ever-increasing traffic congestion.

Transportation is vital to a thriving community. The choices — often costly — made by local and provincial governments shape our communities.

What’s needed is one cohesive transportation strategy, developed after thorough investigations of all options.

We’re not getting that now. Instead, we have more talk about reviving service on a line that has not seen a train since March 18, when service was suspended because of the track’s poor condition.

Before trains can roll again, the E&N would need $15 million in track improvements and another $1.5 million for other upgrades, and possibly more, depending on B.C. Safety Authority orders.

And before that money is spent, we need to know the E&N has a long-term future. It might have sentimental and historic value, but if it can’t move people quickly and efficiently, perhaps it’s time to admit the Canadian Pacific Railway was right — the line is not viable.

The harsh numbers on the E&N project should also serve as a reality check for B.C. Transit’s plan of a $950-million light rail transit system linking downtown to the West Shore.

Light rail’s appeal is obvious. But the project would require rebuilding Douglas Street, the Trans-Canada Highway and other key routes.

Granted, the LRT would be able to reach into the downtown core and have stops along Douglas, so it would surely attract more riders than the E&N pilot. But if the low-budget version — if $20 million can be called low budget — doesn’t make sense, how can the LRT numbers add up?

Other fixes could make it easier for us to move around the region, but little is being done.

B.C. Transit buses get stuck in traffic with the rest of us. High-occupancy or bus lanes would help to move them along, at a minimal cost, but that idea seems stalled.

University of Victoria students are required to pay for a transit pass, but are learning, because of a lack of buses, that they should not count on the system. Yes, adding buses and drivers would cost money, but not as much money as the E&N would need to resume operations.

Road improvements are also subject to the same hit-and-miss approach, with different governments having different priorities, which too often results in nothing getting done, or worse, a half-finished overpass in Langford.

It’s time to stop thinking in silos, and of treating every idea individually. If it means starting with a clean sheet of paper — or even creating a region-wide transportation authority — then so be it.

It’s time for cohesive planning. Better late than never.

Tomorrow: Setting the region’s infrastructure priorities.

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