Ditch the train, Ride the bus, Cycle lots too

 by Norm Reynolds

In a fascinating Times Colonist April 8 commentary, Turn the E&N route into a beautiful bikeway Vancouver Island environmental activist Guy Dauncey and former NDP member of Parliament Denise Savoie make a rather convincing argument that after 13 years of frustration, it’s time to give up on the E&N Rail line and look at turning the rail bed into a world class bikeway.

The rail line is too old, the costs to upgrade and run a railway too great, the funders too few and the benefits too inconsequential.

Indeed Dauncey and Savoie point out that a 2010 IBI Group study found that if the railway were upgraded it—might—carry 622 passengers a day. But that is a mere 1.5 % of the current Malahat traffic. And it would come at an exorbitant price: about $70 million and an operating subsidy of $4,000 a day. “Including the capital investment spread over 25 years, the railway passengers would need a $15,000 daily subsidy to operate a fossil-fuelled cumbering, inefficient railway.

In what could be the initial charge of a stampede away from the Island Corridor Foundation’s rail revival hope, the Nanaimo Regional District has voted against providing the grant it had agreed to, saying it had grown impatient with the lack of progress.

Dauncey and Savoie argue that instead of 600 people a day by a money guzzling railway, a beautiful, low cost Island bikeway on the old rail bed might carry many thousands of people a day. As an avid cyclist, I like the idea of building on the reputation of the wildly popular Galloping Goose railbed trail to expand the dream to include Victoria to Courtenay, however I am not convinced of the “thousands” projection. And—more importantly—I think the relevant conversation right now is not primarily about cycling tourism—I think it has to be about readily available, affordable, attractively packaged alternative transportation to our destructive obsession with CO2 belching Single (or few at best) Occupant Vehicles.

Read full post at:  http://islandword.com/ditch-the-train-ride-the-bus-and-cycle-lots-too/