Combo bus-train touted as solution to commuting crawl

ICF’s focus should be quickly brought to envision far more productive solutions

I read with great interest two recent articles regarding the Island Corridor Foundation’s seeming lack of accomplishment in reinstating commuter service on the E&N line. And I was pleased to read of the inauguration of the new Langtoria Greenline commuter bus in the Goldstream Gazette.

The greatest concern I have is that ICF’s focus should be quickly brought to envision far more productive solutions that don’t cost mega-bucks. And I see the most important job of a senior manager is to provide timely contributions of sharp foresight and vision in steering an entity towards a goal that gives maximum benefit to the most effected residents now and in the future.

While the future may hold that the right-of-way becomes a Skytrain-style line, the current population probably doesn’t warrant that tremendous expenditure. And without a second rail track, a heavy Budd car is limited to a one-way commute and mostly dead-head returns on the same track; yielding not many people moved in an hour.

I’d like to see a 14-kilometre-section of the E&N rightaway used by a hybrid Dual Mode Vehicle (DMV) currently being made in Japan. It can travel on the road as a bus, or on rails as a train. This section of rail line between Langford and the Blue Bridge area, would be used inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon. Inbound transport would continue on Johnson Street to Douglas or Blanshard Street with two or three stops on its return road trip to the West Shore.

The website has a short video of the DMV doing its conversions. The beauty of this system is it can bypass the vehicle traffic snarl on its trip into Victoria on the tracks in the morning and out in the afternoon. The machine simply reverts back to a bus on tires and proceeds back for another load, this time against the heavy traffic. A round trip could be done in approximately 50 minutes and I think five DMVs would be adequate, giving a 10-minute schedule between trips from 5:30 to 9:20 a.m. That would be 25 trips, moving 30 passengers each, for potentially 750 people off the road. Outbound trips could run from 2:50 to 6:40 p.m.

My rough estimate of the costs is around $12 million, including vehicles, rail repairs and traffic controls to give the “train” priority. I also expect funding would pour in from the three levels of government plus the two First Nations on the line, CFB Esquimalt and BC Transit, so the absolute out-of-pocket cost to taxpayers along the route could be quite minimal. This assumes it would only service residents of West Shore municipalities, Esquimalt, two First Nations and Victoria. Parking would also need to be dealt with, but with the biggest lots being needed in the West Shore, this shouldn’t be insurmountable.

The plan would not take a super long time to implement. I understand that if upgrades of the current rail crossing signals and gates is required for safety, they can be very long delivery. However, if that was made top priority, delivery could likely equal completion of delivery of the vehicles and completion of track repairs.

With a guesstimate of 18 months needed for agreements and approvals to be put in place, the most optimistic scenario would see the whole system operational in two to 2-1/2 years, too late to benefit the problem during the McKenzie interchange debacle, but that’s another story.

Bruce Morrison