While some local politicians are cautiously optimistic about the future of commuter rail in the region, skeptical and cynical might be better terms to describe how many West Shore residents are feeling.
We can’t blame residents for being slightly jaded. Multiple announcements in recent years from the E&N rail bed’s owner, Island Corridor Foundation, have promised passenger rail service from Langford to downtown. Not only is such service still absent here and elsewhere on the Island, there’s been little to no sign of the critical track upgrades needed to move any project forward.
The latest proposal from prominent developer Ken Mariash has caught the attention of many – especially those desperately seeking an alternative to the Colwood Crawl. It’s promising to say the least, but many hurdles must be tackled before trains would start running from Langford to Victoria.
To make this work, major stakeholders such as the City of Langford, the Town of View Royal and others must sign on to support the new service. One such player that has so far been noticeably quiet about the proposal is BC Transit.
With rail left out of the plan for the new Johnson Street bridge, passengers arriving in Victoria West would either have to walk into town or find other transportation to their final destinations. Getting BC Transit – or another service provider – on board with shuttle services or adjusted bus routes seems critical to securing the ridership numbers needed to make this latest plan a reality.
With the footprint of the new Mackenzie interchange project growing daily and the relentless population growth on the West Shore, the pressure to reduce vehicle traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway is increasing.
Given the time it takes to plan such ventures, it may be a while before we know whether this new rail proposal will succeed or fall flat.
One thing is for certain, it’s an attempt to come up with a long-term plan for what is currently a wasted transportation corridor. If it fails, municipal officials should perhaps work with the ICF to rip up the tracks and use the corridor for priority bus lanes.