Understandably, much weeping and gnashing of teeth has gone on of late over the question of how best to serve the West Shore’s growing transportation needs.
It certainly is an area of great concern to West Shore businesses and residents — the Trans-Canada Highway commuter “parking lot” being the biggest sore point.
Transportation matters will remain a high priority even when the construction on Island Highway in View Royal completes in the spring. We see this as a quality of life issue that encompasses business, economic development, social and family impacts and workplace productivity.
BC Transit is currently pricing out rapid rail versus rapid bus costs for a comprehensive rapid transit plan to bring traffic into and out of the West Shore to downtown Victoria.
Word on the street is that Transit’s report will now not be released until April or May, given the timetable of Liberal leadership changes.
The good news is that BC Transit has just recently agreed to work closely with the West Shore Chamber, and by extension the local business community-at-large, to better inform and consult its members concerning transit options and their transportation needs.
We are happy to have this opportunity to participate further in this crucial issue. Chamber and other West Shore communities’ concerns and hopes are:
• Concern — that once again the downtown Victoria tail will wag the West Shore — that is, decisions will be made to serve the interest of those focused on the Uptown to downtown corridor, with only secondary attention being paid to the West Shore to Uptown run;
• Concern — that this could mean funding announcements for downtown that use up limited BC Transit funding before solutions serving the growing West Shore are implemented;
• Concern — that the (new) B.C. Liberal premier may have little understanding or appreciation for how difficult the current West Shore commuter experience is, and therefore does not place our community’s quality of life as a high spending priority;
• Concern — that this might well mean that Translink in the Lower Mainland continues to eat up most if not all available provincial capital transit cash, and once again the Island is left (no pun intended) out.
• Hope — that adding more cars and switching up the schedule on the E&N Dayliner gets a timely approval;
• Hope — that the E&N rail line continues to be considered a viable additional, complimentary or alternative mode of transportation for people on the West Shore, and for up-Island commuters to get to the downtown, to Esquimalt and Dockyard;
• Hope — that BC Transit’s costing report does a fair and balanced job of assessing the true costs of buses versus rail, short term and long term;
• Hope — that the expected April public consultation around the rapid transportation cost options is timely and meaningful, not just window dressing.
Everyday, West Shore companies and individuals’ lives are being negatively affected by the lack of government leadership and foresight on this issue — it’s long overdue for those in authority to change that reality.
Recent discussions with the B.C. Liberal leadership candidates have been encouraging about the urgent need for a West Shore commuter/rapid rail solution along with adequate funding.
We trust that they actually get it and that this is not just pre-leadership selection positioning. May the best premier candidate step up and make firm commitment on this issue — this community is waiting to hear.
—Dan Spinner is the CEO of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.