Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rail Transit and Busways

We need to get the public away from the irrational love affair with rail transit and recognize that we can not afford to build any sort of track based transit expect for in the dense areas of the lower mainland.

Somehow there is a large segment of the public that dislikes buses. Every city that has a subway moves huge numbers of people via buses as well. The bus is the core to transit is the mechanism that will get people out of their cars.

Right now there is a campaign in Greater Victoria for a light rail system of some sort from downtown to the western communities. The people seem to want to use the old E and N line and think that there will be the traffic to make it work. Not a chance.

The cost of building a light rail line out to Langford from downtown Victoria would cost in the order of $200 000 000 to $500 000 000. The amount of money that this entails is enough to do some amazing things in Greater Victoria to deal with climate change issues. The potential savings from the rail transit will be minimal.

Make it faster for me to get to work on a bus and I will do it. Make it cheaper as well - say sell me an annual pass for $30 a month - and I will have one and use the buses more often.

At the moment the incremental cost to me to drive downtown is about $0.75 plus parking - say a buck. The bus will cost me $2.25. Using my car is cheaper. But I can hear you say that I am not counting all the other costs of car ownership, payments and insurance. Well, I have to pay that if I use the car or bus.

Building rail and operating it will mean a huge reduction in bus service in Greater Victoria and higher fares. So more people will start to drive because the bus will no longer be an option or the price premium for transit is too high.

Most of the people taking transit in Greater Victoria do not live along any proposed rail transit route. The population of the western communities is not slated to rise that dramatically that there will ever be a large portion of BC Transit's customers on that line.

A rail transit system is likely to lead to more green house gases in Greater Victoria, not less.

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