Thursday, September 04, 2008

Malahat Public Transit Service - Still Coming Soon?

I am curious to see how this goes, the more of a subsidy there is for people to get from the Cowichan Valley to Victoria, the more people that will chose to live there.

I see that the local MLA is once again suggesting looking at the E&N railway. That line is not going to be able to realistically offer any sort of a commuter service from Duncan to Victoria for a number of reasons.
  1. The tracks need a lot of fixing
  2. The line is not built to allow for reasonably fast trains
  3. There huge numbers of level crossings that need to be eliminated
  4. The operating costs are prohibitive - if John Horgan thinks the bus fare might too high, the train fare will be a lot more.

Malahat transit service delayed

No decisions made on fare, long-term funding or location of stops

The commuter bus hoped to ease congestion on the Malahat won’t be operating as soon as the province expected.

In May, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced a route between the Cowichan Valley and downtown Victoria would begin this fall.

The province spent $4 million on eight buses and promised another $362 thousand annually towards the operating costs.

But BC Transit and the Cowichan Valley Regional District are taking longer than expected sorting out operating details, such as where stops and park-and-rides will be, how much the fare will be and where they will find the rest of the operating cost in a district that doesn’t have a transit tax on gas.

“We’re hoping (they’ll be in service) for December, but we won’t really know until September,” said BC Transit spokesperson Joanna Morton.

NDP MLA John Horgan for Malahat-Juan de Fuca said the province should have offered the full cost to get the buses on the road.

“They had a fine plan, buying the buses, but it was really only half a plan because now they aren’t going anywhere,” Horgan said.

“They might as well grow tomatoes on them.”

The Cowichan Valley Regional District and BC Transit will have to come up with about $415,000 annually for their portion of the operating cost. Some of that will come from new taxes yet to be determined and some from the user fare.

Horgan said he was concerned the fare may need to cover the bulk of the operating costs because, with it being an election year, getting a new tax will be unpopular.

“If the fare is too high, people won’t use it,” Horgan said. “So, they’re kind of stuck.”

Jack Peak, CVRD chair, said there are still a lot of unanswered questions and challenges to getting the buses on the road, the cost being the biggest, but also that the vehicles still travel the same congested road as other vehicles.

Both Peak and Horgan said the money would have been better spent on improving the E&N rail line.

“When the Malahat closes, the buses are going to be stopped along with everybody else,” Peak said.

“A train would have offered another option.”

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