Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Rapid Transit in Victoria

I went to the open house today at the Ambrosia Event Centre that BC Transit was hosting about rapid transit.

The first thing I saw was the butt ugly pseudo streetcar parked outside on Fisgard.   I am not convinced that it has many advantages over a conventional banana bus, but I was assured by  a consultant that it did.  The cost to Las Vegas for these was $1.3 million.

Inside they showed their planned route, still the westshore as a priority which I think is a huge mistake because this is not where the traffic is.   I am not surprised that UVic to downtown was not chosen by the mayors as the first priority since the 20,000 students at UVic are not civic voters and therefore are off of the radar of the mayors.  If rationallity had prevailed, rapid transit would be considered first and foremost for downtown to UVic, but in this issue rationality does not play well as I quickly heard inside.

The public in the region seems to be completely sold on rail as the solution even though we do not have the traffic to warrant it, it is more than twice as expensive to build and operate, and is less flexible.   One gentleman walked around asked people which they preferred, rail or bus, I was the only one that answered bus.

I said bus because I know we do not have the potential for enough passengers to make rail work in this region.   For rail to be financially viable, by which I mean a better option than buses, it has to be a route that will see 60,000 to 100,000 passenger trips per day.   There are simply way too many example in the US of local transit systems harmed because the operational costs of rail sucked the resources out of the rest of the system.

The people from BC Transit there, the consultants and staff, seem to be well informed about the realities of Greater Victoria and which options fit with the needs of the people here.   These people are professionals and know about the costs and are aware that it is simply unaffordable for the public in this region to build a rail line.   The fact they brought in one of the ugly bus - trams seems to indicate they are now ready to show people that bus rapid transit is the option for this region.

People seem to be unaware of how few people there are on the Westshore in general and how few of them actually travel into the core each day.  People also seem to be unaware of well funded our transit system here in Victoria is by the provincial government and how low our fares are.   We use our transit in the core, it would be a shame to gut that for an unviable rail option.   We could be paying a lot more in property taxes for our system if we go in the direction of rapid transit that is expensive.

Bus rapid transit could be phased in quickly and could allow for a lot of flexibility, the same buses could leave the rapid transit route and still operate as a regular bus.
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