An independent evaluation will prove LRT benefits

Posted by on Aug 10, 2011

We know that other cities have seen incredible economic growth as a result of rail systems in their major corridors. We know that LRT can reduce emissions significantly and can do a lot to encourage new ridership — as much as double ridership — bringing more convenience and lower car-dependence to thousands of individuals and families.

Here in our region, we need an independent review of the proposed regional LRT system to give the public and decision-makers the information we need to evaluate these extraordinary benefits and the estimated costs to build and operate the system.

For me, there are four main components that need to be evaluated before we can proceed.

The first is finding potential cost savings. Let’s have an evaluation of the selection criteria to see what was required in choosing the technology. I’m confident that a line-by-line breakdown of the costs will reveal areas where money can be saved.

The second component is evaluating the economic spinoffs. We’ve seen rail systems in cities like Vancouver, Portland, Calgary, and Montréal, generate new economic development. LRT will certainly have a positive economic impact in our region. Let’s look at the potential for economic growth to understand what we can look forward to.

The third component is an assessment of the environmental benefits. An electric rail system is more energy-efficient than diesel buses. Let’s calculate what kind of emission reductions we will see by replacing dozens of diesel buses with electric rail and by attracting new riders away from their cars and onto LRT.

The final component is ridership projections. Estimates of thousands of new commuters and doubled ridership need to be proven. Salt Lake City achieved its 10-year ridership projections on the first day of its service and the Canada Line in Vancouver has already surpassed its five-year ridership projections. Let’s look at the projections for the proposed system to see how they compare and if they’re realistic.

An independent review will ensure that we maximize the potential benefits of LRT and minimize its potential costs. It will demonstrate the true value for taxpayers and the soundness of the investment for our region.

Dean Murdock
Saanich Councillor