Council endorses rail

Light rail only viable solution for Saanich, council says
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Light rail is the only viable solution to easing traffic woes along the Douglas corridor, Saanich councillors say. On Monday night, a united council officially decided to rally behind rail-based technology.

Coun. Dean Murdock brought the motion forward to have staff convey its support for rail, even though it’s likely a more costly way to proceed with rapid transit in the region.

“We know from example that rail achieves the environmental, social and economic outcomes that you want to obtain in a project like this. When you rely on bus, a rubber-based solution, you’re not building the ridership. You’re not encouraging new commuters to choose the system.”

Murdock’s comments come following a presentation last month by B.C. Transit. At that meeting, councillors were told that the transportation solution may come in different forms – buses, streetcars or light rail – for the three different areas of the South Island route (West Hills to Six Mile, Six Mile to Uptown, and Uptown to downtown Victoria).

Coun. Vic Derman asked that council specifically put a line in a letter to B.C. Transit, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission and the Ministry of Transportation that light rail is necessary — at the very least, along Douglas from Uptown to downtown.

“(The Douglas corridor) is perhaps the most important part of this conduit,” Derman said.

Coun. Leif Wergeland was the only councillor to express skepticism on the motion.

“What hasn’t been mentioned is how much it’ll cost and how it’ll be paid for,” he said. “I hardly believe any of us here would want to move ahead at any cost … I would like to see light rail, but it has to be financially viable to us and our taxpayers.”

The cost of bringing light rail to Victoria would be significantly higher than adding streetcars or more buses. The actual price tag has yet to be determined.