LRT: Getting our fair share of the Provincial Transit Plan

This week, BC Transit recommended a Light Rail Transit system from Victoria to the West Shore. The total project cost (downtown Victoria through a hub at Saanich’s Uptown to Station Avenue, Langford) is estimated at $950 million. Ending the rail line at Six Mile (the junction with the E&N) would be $770million. In my view, the critical passenger mass – where the train would collect the largest number of passengers – is at Six Mile. The track from Six Mile to Station Avenue can considered for a future phase.

Transit also revealed this week that just maintaining its current, bus-based service would cost $250million. A rapid bus service would cost about $550million, but would need to be converted to LRT within 10 – 15 years. That’s twice the cost for the same outcome.

For all the discussion this week about the plan and its price tag, the provincial government offered little more than platitudes when it comes to pitching in funds. Interestingly, when the Evergreen Line (Coquitlam to Vancouver) was announced, senior governments pledged over $800 million toward the $1.3billion project.

The long-ago announced $14billion Provincial Transit Plan ear-marked close to $1billion for the Capital Region. An LRT system that will cut emissions and double ridership is a perfect candidate for the provincial fund.

The federal government can be forgiven for its silence, as it’s in the midst of an election campaign. However, its willingness to chip in for the Canada Line and Evergreen Line on the Lower Mainland should extend to LRT in the CRD.

The two-thirds funding from senior governments brings the local share of Victoria to Six Mile LRT to $257 million. That’s equal to the cost of doing nothing – a cost that property taxpayers would bear alone.

It’s time for the provincial government to step up and deliver on its promised Transit Plan funding. Let’s get our federal partner at the table as well. Their combined support for transit helped Lower Mainland commuters out of traffic congestion and home to their families sooner. Surely Capital Region residents deserve the same.