Tag Archives: LRT

Saanich News: Light rail

We asked the Saanich mayor and council candidates to provide their thoughts and strategies on light-rail transit along the Douglas Street corridor.

Dean Murdock, council candidate:

The proposed light rail plan was unanimously supported by Mayor and Council because of its economic, social, and environmental benefits. I support the plan and want to see an evaluation of its design, cost, and benefits. I’m confident that we can achieve the benefits of the proposed LRT at a lower cost to taxpayers. We’ve got traffic in every direction and need to try something new on Douglas and our major corridors. LRT should be part of an upgraded public transit network that attracts more riders by getting people to where they need to go more quickly and efficiently.

LRT recommended for CRD

Public deserves say on $1 billion light rail plan, Saanich mayor says
Erin McCracken, Victoria News

Reaction to bring B.C. Transit’s recommendation to bring a $950-million electric light-rail transit system to the region was swift – and mixed.

“The issue right now is do our taxpayers have an opportunity to comment between now and when they want a decision on May 17?” asked Saanich Mayor Frank Loenard. “That’s a pretty tight timeline on a $1-billion decision for taxpayers.”

Transit is currently paid for by fares, the province, property and fuel taxes and some advertising. For light rail, Greater Victoria residential property owners would have to pay an additional $130 to $265 in transit taxes a year, depending on how much money from senior government can be secured.

Starting May 15, they currently will already be paying $120.50 for transit in 2011. Business owners, who will pay $386 a year in transit taxes, would see that climb to between $1,300 and $2,650.

“This needs to be a partnership from all three levels of government and we need to determine what that might look like, even find out how long it would take to get an answer from the provincial and federal governments,” Leonard said. “Big picture, it’s where we need to go. But there’s some questions that need to be addressed from here to there.”

Construction on major exchanges could begin at least two years after project approval, and it would be at least four or five years before a full system is operational.

A partial build-out of the line may help, said Saanich Coun Dean Murdock, who favours it going out to the 6 Mile/Colwood interchange for $770 million.

“What’s clear here is there is no option to do nothing. There is no cheap way out of this,” he said.

“If we don’t take it all the way out to the Langford exchange at Station Avenue, we start to erode the attraction for people to get on the LRT.”

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is reserving judgement until it can go over the plan with a fine-tooth comb.

“It’s a complex solution. It’s a lot of money,” said chamber CEO Bruce Carter, adding that future costs of a regional sewage system must also be considered. “That strain on taxpayers is significant.”

The chosen route from downtown Victoria to Saanich, View Royal, Colwood and Langford leaves Esquimalt out of the light-rail loop.

With 6,000 CFB Esquimalt employees, most of whom live on the West Shore, it makes more sense to prioritize inter-city rail along the E&N line, said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

“The alignment they have chosen is not going to serve the region best,” she said.

Light rail is being touted as the most effective remedy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve transit ridership, reduce roadway congestion, increase property values, generate jobs and provide more cost-savings over the long run.

Also driving the project is a forecasted boom in the West Shore’s population, which is expected to climb to 122,000 by 2038.

B.C. Transit’s recommendation will go before its board of directors and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission in May, before it is submitted to the province in June.

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.