Duncan to Victoria commuter rail plan mulled

B.C. Transit sites many barriers, but Island Corridor Foundation pleads patience

The Island Corridor Foundation and B.C. Transit are investigating the viability of an intercity passenger rail pilot project from Duncan to Victoria called the Salish Express.

The idea, according to Island Corridor Foundation executive director Graham Bruce, is to explore a commuter service for the western communities of Greater Victoria that might help to alleviate the current traffic congestion along the Island Highway.

It’s an idea explored before.

Back in 2009-2010, the province costed out a similar service with an estimated $64.2 million capital cost.

A new study, completed by B.C. Transit in May, has come up with much lower capital cost estimate.

The report proposes fares of $11 from Duncan-Shawnigan Lake, and $2.50 from Langford. It also predicts a daily ridership of 389 this year, rising to 560 in 2026. That’s based on one trip between Duncan and Victoria per day, and two trips between the West Shore and Victoria in both the morning and afternoon.

B.C. Transit estimates annual revenue for the Salish Express at $318,000, and annual operating costs at between $2 million to $4 million. The capital cost estimate is $1.5 million. It assumes the completion of $15 million in track upgrades.  It also assumes an ongoing assessment of the rail bridges and trestles find no major problems.

B.C. Transit also identified many barriers to the pilot project.

“The terminus would be in Victoria West, which requires a transfer to bus as part of the  passenger trip,” the report states. “Without improving travel times from the West Shore, the ability to divert trips from existing modes is limited.”

Bruce cautions against coming to conclusions.

The report is primarily a collection of baseline details that will be used for a more rigorous assessment in due course,” he wrote. “The ICF needs to review the data collected and test some of the assumptions found in the report.”

Any solution to the transit issues of the Capital Regional District will be costly, Bruce added. “The light rail transit plan of $950 million gives governments and taxpayers some idea of the scope of those costs.”