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I really want to take the train

The Island Corridor project would give non-car people another option and help reduce our emissions
The Island Corridor Foundation’s business case for the return of rail on Vancouver Island shows this photo of trains on tracks in Vic West. (Courtesy of Island Corridor Foundation)

Oh man I would love to take the train.

I really can’t understand why Canada as a whole (or the Island at least) doesn’t have a good train system. I mean I can, it’s because companies who make a lot of money on us driving a lot have way too much say in our governments, but having a train network here just makes sense.

Gas prices are ridiculous right now, and that is unlikely to change barring some enormous catastrophe (like COVID-19). Getting to Victoria from Campbell River costs hundreds of dollars, but we are expecting tourism to start up again and boost local economies. Unfortunately all of that sweet tourism money is going to corporations that sell gasoline, not communities.

The province has a lofty goal to reduce emissions to 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030 (eight years from now). We’re lucky in this province, so much of our electricity comes from relatively clean sources: dams. The horrendous impact dams have on river ecosystems, fish and other issues notwithstanding, they don’t sit there pumping carbon into the atmosphere at least. The thing that does in B.C. is cars, trucks and commercial transportation. Just over 40 per cent of our emissions comes from transportation. While the province has said electric vehicles are the way forward, they’re prohibitively expensive for the average person, they’re not actually that great for the environment, compared to other options, and they don’t really have that great of a range yet. If we are going to do something real about climate change, then it’s time to look at trains.

The Island Corridor Foundation wants to re-establish the train between Victoria and Courtenay. I am totally on board for this idea. It’s really a no brainer, and once it is built to Courtenay it wouldn’t take much political will to get it to go even further.

Imagine wanting to head down to go a hotel for a nice weekend in Victoria. Right now, you load up the car, head to the gas station, spend a hundred or so dollars (if you have a Subaru like me, I can’t imagine what a Ram 1500 costs to fill), and drive for a few hours so you can spend a few hundred dollars on a hotel room, then a hundred or so for some food and drinks before fuelling up again for however much and coming back home.

Now what if instead of doing all that, you just packed your bags, stepped onto the train, paid about 11 bucks and got to watch the beautiful countryside fly by, then take a little nap before arriving. From there, you can either hop on the bus or take a bike share (or taxi) to the hotel. Instead of about $1,000 this trip could have cost, you’re now looking at $250 or so, depending on how many appetizers you get.

The Island Corridor Foundation has a vision of two trips per day, and would have fright operations on the system, focusing on the ports in Nanaimo and Port Alberni. According to their business case, cars produce three times the carbon emissions per passenger kilometre than trains do. Much of the track is already laid out, and while it will cost a bit to get up and running again there will be many jobs created to build, maintain and run the system (2,200 person years of employment). Also, as a bonus, the Island Corridor Foundation said the project would cost around $450 million, or just over half of what the recently-cancelled museum project was supposed to cost. So there’s that.

I really want there to be a train on the Island. I would use it every weekend, and be able to explore so much more of this place we love. So would tourists, who help keep our communities prosperous and vibrant. Heck, we could even set up a twinned freight track to keep things moving on the island without having to rely on burning fossil fuels in big trucks so people can have their online orders.

I didn’t even mention commuting! If you’re like me, having to drive between communities every day you know how much these high gas prices are hurting right now. The proposed $105 monthly-pass sounds a heck of a lot better than filling up every four days.

Multi-modal transportation is the future. Within towns, that means rapid transit and active transportation. Inter-regionally, it’s trains. As much as people might be fighting the idea, cars are not always going to be the predominant way of getting around. We need to be on the leading edge of this change, or we’ll just be left at the station.

There will definitely still be people who want to drive. Car culture has made it so that the car isn’t really going away. For people who only drive because it is necessary, it would sure be nice to have another option.

RELATED: Capital Regional District continues push to get trains moving again on Vancouver Island

Deadline looms to resurrect Island’s rail corridor, but ICF optimistic

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