B.C. VIEWS: Transportation options can be few

Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor with Black Press Media

A bus in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The biggest news story in Metro Vancouver in recent weeks has concerned a transit operators’ strike that, as of Nov. 7, has had no effect other than to idle several SeaBus sailings between North Vancouver and Waterfront station in downtown Vancouver each day.

The union has threatened escalation, but its biggest success has been in planting fear in the minds of many who use the transit system.

READ MORE: TransLink disputes severity of bus delays caused by transit strike

Transit use in Metro Vancouver is up substantially. For many people, a total shutdown would leave them with few alternatives. However, SkyTrain would likely keep running, because there are no drivers – one reason the Bill Bennett provincial government chose the technology in the early 1980s, when transit strikes were a much more regular occurrence.

The hot air about transit must seem amusing to residents in other parts of B.C., when thinking of their lack of transportation alternatives. BC Transit operates urban transit systems in most B.C. urban areas, but intercity transportation options are often minimal.

In some areas such as the West Kootenay, residents can travel between cities such as Trail, Castlegar and Nelson via BC Transit. In the South Okanagan, similar options are available.

There have also been improvements in northern B.C., with a service called BC Bus running twice a week between Fort St. John and Prince George, and Prince George and Prince Rupert. It runs once a week to Fort Nelson and Valemount.

Concerns about missing and murdered women along Highway 16, also known as the Highway of Tears, led to a concerted effort to offer more public transportation.

READ MORE: Last Greyhound bus leaves B.C.’s Highway of Tears

It’s been a year since Greyhound left B.C. This left much of the province with few intercity transportation options, other than flying. A number of private bus operators have stepped up to help fill some of the gaps, notably between Vancouver and Calgary, Kamloops and Kelowna, and Kelowna and Nelson.

North of Highway 1 and in the East Kootenay, options are minimal, other than BC Bus. Perhaps a BC Bus-type system could be set up along the Highway 3, Highway 5 and Highway 97 corridors.

Another option rarely mentioned is passenger rail service. Service exists now between Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper and Edmonton and also between Jasper, Prince George and Prince Rupert. It is operated by Via Rail Canada, which offers plenty of service in Ontario and Quebec, but very little in Western Canada.

The federal government funds Via Rail.

A modest expansion of existing train service (and perhaps a new Via route restoring the former BC Rail passenger service between Vancouver and Prince George) could provide a few more intercity options. The Cariboo region has few intercity options, and such a service could help.

The public seems unaware of the train option. Several years ago, we were on the Via train from Vancouver to Toronto, leaving Vancouver on a Friday night in February. The highway through the Fraser Canyon was closed because of snow conditions, but the trains were running. Yet most people trying to get to Kamloops or points between by bus thought they had no options – the train only had a few extra passengers.

Intercity transportation is important. That’s exactly why all levels of government need to do a better job in expanding transportation options to those not served, and to those who can’t afford airfare.

Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor with Black Press Media. Email him at frank.bucholtz@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Angel Flights looking to spread its wings and service in East Kootenays

Angel Flights is a free service that takes patients from the East Kootenays to Kelowna

Kicking Horse conditions update, Thursday February 27

Kicking Horse reports 1 cm of new snow in the last 24… Continue reading

Golden highway update, Thursday February 27

DriveBC reports slippery sections between Beaverfoot Rd and Field, just east of… Continue reading

Interior Health leading the way with innovative therapy for stroke patients

Percentage of ischemic stroke patients who received treatment has risen dramatically

Kicking Horse conditions update, Wednesday February 26

Kicking Horse reports no new snow in the last 24 hours. Light… Continue reading

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan resolute in support of northern B.C. pipeline

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Most Read