Improving service on the West Coast Express commuter train is becoming an election issue.
Maple Ridge mayoral candidate Corisa Bell and Coquitlam city council hopeful Harvey Su are leading the effort.
They will lobby TransLink to add more scheduled trains on weekdays, and also a weekend train, as part of a pilot project to boost ridership. They would increase the number of trains from the present four to seven.
“We need to be working toward better transit – rapid transit,” said Bell. “But recognizing that we have infrastructure that can be better used.”
Su said his reasons are partly selfish – he would much rather take the train than drive into Vancouver. However, by the time he drops his kids off at school, he’s too late to get on the Express. The last train leaves Coquitlam Central Station at 8:10 a.m.
“I’m not able to use it, because the schedule doesn’t work for me. I’m forced to drive,” he said.
Su believes there are many people in the same situation – many either can’t get on the train, or they work too late to catch the last run home.
Bell noted there is often gridlocked traffic as the population swells in the region, and this serves as a motivator for people to take transit – if it works for them.
“It’s unacceptable for commuters to be away from their families for two or four extra house every day due to gridlock,” she said.
There are other incentives to leave cars at home – Su pointed to unprecedented gas prices, and “parking is crazy downtown.”
They see these issues getting worse for commuters as the population grows.
“People can’t afford to live downtown Vancouver, and they have to move to the eastern cities.”
They will host a West Coast Express Expansion Public Awareness Event and News Conference, which will take place on Sept. 10 at Coquitlam Central Station at 11 a.m.
Bell said a key is getting all municipalities along the route to call for more service, as getting consensus in the region creates a strong voice.
“It’s the only way we’ll be able to make enough noise to have big issues addressed,” said Bell.
TransLink’s future plans over the next 10 years call for an expansion of Bus Rapid Transit.
There are currently four trains that go from Mission City to Waterfront Station. They leave Port Haney Station each morning at 5:44, 6:44, 7:14 and 7:44 a.m. The last returning train currently leaves Waterfront Station in Vancouver at 6:20 p.m. For a more detailed schedule see Translink.ca
There had been five trains daily. That dropped to three as COVID-19 impacted ridership, but it has rebounded to four.
The West Coast Express has been the slowest TransLink service to recover after the COVID-19 impacts on transit.
“Currently, West Coast Express ridership recovery has the lowest ridership recovery of all transit modes compared to 2019 levels,” said Translink spokesperson Dan Mountain. “Ridership recovery has remained under 40% of pre-pandemic levels while the system-wide average is around 75% of pre-pandemic levels.”
Through Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities TransLink has committed to look into long-term forecasts for West Coast Express ridership before determining a long-term strategy for the service, said Mountain.
“We will continue to monitor ridership patterns on the West Coast Express, and will conduct further study and engagement before determining our long-term service strategy.”
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