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

Spike of bear calls to Conservation Officer Service prompts calls for prevention

‘We want to do everything we can beforehand to reduce conflict,’ said Sgt. Todd Hunter

Pitt Meadows mayor responds to petition to halt development of North Lougheed Study Area

A petition with 628 signatures was put before city council on Tuesday evening

Searching for isolated seniors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows with music and dance

Seniors outreach team at Ridge Meadows Seniors Society came up with a pop up jukebox

Fraser North Farmers Market moves to online model for summer season amid COVID-19

Customers can order products online and pick up at Golden Meadows Honey Farm on Saturdays

B.C. retirement home creates innovative ‘meet-up’ unit for elderly to see family face-to-face

Innovative ‘purpose-built’ unit keeps residents safe when seeing family for first time since COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping The News to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Death toll rises in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

Number has risen to 22, making it the worst to date in B.C.

Fraser Valley libraries to offer contactless hold pick-ups

FVRL Express — Click, Pick, Go service to be offered at all 25 locations starting June 1

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

United Way allocating $6.6M in federal funding to help with food security, youth mental health

Applications from Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland charities being accepted for the emergency funding

Most Read