The following letter was sent to B.C.’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in 2019. It was sent as a personal communication but the points, I believe, are supportable by TABC. The Minister’s Constituency Office reply follows the letter. Since this letter was written, a number of organisations have set up limited intercity bus operations in the province. However, the issue of establishing an integrated, province-wide, intercity passenger transportation system has not been addressed or raised in the current election. Transport Action Canada is calling for a similar integrated passenger transportation system at the national level.
The Honourable George Heyman,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy,
MLA – Vancouver-Fairview.
Dear Minister Heyman:
Re: Intercity Passenger Transport in B.C.
The federal government recently announced $71.1 Million to ‘study’ VIA Rail’s proposed High Frequency Rail in the Toronto – Quebec City corridor. This is in addition to the $989 Million cost to re-equip VIA’s corridor trains with new train sets.
VIA currently operates almost 60 daily trains in Central Canada along with tri-weekly ‘isolated’ services to Jonquiere and Senneterre in Quebec and White River to Sudbury in Ontario.
And B.C.? We have the twice-weekly, land cruise ‘Canadian’, which is priced out of reach of most British Columbians and the tri-weekly Jasper to Prince Rupert trip which involves an overnight stop-over, which the customer must organise and pay for. And Vancouver Island’s E&N continues its long, slow decline.
Embarrassingly, the U.S. federal government provides more, daily, passenger rail service in BC than Canadian governments do.
Adding to B.C.’s intercity passenger transport woes was the loss of the integrated, Greyhound bus network. B.C.’s intercity, passenger transportation system is a shambles. The federal government refuses to expand VIA’s miserly service to provide affordable, reliable rail service; bus service is a hotch-potch of providers – private sector, BC Transit, Health organisations, local TNCs – operating limited services with no fare or schedule integration, often using equipment best suited to short, local trips.
What is needed is the same vision for intercity passenger transport that the Barrett government displayed for intracity passenger service in the 1970’s. Public transportation in B.C.’s towns and cities was expanded significantly by that government.
The province needs an overarching body to strategise, set policy and implement an integrated, intercity passenger transportation system that meets the needs of all British Columbians, providing an alternative to the private automobile. The province’s partial replacement of some Greyhound routes with skeleton services is a start but is an ad hoc effort that doesn’t have the government’s heart in it.
Your government is spending $42.5 million dollars to subsidise electric car purchasers. This amount would have covered Greyhound’s losses for 3 1/2 years, arguably benefitting many British Columbians, particularly low-income, disabled and First Nations citizens. Obviously there is taxpayer’s money available to support passenger transportation; it is just being selectively delivered to a small number of citizens.
B.C. needs a champion for cost-effective, efficient, environmentally-friendly, convenient, intercity passenger transport that serves the entire province. Will it be your government?
• The Honourable Claire Trevina, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
• Dr. Andrew Weaver, Leader of the Third Party
Our apologies for the delay getting back to you on this important issue. Thank you for your email regarding Intercity Passenger Transportation and for sharing this feedback with my colleague the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Serving British Columbians with access to timely and affordable public transit is of great interest to our government and residents across the Province. As you are aware, when Greyhound announced that it would be leaving northern communities, your government immediately stepped in to ensure that northern and rural communities would continue to have intercity transit. This resulted in an interim $2 million investment in the creation of BC Bus North to ensure that British Columbians residing in the north would continue to have service. In April 2019, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure finalized a deal with the Federal government to ensure the continuation of this important service for Indigenous communities and northern residents.
With the exception of the Metro Vancouver region, BC Transit is the main transit authority for more than 130 towns across the province and some intercity service. This month, your government invested in BC Transit in partnership with local governments to ensure that British Columbians have better transit services. This resulted in $78 million in capital investments and $118 million in grants for local governments to make transit more affordable. We remain committed to investing BC Transit services including $1.2 billion over the next decade in partnership with the federal government. Budget 2019 announced $21 million in funding to support new expansion hours in each of the next three years across 30 transit systems starting in 2019-20, which will include the introduction of new transit routes, improved frequency, extended hours of operation and investments in custom handyDART service.
Within Metro Vancouver which is made up of 21 municipalities and multiple First Nations groups, as you are aware TransLink provides the region’s transit services. We are committed to funding the first two phases of the 10 Year Mayors’ Council plan which includes record investments in regional transit of more than $9 billion with almost a third of that coming from the Provincial Government. BC Transit also has an intercity connector between Abbotsford and Langley in Aldergrove which then connects to the TransLink system.
With regards to your point regarding investments in rebates for electric vehicle (EV) and the related infrastructure, it is very important for us to get fossil fuel burning cars off the road. Providing rebates for EVs and charging infrastructure is an essential way for us to reduce our emissions by encouraging people who rely on a personal vehicle to make more environmentally friendly choices. This is just a small fraction of the investments we’ve made in public transit and infrastructure. CleanBC is our province’s climate change strategy and I encourage you to have a look at it if you have not done so already.
Thank you again for contacting our office. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us again in the future.