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

Whitehorse native Elias joins Michigan-Dearborn Wolverines

Johnny Elias played for the Fernie Ghostriders this past season

EDITORIAL: Editor bids farewell

Editor Paige Mueller will be leaving The Free Press team at the end of July

Aislinn Dressler competes in 2020 Youth Innovation Showcase

Dressler was a finalist at the showcase, exhibiting her energy efficient fridge design

Stories decorate city pathways for new reading initiative

The Fernie Women’s Resource Centre began the initiative in support of the local early years community

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Canucks tame Minnesota Wild 4-3 to even NHL qualifying series

J.T. Miller leads Vancouver with goal and an assist

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Interior Health reports nine new cases of COVID-19, 149 linked to Kelowna

Nine new cases were reported in the Interior Health region over the long weekend’s four reporting periods

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

Feds fund $2M for habitat conservation in the Kootenays

Kootenay Connect program to protect habitat for species at risk in four areas in the region

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

Most Read