Commuter rail not in B.C. transit plan
Catching the TrainBus is catching on, says the president of West Coast Express.
Weekend service into Vancouver along the West Coast Express line just started this January and already about 30 people are using one of the buses.
"It was really quite surprising," said Doug Kelsey. "I was pleasantly surprised there was that kind of demand so quickly."
But don't look for any increase in the number of trains running into Vancouver, for a while yet.
TransLink has just started to digest the $14 billion Provincial Transit Plan announced last week and the West Coast Express wasn't part of it.
That doesn't mean the rail service will be ignored, a spokesman says.
"There's a lot of things that weren't referenced in the provincial plan that still have a home in the TransLink plan," said TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie.
For instance, building, or starting to build the Albion West Coast Express station in 2009 is still part of the plan.
The TrainBus is a 47-seat Greyhound style coach that stops at each of the train stations and follows the five trains into and out of Vancouver on weekdays.
The weekend expansion includes three trips on Saturdays in each direction and two trips on Sundays.
Adding the weekend service can be a prelude to regular train service, but that all depends on where TransLink puts the West Coast Express in its 10-year plan.
"Service expansion for the West Coast Express will be part of the 10-year plan," Hardie said Tuesday.
Kelsey said West Coast Express is the best-rated service in all of TransLink. The main complaint he hears is there just aren't enough trains.
The service hits the mid-80-per-cent range in terms of recovering costs, he said. It carries 10,000 people a day and some times the cars are reaching capacity.
Maple Ridge Mayor Gordy Robson said Kelsey was meeting with council when the Provincial Transit Plan was announced Jan. 14, which included $10 billion for SkyTrain expansion.
"He's the president of SkyTrain and knew nothing about it. His face went ashen white," Robson said.
Kelsey told council that expanding rail service will be easier now that Bill C-11 has been approved by the Senate. The act will make it easier for public transit to access track time from CP Rail, something that should happen when West Coast Express's contract comes up for renewal in 2015.
Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean would have loved to have seen commuter rail mentioned in last week's big announcement.
One easy step would be to run a midday train from Vancouver out to Mission and then back again, so people could take ride in the morning and not have to hang around all day for a return trip.
"It's not even an issue of money," he said noting the trains just sit there all day.
TransLink's currently trying to digest the Provincial Transit Plan as well as make the transition from board appointed by Metro Vancouver to the new structure handed down by the provincial government.
TransLink hasn't yet started on its 10-year plan and may just do another interim plan for a year before setting the long-term goals.
Hardie noted there also is demand for rail service on the south side of the Fraser River.
Maple Ridge council has written to TransLink asking the commuter rail line get more attention.