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

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

BC Liberal Party candidate for the North Coast Roy Jones Jr. will hold virtual face-to-face meetings for North Coast communities on Oct. 18. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
BC Liberal Candidate Roy Jones Jr, will meet constituents virtually

Face to face conversations will be held on Oct. 18 for North Coast communities

Kelly Lynn Whitney has been acclaimed as the successful candidate on Oct. 16, in the Village of Port Clements by Election. Seen in photos Kelly Whitney-Gould is pictured putting finishing touches on “Ms. Gnomer’s Home 4 Wayward Folk.” (Kelly Whitney-Gould/Submitted photo)
Kelly Lynn Whitney acclaimed in By Election

Village of Port Clements By Election success

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Oak Bay. (News Bulletin file photo)
‘Buy a boat,’ Horgan advises anti-maskers on BC Ferries

NDP leader John Horgan talks COVID-19 misinformation

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read