The Provincial Government’s George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project is a perfect example of why
British Columbia Needs a Passenger Transportation Plan. While the Tunnel is a critical transportation link for motor vehicles and transit, there are other options that could dramatically improve people’s travelling experience for residents and tourists while reduce traffic through the tunnel. Undertaking expensive projects like the Tunnel Replacement Project without developing a comprehensive plan first, will likely result in missed opportunities and less than optimal use of transportation dollars.
Options that should be explored include pedestrian and cyclist ferry service to Vancouver Island and passenger rail across the Fraser that both could form integral parts of the larger transportation network.
Pedestrian and Cyclist Ferry Service
Richmond and YVR are pretty much straight across the water from Naniamo, yet the majority of people in the region are currently forced to go either way out of their way to the north across the busy North Shore Bridges to Horseshoe Bay or way south through the Massey Tunnel to Tsawwassen to get to Vancouver Island. This is both a waste of people’s time and a cause of congestion on expensive to build and maintain bridges and tunnels. Smaller, lighter passenger only ferries are much more fuel efficient and cost effective than their huge heavy motor vehicle carrying big brothers.
A better option for a lot of people would be a pedestrian and bicycle ferry straight across to Naniamo. An obvious terminal location is near Bridgeport Station. Already a busy multi-modal hub with the Canada Line and a regional bus loop, Bridgeport easy to access by transit from the Airport, Vancouver, Richmond, Delta and South Surrey. Bridgeport also has much easier bicycle access from Vancouver and Richmond than Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen.
Waterfront Station is another obvious location for a passenger ferry terminal. The Harbour Lynx ferry that sailed from Waterfront Station to Downtown Naniamo in 80 minutes was popular but the company went into bankruptcy in 2006 following several mechanical problems. BC Ferries needs to consider operating such services as they have the financial capacity to survive such problems.
Downtown Naniamo and the E & N
On the Naniamo side, a good option would be the Gabriola Island Ferry Dock just south of Downtown Naniamo. The really exciting aspect of the this location is the spur from the E & N rail line that is really close to the Gabriola Island Ferry Dock. Ferry passengers could hop on trains destined for communities up and down the Island. This would help create the critical mass of passengers needed for successful passenger rail on the E & N.
Conveniently, CN no longer needs the line adjacent to Shell Road in Richmond. The Shell Line connects via the abandoned line that has become the Bridgeport Trail to Bridgeport Station. A new rail bridge or tunnel across the Fraser from the Shell Line to Delta could hook up with the BC Rail lines that connect to Surrey, White Rock and the States. Then, both regional and international rail could connect to the Canada Line, the buses and the ferry over to Naniamo. Bridgeport Station would be a popular place. A great regional transportation hub.
Tunnel to Downtown Vancouver
With the Canada Line arguably under-build for the demand several decades from now, a new rail tunnel could be bored to Downtown Vancouver from near Bridgeport providing both a direct rail connection to Downtown while relieving demand from the Canada Line.
Wrapping in All Up
So, for likely much less money than the cost of a new bridge or tunnel, we could have much improved ferry service to the Island, passenger rail on Island and regional and international passenger rail. More reasons why British Columbia Needs a Passenger Transportation Plan.
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Thanks for the kind words and the plug!
Richard, I was pleasantly surprised to start reading a post on the Massey tunnel to see it connect very quickly to passenger / bike ferry service to Vancouver Island. You also made the very important connection to the E&N Railway which has a freight rail spur right to the downtown waterfront in Nanaimo. There is lots of history there.
I have long seen passenger rail interlinked with high quality ferry service on the coast as one of the best unrealized great ideas out there, and I certainly intend to explore it further when time permits.
I fully agree that regional (and national) transportation planning
is essential given the “one-horse” energy economy and environmental legacy fossil fuels has bestowed on the world. There are ways to mitigate that, but they require some mightly big thinking by elected officials who take responsibility for the long-term effects their decisions impose on society. The biggest challenge is finding such people and encouraging them to run for office in an age of cynicism.
I say the Massey tunnel should only be repaired and maintained for as long as commercial truck traffic remains viable in light of escalating liquid fuel prices and rising seas. A two-lane train transit bridge wouldn’t cost anything near a six-lane car-oriented bridge and could arguably move a helluva lot more people and survive price shocks at the pump and inundated lands on either side of the South Arm.