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.