Mid-Island transit plan needed for inter-Regional travel?

In our last issue Errol Miller wrote about the need for a comprehensive Vancouver Island transportation strategy. Many other parties seem to agree on that, if not on what the strategy should be. Lots of people put forth various ideas most of which will take years to implement. Meanwhile maybe what Qualicum Beach needs in the interim is an inter-Regional transit plan.

Renewed interest in this issue had been spurred, in part, by the release of the Island Rail Corridor assessment report by the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in March 2020. The provincial government had announced on April 24, 2019 the commencement of a year long project to develop a South Island Transportation Plan which will “include studying the feasibility of commuter rail along the E&N corridor. This information will help shape the discussion around the future of the E&N corridor on the south Island.” [i.e. south of Duncan].

On May 11, 2020, the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) issued its public response to the Island Rail Corridor Condition Assessment report. Among its comments, the ICF found difficulty accepting that “contingencies could almost double the cost assumptions”, calling the estimates “overly excessive”. The ICF also suggested that a “hybrid version” be considered for the Intermediate phase of development.

Next up, the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) weighed in at its May 12, 2020 Committee of the Whole meeting. RDN Board member Ben Geselbrecht, who also sits on the ICF Board, recommended that the RDN Board and staff sit tight until the South Island Transportation Plan is finished, since the Plan may or may not include rail-based use of the Island Corridor.

Geselbrecht also recommended deferring any work related to the ICF until the Nanoose First Nation lawsuit filed against the ICF in the BC Supreme Court gets resolved.

Nanoose First Nation Councillor Brent Edwards was recently reported to say “The [Island Rail Corridor Condition Assessment] report looks like the death knell for rail on Vancouver Island.”

Meanwhile, back in February, the RDN Board did ask the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) to encourage the provincial government to develop a Vancouver Island Transportation Master Plan. AVICC agreed, and now AVICC and RDN staff are kick-starting the process.

Maybe in the interim what Qualicum Beach needs is a “Mid-Island” Transportation Plan. Many QBers need to travel to both Comox/Courtenay and to Nanaimo e.g. for medical appointments, jobs, school. These two population centres flanking QB might as well be on separate planets, given the scarcity of inter-Regional transit options.

What transportation options would you use if they were available?