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LETTER: Buses more efficient than rail on Vancouver Island

Studies do not show a greenhouse gas reduction for Island rail…
The Island Corridor Foundation wants to restore train service from Victoria to Courtenay. Scott Stanfield photo

To the Editor,

Studies do not show a greenhouse gas reduction for Island rail.

Recent studies contradict claimed or implied greenhouse gas reductions of passenger rail in the Island Corridor Foundation’s business case. The 2020 Delphi group study Modal Optimization as a Contributor to Reducing GHG Emissions in Canada shows that, overall, intercity passenger rail in Canada pollutes similarly to motor vehicles. Intercity buses are cleaner than every other mode. This report echoes the research reporting of University of Ottawa professor Ryan Katz-Rosene. Passenger rail efficiency only shines in the Windsor – Quebec City Corridor, which carries 92 percent of VIA Rail passengers. In that corridor, rail cars tend to be full, while other locations in the country have emptier and therefore less efficient trains.

The South Island Transportation Strategy showed low rail passenger use in Vic West and Langford. No reduction in greenhouse gases would be achieved. In the Malahat Corridor, passenger rail would not relieve congestion. Todd Litman of the Victoria Transportation Institute has a study, Rethinking Malahat Solutions, which shows the potential of buses over passenger rail for highway decongestion.

The hefty price for rail on Vancouver Island points to the need for alternative options, including on the rail corridor. The provincial strategy of introducing bus lanes on heavily travelled corridors has high benefits at lower costs. On the rail bed, bus lanes east of Langford and trails further north would secure much of the corridor and provide relatively immediate benefits without heavily burdening taxpayers.

Graeme Lamson,

Qualicum Beach