The train tracks in Duncan have been quiet since rail service stopped on the Island Corridor. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)

The train tracks in Duncan have been quiet since rail service stopped on the Island Corridor. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)

Editorial: Train vital to modern future for our communities

People will use it, if we build it.

We must save the rail line.

Anyone who has travelled to virtually anywhere else in the world, barring the United States, knows just how far behind the curve Canada is when it comes to public transportation. Even in our densest cities where the public transit networks are the best we pale in comparison to most places, particularly in Europe and Asia.

It boils down to one thing: we have built all of our communities around the car. This is not a good thing. It leads to polluted, noisy, inefficient sprawl where doing something as basic as walking or cycling to the grocery store is virtually impossible for most people. We build commercial centres with no residential accommodations above them (note the wasted potential of somewhere like Cowichan Commons in this regard), and residential areas in the middle of nowhere. Even if there is a bus route anywhere in the vicinity there are likely to be hours between runs (and every bus route our local governments attempt to bring into being is a big fight with the naysayers who think any kind of public transportation is a waste of their money). We just assume that everyone will drive a car.

This is a terrible supposition to base an entire community around. Older people, for example, who can no longer drive, need public transportation. Young people who cannot yet drive can have a great deal of autonomy with public transit. Owning and maintaining a vehicle is, for most people, one of the single biggest expenses they have. With proper public transit this would not be a necessity. Imagine the money you can save if you don’t need insurance, maintenance, tires, gas, or electric power for a car. It would make a huge difference in the lives of a great many Cowichan Valley residents.

Which brings me to the train. In most places in the world trains are an integral part of public transportation. This includes both within and between communities. Trains are an incredibly efficient way to move people around. They are also a great way to travel.

The E&N rail line is just waiting for an upgrade that would provide a key transportation route between our Vancouver Island communities. It’s right there for us, with huge potential to bring us kicking and screaming into the modern age of transportation. Our governments will spend billions of dollars on highways without blinking. An investment of this kind in the rail line is a much more efficient and effective use of our money. People will use it, if we build it. The naysayers are the same ones who said a commuter bus to Victoria would be a failure (they’ve had to add more runs due to popularity). We predict it would be incredibly popular with both tourists and local alike.

The E&N rail corridor is worth fighting for. It’s key to the future of our communities.