B.C. Should Prioritize Local Transit Over the Vancouver-Seattle Bullet Train

The province shouldn’t contribute to a multi-billion-dollar project before improving its own transportation services

A rendering of what the King George Hub could look like. (submitted/ PCI Developments)

While B.C. recently announced that it’s going to invest another $300,000 towards exploring the feasibility of a Vancouver-Seattle train project with Washington state, Metro Vancouver’s own transit network has a slew of problems and lacks the funding to address them.

Last year, TransLink increased fare prices in order to fund its 10-year vision, which includes increased bus service and 56 new Skytrain cars. However, the planned improvements may not be enough to service all of the current and future commuters.

Snowfall over the last month left a lot of commuters frustrated with frequent delays. Instead of putting money towards fixing these problems so the same thing doesn’t happen again next year, the province has decided to help fund a project that is still in its early stages. To indicate how many people would rather see the money spent on local transit, fifteen per cent of the comments on TransLink’s fare change survey ignored the fare changes and instead asked for improved or more frequent service.

If it’s ever completed, the bullet train project would have around 1.46 million riders in its first year of service. By comparison, the SkyTrain alone provided 9.33 million rides for commuters in May of 2018 alone. 2017 saw 406.84 million boardings across all of TransLink’s services.

As it stands, travellers have to go through an extensive process to be able to cross the U.S.-Canada border. This likely isn’t something the high speed rail project would be able to cut down on.

In the effort of establishing and strengthening relationships with other countries, projects like these could be a way for B.C. and Washington state to communicate with each other and create something meaningful for their citizens. However, it could be unwise for the province to dedicate this much money to a project that may not move forward—money that could go to services here that already exist.

Most of the people who currently struggle with local transit will not be using the high-speed train in order to get to Seattle. The types of people who will use the proposed train aren’t the same ones that rely on TransLink to get to school or work every day. According to Daily Hive, only 25 per cent of the potential ridership is estimated to be comprised of Vancouver travellers.

The project won’t be making the province any money for a long time, either. If the rail is greenlit, construction won’t be completed for at least another 16 years. TransLink’s need for funding is much more immediate than that.

The Vancouver-Seattle train is an expensive and needless expenditure. Instead of focusing on out-of-province travel, B.C. should direct its funding into local transit options that could benefit more citizens in a much more effective way. Provincial officials should look into the needs and wants of their citizens before looking at building relationships with the States.