It’s time for the 21st Century.
In this article I will lay out a vision for rail based transportation integrated seamlessly with other public transit on this Island (colonially named Vancouver Island).
The Deadline for the Island Corridor Foundation
The Supreme Court ruling (read a brief here) in Snaw-Naw-As First Nation v. Canada (Attorney General), 2021 created an 18 month deadline. That deadline is now less than 30 days away.
A Transit Schedule for Island Rail north of the Malahat.
Flip through the gallery to see a Rail based Public Transit schedule.
- 100 – Snaw’naw’as Express (Qualicum – Nanaimo)
- 200 – Snuneymux City (South – North Nanaimo)
- 300 – Stz’uminus Connector ( Duncan – Nanaimo)
- 400 – K’omoks Discovery ( Courtenay – Parksville)
- 500 – Nuuchanulth Ocean (Port Alberni – Parksville)
- Times marked in blue connect to a BC Ferry service.
These schedules are designed to look like a regular bus schedule because in this vision the railway would become an integrated, inseparable part of the BC Transit system as it is in Metro Vancouver with Translynk utilizing bus, Skytrain, and rail.
All of the services are named for one of the First Nations in whose Territory it serves in addition to envisioning stops within those First Nations reserves where possible. All services have two trains on the route requiring a minimum of one driver per train.
Starting South – Stz’uminus Connector
This service has both trains start in Duncan and head north in the morning to serve commuter traffic in Nanaimo. They then operate on an alternating interval providing departures from both ends on a roughly 35-45min interval. Trip time is 37 minutes based on a maximum speed of 110kph (90kph average).
In blue, the schedules show possible Ferry connections to Salt Spring Island (via Crofton), Penelakut and Thetis Island (via Chemainus), Vancouver (via Duke Point) and Gabriola Island (via Nanaimo Port Place). Passengers would also be able to access Departure Bay Ferry Terminal from Nanaimo as well as ferries further north.
Service to Victoria is not included as there are already multiple ideas and proposals for that service but this would be a part of that system and integrate with it.
Serving Nanaimo – Snuneymux City
Bus and train service are directly and seamlessly integrated together particularly in the Regional District of Nanaimo.
The Snuneymux City service would work between Nanaimo’s Waterfront and the Woodgrove shopping Centre. It is meant to provide a much quicker link (21 min) between the Waterfront and Woodgrove than bus service can achieve (55 min). Service speed is 80-90kph.
Ferry Connections include to and from Gabriola Ferry, Duke Point (via bus from Nanaimo South Plaza), and Departure Bay (via bus from Brooks Landing).
Commuting from Qualicum/Parksville – Snaw’naw’as Express
The Snaw’naw’as Connector would have both trains start in Qualicum and head south in the morning to serve commuter traffic to Nanaimo. They then operate on an alternating interval providing departures from both ends on a roughly 35-45min interval. Trip time is 31 minutes based on a maximum speed of 110kph (90kph average).
This service connects to the Departure Bay Ferry at Brooks Landing (with bus link).
North to Comox Valley – K’omoks Discovery
The K’omoks Discovery would have both trains start in Parksville and head north in the morning to serve commuter traffic to Courtenay. They then operate on an alternating interval providing departures from both ends on a roughly 30-35min interval. Trip time is 50 minutes based on a maximum speed of 110kph (90kph average).
This service connects to Buckley Bay Ferry north and southbound and to Powell River Ferry by bus link. It would also connect to Departure Bay with the Snawnawas Express service.
Serving West Coast- Nuuchanulth Ocean
The service would have trains start in Port Alberni and Parksville to serve commuters in both directions. They then operate on an alternating interval providing departures from both ends on a roughly 50-55min interval. Trip time is 50 minutes based on a maximum speed of 90kph (80kph average).
Departure times in blue from Port Alberni connect to the Departure Bay Ferry by connecting to the 100 – Snaw-naw-as Express service.
Island Transportation Foundation?
Vancouver’s Translink was formed in 1998 when the population of Metro Vancouver was around 1.8 million people and 12 years after the first Skytrain was built for Expo’86 (pop. 1.3 million).
Today, the population of Vancouver Island is approaching 900,000. It will likely reach 1 million in this decade. More than half of that population is north outside Greater Victoria.
We need Island solutions for this population growth. Transforming and integrating all public transit into one entity serving the Island seamlessly with governance that partners First Nations and Regional Government is one possible way forward.
Note: In April 2014 I made a presentation to the Regional District of Nanaimo detailing how with small investments in repairs and equipment, a rudimentary intercity passenger train service could augment the existing RDN BC Transit service from Qualicum to Nanaimo and Ladysmith.