December 8th 2016
Amy Smart / Times Colonist
The developer behind Bayview Place says he wants to revive the E&N Rail corridor between Vic West and Langford.
Ken Mariash, owner of Focus Equities, says his company has proposed rail service that could be on track as early as next year.
“We’re moving ahead as fast as we can,” Mariash said.
Under the proposal, one-way tickets would cost $3 to $4. Trains would run every half-hour during peak hours, then less frequently through the rest of the day.
Mariash estimated that at the start, the service would attract 800 to 1,200 daily customers.
Focus Equities is the builder of the residential and retail Bayview Place waterfront site in Vic West. It includes the Roundhouse project at a former train maintenance site, which Focus Equities is developing into a marketplace and cultural area. The company has offered to host a train station on a half acre of its property near Catherine Street.
Rail service would benefit Bayview Place residents and also draw more traffic to the Roundhouse project, Mariash said.
The company has met with members of the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the E&N corridor. It also plans to meet with municipal, provincial and federal representatives, he said.
Capital costs are estimated at up to $10 million, and Mariash anticipates annual operating losses of between $1.5 million and $2 million.
“That’s the nature of busing or anything — the ticket usually costs half the cost of operating it.”
Focus Equities has worked on several transportation projects connected to its developments. In Calgary, for example, it worked to widen a freeway in both directions and build two interchanges.
An operator such as Southern Rail would be responsible for service once the project is complete, he said.
Southern Rail used to operate a Victoria-Courtenay passenger service on the E&N line on behalf of Via Rail. The service was halted in 2011 because of concerns about the condition of the line’s tracks and bridges.
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, the Capital Regional District’s representative to the Island Corridor Foundation, said he’s looking forward to hearing more about the proposal. The Island Corridor Foundation board “has approved a resolution, saying we welcome a proposal for commuter service in the capital region,” Isitt said.
On Friday, Isitt will take Mayor Lisa Helps’ place at an inter-municipal meeting with Focus Equities to learn about it. He said he believes the operator should be a public body such as B.C. Transit, if it receives public subsidies.
“I think it’s exciting this discussion is underway. We’re closer, and have been for some time, to having a commuter-rail service in the region. And certainly with construction underway at the McKenzie interchange and overall congestion, I think we would be very well-served by establishing commuter rail without delay.”
December 8th 2016