VANCOUVER (CityNews) — Chilliwack to Whistler in 60 minutes? It’s possible, according to those behind the Mountain Valley Express Project.
A group of academics and urban planners called the MVX Collective says a high-speed rail line connecting communities throughout the South Coast should be considered as part of the COVID-19 recovery and the ongoing fight against climate change.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequities in our society and fragilities in our economy. With the largest job loss recorded since World War II, and a disproportionate risk being placed on essential workers in our communities, how we respond to this moment will define a generation,” according to the website.
“While the recovery from COVID-19 remains top-of-mind, there is an even larger crisis looming. Climate change requires us to rethink how we live, work, and play. We cannot continue the status quo — we must build back better.”
The train would reach speeds of 300 km/hr and the collective estimates building an operating the rail line would create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Alex Gaio is a spokesperson for MVX Collective. He warns the proposed project shouldn’t be thought of as simply a train to Whistler, but rather a way to connect communities in a region where the population is steadily growing.
“We’re all really concerned about the South Coast. It’s a growing place that’s going to accommodate a lot more people,” he says.
“To just assume this is a tourism train would be unfortunate. There’s the Fraser Valley, there’s Surrey. We’ve expanded beyond Metro Vancouver. We’re the South Coast region.”
Meanwhile, local transport blogger and Langley City Councillor Nathan Pachal estimates the region’s population will grow by another million people in the next 20 – 30 years.
“You know we talk a lot about connections between Vancouver and Seattle, but it seems to me there’s stronger demand for Whistler, and between Vancouver and Chilliwack,” he says.
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The current vision for the route includes 11 stops with capacity for more than 15,000 passengers per hour. A trip on the train will be up to 80 per cent faster than driving.
“British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington State are currently investigating building a high-speed rail corridor that would connect Portland, Seattle, and Metro Vancouver. This project is being planned because it will foster strong economic growth along the West Coast. High-speed rail is a proven, zero-emissions transportation alternative that has revitalized communities and created powerful economic megaregions across Europe and Asia,” the MVX collective website says.
But it’s not cheap. Rough estimates put the cost at between $7- and $16-billion.
Gaio says this option is a better long-term solution than a SkyTrain expansion.
“High-speed rail link travelling these distances makes more sense,” he says.
“This technology is tried and tested and whatever government gets in after the election should do a proper feasibility study.”
With files from Lisa SteacyMountain Valley Express