The Vancouver Island Corridor and FORT-VI’s Proposed Active
Transportation Use for the Corridor
The Vancouver Island Corridor (VIC), also referred to as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E&N) Railway Corridor, consists of two main branches: the Victoria subdivision, extending 224 km from Victoria to Courtenay, and the Port Alberni subdivision, extending 64 km from Parksville to Port Alberni (IBI Group, 2010, p. 9). Construction of the railway and corridor began in 1884. The corridor was built to “support the coal and lumber industry and the Royal Navy Base at Esquimalt Harbour” (Canadian Railroad Historical Association, Esquimalt & Nanaimo Division [ENCRHA], para. 3) and has also been used for passenger service. Passenger service on the corridor was terminated in March 2011 for safety reasons, while freight service dwindled over the years, although limited freight service still occurs along some segments of the corridor (paras. 8 & 11). Figure 1 illustrates the corridor. You will also find a few photos of the current corridor and other rail trails at the end of this document.
Victoria to Courtenay 224 km
Vic West – Langford – Malahat – Shawnigan Lake – Cobble Hill – Cowichan – Duncan – Ladysmith – Cassidy – Nanaimo – Lantzville – Nanoose – Parksville – Qualicum Beach -Bowser/Deep Bay – Fanny Bay/Union Bay – Royston – Courtenay
Inlet Branch Corridor
Parksville to Pt. Alberni 64 km
Parksville – Coombs – Little Qualicum Falls – Cameron Lake – “Cathedral Grove” – Loon Lake – Mount Arrowsmith Ridge – McLean Mill Historic Park – Port Alberni/Alberni inlet
Lochside/Galloping Goose 80 km
Shawnigan/Lake Cowichan/Duncan 75 km
The corridor covers 650 hectares, and runs through or is adjacent to five regional districts (RD)1, 14 municipalities2 and 13 First Nations3 (IBI Group, 2010, pp. 8-9). It is owned by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF), a non-profit charitable organization established in 2003 to own and manage the corridor (Island Corridor Foundation [ICF], n.d.a), which is overseen by a board of directors composed of five directors from First Nations, five from regional districts and two at-large. The corridor, previously owned by CPR and RailAmerica was donated to the ICF (ICF], n.d.b).
Two basic potential uses are under consideration for the corridor: an uninterrupted active transportation corridor (FORT-VI proposal) or rail service with some trails. Although the ICF has been actively trying to get rail service along the corridor restored, these efforts have been unsuccessful to date and rail service restoration may never be feasible. Meanwhile, FORT-VI and others have been advocating for the replacement of the corridor’s rail beds along the sections of the corridor north of Langford with an active transportation corridor: a non-motorized, multi-use community trail, allowing Vancouver Island residents and tourists to enjoy an uninterrupted active transportation corridor along the east side of Vancouver Island all the way to Courtenay and from Parksville to Port-Alberni. This corridor would connect to the Duncan-Lake Cowichan-Shawnigan Lake Trail and the Galloping Goose Trail.
While a study was conducted for the ICF in 2010 to identify potential rail development strategies for the corridor and their costs (IBI Group, 2010), no study has yet been done on the feasibility or the capital and operating costs of transforming the corridor into an active transportation corridor, although many such transformations have occurred in Canada and the United States.
This study focusses on the FORT-VI active transportation corridor proposal and entails the following: 1) consultation with key stakeholders through interviews to identify the degree of community support for an active transportation corridor and 2) a contingent valuation of the active transportation corridor through a survey, to determine the willingness-to-pay of British Columbians for the development and maintenance of the corridor as an active transportation corridor. Part 1 is conducted by Alli Cano, a graduate student in the School of Public Administration at the University of Victoria and Part 2 by Dr. Lynda Gagné, a professor in the School. The two parts address the demand side of the active transportation corridor, although the supply side (i.e., feasibility and cost estimates) is outside the scope of this study and would need to be addressed in a separate study.
The benefits of an uninterrupted trail along the corridor are many. Many residents of Vancouver Island walk to work or commute by bicycle for health, sport, and/or because of their concern over climate change. However, aside from most of the CRD where there are many well-developed active transportation corridors, the same is not true for communities north of Langford. Hence, cyclists in particular are at risk when traveling busy roads trying to get from one community to another. The low income are especially vulnerable. Some cannot afford a motor vehicle, their main mode of transportation is walking or cycling, and they are frequently walking or cycling on busy and unsafe roads. An uninterrupted trail would provide countless residents along the corridor with a low cost and safe commuting option. Moreover, a continuous trail along the corridor would be an important tourist attraction. FORT-VI (n.d.) summarizes benefits to locals and how the trail could serve as a tourist attraction:
- Locals can utilize the trails for local commuting or pleasure while avoiding the hazards, congestion and noise of the road.
- Cyclists can travel between local communities for shopping, work or pleasure.
- Walkers and hikers could pick up the trails at any location for a peaceful outing.
- The trails could be a drawing card for national and international tourists as the trails would link communities up and down Vancouver Island.
- Existing train stations could be made into information booths giving directions to local attractions and accommodations.
April 29, 2019
1 Capital RD, Cowichan Valley RD, Nanaimo RD, Alberni-Clayoquot RD (Port Alberni subdivision), and Comox Valley RD.
2 Victoria, Esquimalt, View Royal, Langford, Duncan, North Cowichan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Parksville, Port-Alberni, Qualicum Beach, Comox, and Courtenay.
3 Songhees, Esquimalt, Malahat, Cowichan, Halalt, Lake Cowichan, Chemainus, Snuneymuxw, Snaw-Naw-As, Tseshaht, Qualicum, Hupacasath, and Comox.
4 Including e-bikes.
Canadian Railroad Historical Association, Esquimalt & Nanaimo Division (2018). The Official Webpage of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from http://www.encrha.com/.
FORT-VI (n.d). About. Retrieved April 16, 2019 from http://fortvi.ca/.
IBI Group (2010). E & N Railway Corridor: Development strategies for the Island Corridor Foundation. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-reports-and-reference/reports-studies/vancouver-island/e-n-rail
Island Corridor Foundation (n.d.a). About us, retrieved February 5, 2019 from http://www.islandrail.ca/foundation/about-us/
Island Corridor Foundation (n.d.b). FAQ, retrieved February 5, 2019 from http://www.islandrail.ca/foundation/faq