More West Coast Express Still Years off

Ridership on the West Coast Express continues to increase, but, as written in the Maple Ridge News, increased service is still some time off. The WCE is run with trains maintained by Via Rail, on tracks leased from CP Rail. WCE started a parallel bus service in 2003 that allows them to run service a little longer than their agreement with CP allows.

Maple Ridge mayor Gordy Robson apparently mentioned that WCE would be approaching CP Rail for more track time next year, but this seems not to be the case:

“Any West Coast expansion would have to be funded within the budgeted transit plan,” said Doug Kelsey, president and CEO of B.C. Rapid Transit Company (West Coast Express and SkyTrain).

In short, the money's not in the budget yet. He did mention that the first expansion would be to add more cars to each train - two of the five trains have 9 cars, and the maximum per train would be 10.

The WCE, Liberal laughing stock of the 90s, has become nearly a break-even project, with 90% of its costs being recovered from fares in 2007.

I've seen claims of the WCE being the least-subsidized form of public transit in the region, but I've also seen claims of Skytrain recuperating 100% of its operating costs. I have a feeling the discrepancy lies in the idea of 'operating' versus 'capital debt servicing'.

Regardless, it shows that the need for commuter rail service is well-supported, and should be expanded at a much greater rate than highways are. The WCE has done so well by increasing ridership and negotiating better rates with CP. Much more could be done with other rail lines still in the ground across the region.