I read with interest the recent article giving voice to the Okanagan Rail Initiative’s report supporting, in rather overly-glowing terms, the decommissioning of an existing rail line to create a new trail.
Our local politicians and the media have been far quieter about another, equally beneficial, possibility — a north-south commuter train link. It’s neither a new idea nor a far-fetched one.
At the downtown revitalization open house of a previous council, a sitting politician agreed that a commuter train was completely in line with the city’s vision of environmental sustainability and a perfect fit with revitalization efforts.
Trains are the commuter life-blood of, well, seemingly every country but ours. Even Eastern Canada has the Go Train system, allowing commuters to live in one place and work in another.
We know our Vernon/Kelowna commuter base is huge. People I know would jump at the chance to leave cars behind for a relaxing journey to Kelowna and back (and with luck, beyond to Penticton one day), not to mention being free of worries about road conditions or DUI.
Our tourists will absolutely use this train, and businesses will benefit from shoppers who pass by on foot, not passing them by in a car.
You see my point? Remember too that things once gone are gone forever.
Look around Vernon at how many beautiful heritage buildings were torn down and how few we have left.
We’ll never get those back and once we lose existing rail beds, we won’t get those back either.
When we can no longer deny our need for commuter trains, where will we find the space for a new rail bed if this trail builds on the existing one? Can you imagine its users happily voting to decommission it for a new train track? Can you imagine the cost to rebuild?
I’m asking politicians to think about the future of travel, look to other countries and their successful train infrastructures, and ask themselves if it’s prudent to learn by example.
I hope all concerned citizens will speak up before it’s too late.