Agenda Index City of Vancouver



City Council


General Manager of Engineering Services


Submission to the Canada Transportation Act Review Panel
(by TransLink)




This report recommends the City endorse TransLink's recommendations to the Canada Transportation Act Review Panel and describes some of the implications for Vancouver.

TransLink has recommended that the Canadian Transportation Act (CTA) be expanded to accommodate commuter and urban rail issues concerning rail access provisions, and funding for transportation infrastructure. The CTA was created in 1996 to consolidate and revise the Railway Act and the National Transportation Act, 1987. A Review Panel has been appointed to conduct a comprehensive review of the operation of this legislation and the policy objectives on which it is based. The Panel has less than one year to assess whether the CTA provides a safe, economic, efficient, accessible, and affordable transportation system for Canadian shippers and travellers.

Interested parties were invited to raise their concerns and offer perspectives pertaining to the Panel's mandate. Submissions dealing with "Competitive Rail Access Provisions" were to be received by no later than October 6, 2000. Interested parties are also able to make submissions on "Other Issues" (items of a more general nature) by November 17, 2000. Individual disputes between parties are outside the scope of the Review. An interim report by the Minister of Transport is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Board of Directors approved a submission by TransLink to the CTA Review Panel on July 19, 2000. The submission was officially transmitted by TransLink on September 29, 2000. As part of its broad scope of regional transportation responsibilities, TransLink manages the operation of the West Coast Express (commuter rail) and SkyTrain (rapid transit). TransLink's CTA Review Panel submission consists of seven recommendations (attached as Appendix A) relating to general transportation infrastructure funding, commuter rail access and provisions, rapid transit infrastructure on rail rights of way, rail service discontinuation, and sustainable transportation and development. Comments on the TransLink recommendations follow.

Transportation Infrastructure Funding

An integrated funding approach between all levels of government is suggested as a viable approach to effectively build an efficient and sustainable national and local transportation infrastructure within Canada. Transportation infrastructure investments in the United States, United Kingdom, and Japan are quoted to comparatively illustrate how Canada's national transportation infrastructure program is exceedingly modest in providing an effective and competitive transportation system.

Local governments and regional transportation agencies such as TransLink find it increasingly challenging to fund needed transportation infrastructure. TransLink recommends that the federal government develop and fund a regional and national transportation infrastructure investment program (Recommendation #1). Transport Canada's funding role in the planning study of a Richmond/Airport to Vancouver Rapid Transit link is cited as an example that reflects the appropriateness of a federal funding role within a major urban center.

On October 10, 2000, the Treasury Board of Canada announced a new Infrastructure Canada- British Columbia Partnership that would contribute up to $800 million dollars of investment in the province, with the federal and provincial governments contributing up to $268 million each. The Infrastructure Canada-British Columbia Partnership is part of the federal government's $2.65 billion physical infrastructure cost-sharing program announced in the February Federal Budget.

The Treasury Board's news release notes that the first priority of the Infrastructure Canada investment in British Columbia will be green municipal infrastructure. This is consistent with the City's emphasis on investing in more reliable sewer and water facilities. Local transportation was included as a secondary priority along with cultural and recreational facilities, infrastructure supporting tourism, rural and remote telecommunications, high-speed Internet access for local public institutions, and affordable housing.

Commuter Rail Access

Commuter railways are most often captive to operating on existing operational rail lines. Operating and infrastructure agreements are privately negotiated between commuter rail agencies and conventional railways such as the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) andCanadian National (CN). There is no legislation in the CTA that obligates the CPR or CN to accommodate commuter rail operations on their tracks. Therefore, railways have not always been very accommodating in sharing their rights of way with commuter railways.

For example, TransLink's subsidiary West Coast Express operates on the CPR's right of way from Vancouver to Mission. TransLink describes negotiating with the CPR as "difficult" and "tough" and the CPR's requirement for commercial confidentiality as "unreasonable". TransLink recommends that all existing long term agreements between commuter rail agencies and conventional railways be reviewed on a one time basis to ensure that they are in the public's best interest (Recommendation #4).

Commuter rail operation in the United States has received support from its regulatory agencies that encourage joint use of its existing rail infrastructure. TransLink similarly recommends that the CTA be amended to include a framework that requires railways to share their rights of way with commuter rail services (Recommendations #2 and #3).

Rapid Transit Infrastructure on Rail Rights of Way

Burlington Northern Sante Fe's (BNSF) active rail right of way in New Westminster and Vancouver is presently being shared to accommodate the construction of the SkyTrain system extensions. Railways such as the BNSF, however, are not required by the CTA to share their real estate rights for rapid transit infrastructure. The Province had to negotiate with the BNSF to be able to occupy and operate on their right of way. Issues such as indemnity provisions and rail alignment considerations caused lengthy negotiations and delays to the rapid transit project. Where numerous public and private benefits are at stake with respect to rapid transit infrastructure, TransLink recommends that the CTA provide a framework to facilitate the negotiations between existing railways and urban rapid transit providers (Recommendation #5).

Rail Service Discontinuation

Railways can discontinue their service on a Branch line after following a detailed process outlined in the CTA. This discontinuance process allows the railway to dispose of the line at a "net salvage value" determined by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

TransLink recommends that abandoned urban rail corridors be preserved for future urban transportation use and appraised as a transportation corridor (Recommendation #6). This would provide opportunities to re-use abandoned railroad corridors for public transportation.Options range from providing new rapid transit corridors to trail programs. For example, in the United States, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has been successful at creating almost 1100 miles of rail-trails since the 1960's. Trails were created through the transfer of ownership of abandoned rail corridors to public agencies, with the assistance of federal Department of Transportation funding. These rail-trails are multi-purpose paths whose use includes bicycling, walking, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, plus equestrian and wheelchair use.

The Arbutus Corridor is an example of an urban rail corridor that would be federally protected by the amendment in the CTA proposed by TransLink. In July of this year, the Arbutus rail right of way was designated by Council for use only as a public thoroughfare for transportation. However, this designation is presently being challenged by the CPR.

Sustainable Transportation and Development

The CTA does not provide any financial support to local, regional or provincial governments in their efforts to achieve a more sustainable urban environment with respect to transportation projects or policies. TransLink recommends that the federal government take a leadership role through its funding and regulatory capability to implement the theme of sustainable transportation (Recommendation #7). It also challenges the federal government to support some of the less popular tools such as charging for road use or parking charges.

TransLink's submission to the Canadian Transportation Act Review Panel attempts to revise the Canada Transportation Act to be more responsive to the current transportation and environmental needs of Canadians. The submission consists of seven recommendations, most of which relate to operating commuter rail or rapid transit on existing or abandoned rail rights of way. The recommendations made are consistent with the City of Vancouver's Transportation Plan, and complement recent City initiatives such as the designation of the Arbutus Corridor as a public transportation thoroughfare.

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General Mgr./Dept. Head:


This report has been prepared in consultation with the departments listed to the right, and they concur with its contents

Report dated:

October 16, 2000


Dale Bracewell



Concurring Departments

City Plans - Ann McAfee




1. That the Government of Canada develop and fund a comprehensive transportation infrastructure investment program supporting both national and local transportation needs.

2. The Canada Transportation Act should be amended to incorporate provisions supporting commuter rail analogous to those submitted in Bill C-97 in 1986, obligating railways to provide or permit commuter rail operations and share costs and charge in an appropriate manner, with appropriate oversight and dispute resolution procedures.

3. The Canada Transportation Act should make provision for shared use of active rail rights of way by light rail transit, with suitable safety requirements, and similar oversight provisions to conventional commuter rail.

4. Given the existence of long term commuter rail agreements, the legislation should provide a process for "one time" review of all existing commuter rail agreements, under similar terms as are provided for new agreements.

5. The Canada Transportation Act should be amended to require railways to provide access to rail rights of way for urban transit infrastructure where this is possible without undue interference to railway operations, and to provide a regulatory framework for negotiations between urban transit providers and railways, with a dispute resolution procedure.

6. The Canada Transportation Act should be amended to designate urban rail corridors as general transportation corridors, and to require that the corridors should be made available for urban transportation at a value appropriate to a transportation corridor when required.

7. That the federal government, in implementing financial support for enhanced national and local transportation infrastructure, use its funding and regulatory capability to build a broad constituency across all levels of government and the community to support movement towards sustainable transportation.

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