Push for expanded West Coast Express rail services get support from mayors, politicians

·3 min read
The West Coast Express is a commuter train which historically only runs on weekdays during rush hour. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC - image credit)
The West Coast Express is a commuter train which historically only runs on weekdays during rush hour. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC - image credit)

A group of Metro Vancouver mayors and other politicians are joining the call for expanded train service for the West Coast Express, which runs between Mission, B.C. and Downtown Vancouver.

On Saturday, the politicians joined a group of residents at the Coquitlam Centre West Coast Express (WCE) station, who were advocating for more trains to run in order to meet the demand of growing populations outside of the Vancouver core.

"The West Coast Express started its operation in November 1995. So 27 years has passed, not much has changed," said Harvey Su, a Coquitlam resident and the founder of the WCE Expansion Association.

The WCE is a commuter train which historically only runs on weekdays during rush hour.

Submitted by Harvey Su
Submitted by Harvey Su

Before the pandemic, five trains would leave Mission starting at 5:25 a.m., making stops in Port Haney, Maple Meadows, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, and Port Moody before finally arriving in Downtown Vancouver.

All trains arrive at Vancouver's Waterfront Station before 9 a.m. The first train to leave Vancouver on its way back to Mission is at 3:50 p.m., and the last to leave is at 6:20 p.m.

During the pandemic, TransLink reduced service to three trains. Now, with ridership levels still only at 40 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels, only four trains have been operating along the 70-kilometre route.

Su would like to commute to work in Downtown Vancouver using the WCE, but says the limited train schedule makes it impossible for him.

"The last train leaving Coquitlam Centre is at 8:10 a.m.," he said. "I have two daughters. I need to drop them off and after I drop them off the train is gone."

He says ridership is low because the WCE schedule isn't convenient for people who want to check out a late night sports game in Vancouver, or breweries in Port Moody on a weekend.

Support from mayors

So far, Su, who is running for Coquitlam City Council, has gathered support from the mayors of Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam.

"There are many residents of our community who want to travel to Vancouver or anywhere else in our region outside of weekday rush hour," said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart at the Saturday event.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, TransLink said it appreciates any effort to advocate for expanded public transit.

TransLink says as of Sept. 12, one car will be added to each of the two busiest WCE trains, bringing the total car capacity to 23.

However, the transit agency says there are no current plans to further expand service.

"TransLink is monitoring WCE ridership to determine a long-term strategy for the service and to evaluate its role as a regional passenger rail system," reads the statement.

TransLink says it has limited control over use of the rail tracks which are owned by CP Rail.

"I don't know if it's possible to get expanded line [service]," Stewart said Saturday. "It's a CP line that's primarily used for freight."

CBC News reached out to CP Rail but did not receive a response in time for publication.