Friday, September 4, 2009

TransLink Commissioner

Sometimes when you make public agencies arms length, governments don’t get the results they expect. For example, the Provincial government didn’t like the stink that the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority made about the Canada Line (SkyTrain Technology) and funding, so they created the South Coast British Columbia Regional Transportation Authority; an arms-length organization with an independent commissioner. As I’ve blogged about recently, this has not solved the funding issue. It also appears that the new structure has reduced political interference (good on the Province for this new structure.) Point in case: the Evergreen Line.

Now I want to be clear, I support building rapid transit in the Tri-Cities area. I supported light rail which was the original, less costly plan for the area. Since the Provincial government decided to go with SkyTrain, the costs have ballooned to the point that now it looks like the line won’t be getting built.

Anyway, I wanted to highlight some section from the recently released TransLink Commissioner's report. It would seem like the TransLink Commissioner would like to see road pricing and light rail, two items which the Province has major issues with. I think the Province will have to come to terms with road pricing and light rail if we are to see a region with truly sustainable transportation options.

On Road Pricing:
The most important advances in this area, in the Commissioner’s view, would be some form of road pricing (notably on highways in the hands of the Province) and a region-wide, coordinated policy for tighter management of parking (belonging to the municipalities). In particular, the Plan does not propose potential win-win innovations such as varying vehicle levies and car licence and insurance premiums by annual distance driven, which would allow motorists to save money by driving less.
On Higher-Orders of Government Interfering with Transit Planning:
For the large, lumpy investments in the system’s rapid transit corridors, to date the provincial and federal governments have determined the routes and the transit technology—perhaps because provincial and federal taxpayers pay massive capital subsidies towards them. Regional taxpayers and farepayers are drawn into funding some initial capital, plus all of the operating and renewal costs. To date, TransLink has not been free to select its own optimum rapid transit configuration.
On the Evergreen Line:
The Commissioner concurs with TransLink’s assigning of upgrades to the existing system as the first priority for capital, ahead of network expansion such as the Evergreen Line, on grounds of sound business policy including the management of risks.
On Light Rail verse SkyTrain:
A hazard lies in the gulf that exists between provincial and regional transportation planning and financing for Metro Vancouver: some potential solutions may not receive full consideration. One such is a coordinated demand management programme [aka: Road Pricing], as earlier mentioned; another could be light rail networks in the European style, which are versatile and are intermediate between buses and SkyTrain in cost, coverage, performance, and which also influence long-term urban densification. Such systems have been considered by TransLink in the past, but the provincial government has chosen automated light rapid transit systems.

1 comment:

bregalad said...

Mr. Crilly's report contains a lot of good things. It's not all that easy to read because so many pages are devoted to background issues and there's quite a lot of repetition, but at the core it says what needs to be said and points fingers where others have been afraid to.

I would certainly appreciate a discount on my car insurance based on the few km I drive each year. I probably put more clicks on the odometer during my annual summer vacation than I do in 6 months of normal driving around the city. I'd wager there are more miles on the average 1 year old car in Langley than are on my 4 year old car.

Road pricing has met with varying levels of success around the world. In the eastern US most turnpikes are toll highways and some cities have virtually no limited access highways that are not tolled. Many new American highways are sporting HPV (high priority vehicle) lanes that commuters can buy access to. Toronto built the 407 back in the 1990s as a toll road and it was packed with traffic almost immediately. On the other hand, congestion pricing in the UK is being hit with massive opposition.

I believe there's an appetite in Metro Vancouver for tolls on new roads and bridges, but putting them on existing roads could be troublesome.

The Evergreen Line has been a victim of too much political interference. While I previously supported the conclusion that the SE corridor (following the Lougheed/CP rail path) would yield fewer passengers than the North Road route, I never believed the ridiculous notion that following existing highway and railway rights of way would cost almost as much as tunneling under the Coquitlam hill.

However, all that has changed. The new Port Mann bridge will be LRT capable so direct service between Coquitlam and Surrey becomes a real possibility. That means the SE corridor becomes the preferred choice for a Coquitlam to New West link. That should put standard LRT, running down the middle of the Lougheed, at the top of the priority list. It should be possible to build the entire T shaped line from Douglas College to Cape Horn and then on to either Lougheed Mall or Guildford for less than the $800 million already pledged by the Province and feds.