Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Are Bad Times Good Times For Light Rail?

We've all see the articles and news stories that suggest the US federal government under President Obama will spend billions of dollars on infrastructure projects, much like that which was done under FDR. Our own federal government is talking the same talk and we can only HOPE that this spending will include massive amounts of transit, to include light rail!

A Globe and Mail editorial yesterday spoke of economic stimulus and government infrastructure spending. It was interesting that they noted interurban passenger trains and the expansion of the port of Prince Rupert. I know that both of these will make Nathan very happy and he has scratched his head over the lack of port expansion in Prince Rupert. While the Vancouver and DeltaPort operations provide considerable jobs for metro Vancouver residents, there's nothing wrong with some expansion and jobs in Prince Rupert to help reduce increased heavy rail traffic in Langley.
"Some of these undertakings could greatly facilitate trade. Commerce with Asia would be promoted by multiplying the container capacity of the port of Prince Rupert, B.C., with matching roads and railway tracks. Similarly, this would be a fine time to relieve the transportation congestion in the Lower Mainland of B.C."
We like it and it may be the only way we see something sooner rather than later here! BC Finance Minister Colin Hansen says that although BC will remain in the black, we will see an $800M decline in revenue and he warns that although budget items will be covered, no one should expect an expansion of programs or any new additions. He said that over the next 3 years we could see as much as a $3 billion dollar fall (yes, that was billion). This is all due to a number of factors colliding. They range from declining real estate sales that reduce the amount of Property Transfer Tax revenue that is collected by the province, to loses in businesses that result in less corporate income taxes owed.

Federal infrastructure spending in Canada has been pitiful for many years now and this is a perfect time for them to step up to the plate and create many jobs in the process. I'd love to see Langley become a major LRT train design and manufacturing hub as suggested by our Australia-based LRT expert Brent Graham.

Now that Councillor Jordan Bateman (our very vocal LRT supporter) has been re-elected along with Councillors Charlie Fox and Grant Ward, maybe we will see some action. Mayor-Elect Rick Green has promised to be a big advocate for light rail, as well as new Councillor-Elect Bev Dornan who supported LRT in during her campaign. I'd like to see this happen sooner rather than later, especially with the current economic times and the huge federal spending potential. MP Mark Warawa retained his position as the federal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment this year. I see a very nice environmentally-friendly infrastructure project that would generate MANY jobs right here at home. Maybe we here at SFOT will initiate a winter petition project to gather names for presentation to our MP. It will be very interesting to see how many names of citizens of the Langleys we can collect. Stay tuned!

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