Monday, March 8, 2010

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Service Plan

I read the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Service Plan for the next few years and wanted to share some highlights. The first highlight is the almost schizophrenic messaging in the service plan. On one hand it talks about the need to reduce carbon emissions, improve transit, and reduce single-occupancy vehicle usage:
Transportation accounts for about 40 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the province; automobiles alone account for 16 per cent and provincial strategies for reducing emissions must entail significant investment in transit infrastructure and services and cycling facilities.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Transportation primary mandate is to “builds highway infrastructure to fulfill the economic and social needs of British Columbians.” This is evident by the list of projects that the Ministry’s plans for the next few years.

If we look at the operating budget spending, $103m will go to transit (up from 2009), $169m for BC Ferries (down from 2009), and $459 (down from 2009) for highways. I have to give credit to the fact the transit operating spending is one of the few areas in the Ministry's budget that will be increasing.

On the capital side of the budget:
Oil and Gas Rural Road Improvement Program – Rehabilitating the existing public road infrastructure in the Northeast region of the province to help eliminate seasonal road restrictions and extend the winter drilling season for oil and gas exploration, thereby attracting new investment and creating jobs. This rehabilitation is being done in partnership with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. An investment of $51 million will be made in 2010/11.
It seems like the province wants to reduce carbon emission and increase carbon emission sources at the same time.
Bike BC – Identifying and building cycling facilities of regional and provincial significance while continuing to assist local governments to develop their local networks. Bike BC is a comprehensive provincial cycling investment plan, which will complement the Provincial Transit Plan in reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions by providing convenient and attractive alternatives to car travel. Bike BC will also improve public health and fitness by promoting physical activity. The Ministry will be investing $18 million over three years to help make cycling a safe and attractive alternative transportation option for commuters. This investment will be further leveraged through cost-sharing agreements with local governments. Additionally, the Gateway Program includes a $50 million investment to construct cycling facilities on the Gateway corridors, and the Provincial Transit Plan will establish up to 1,000 new bike lockers at key locations by 2020.
As I pointed out before, $863m of spending will go to roads and $173m to transit or about 16% of spending on transit in 2010/11. If we want to dramatically increase transit usage it only follows that funding will also need to increase. BC is a big province and a large chunk of money in the transportation budget is going into keeping roads from falling apart in the interior, but if the province truly wants to increase transit usage in major urban centres, transit spending will need to increase.

No comments: