Thursday, October 21, 2010

SFU/City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program - MoT

Over the last few weeks, I have been attending the SFU/City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program which is hosted at SFU Surrey. Last night, we heard from John Schnablegger who is a planner at the Ministry of Transportation. Before I get to the good stuff, I wanted to touch on some of the questions I asked Mr. Schnablegger about the Port Mann/Highway 1 Gateway expansion project. I asked about what strategies the Province has used to manage the demand for the provincial highway network in Metro Vancouver. I wasn’t given a clear answer. I asked about the stat from Statistics Canada noting that our region was the only one in Canada to see an average decrease in commuting travel times. I was told that Stats Canada didn’t know what they were talking about and that selected commute times have increase on average 8 minutes a year. To be fair to Mr. Schnablegger, he was probably talking about the 0.7% of trip within our region that travel between Langley and the North Shore. Also, I did a fact check and found that our region was the only region in Canada to see no change in travel time between 2001 and 2006. It takes 45min to drive from Langley City to Downtown Vancouver when there is no traffic. Certainly from 2000 to 2010, the drive time didn’t go from 45min in peak period to 2 hours and 4 minutes. When I have used a company vehicle (which has been twice this year) to drive from my home in the City of Langley to work in Downtown Vancouver during peak periods, it takes 1 hour and 30min as a single-occupancy vehicle. The Stats Canada survey was looking at all trips in the region. If there is one thing we know about this region, it is that we don’t have a central city/suburban travel pattern. That’s why 80% of all trips in the South of Fraser are internal. Anyway, on to the good stuff.

I asked Mr. Schnablegger why the Province didn’t give the Lions Gate Bridge to TransLink when the rest of the secondary highway network was transfer over in 1999. He said that it was because the Province thought it was unfair to burden TransLink with the cost of upgrading the bridge. He mentioned that he foresees many roads that are current provincial assists being transfer to TransLink in the coming years. On top of that, he said that it was never envisioned that TransLink would have to pay for capital programs with its current funding model. He said, for example, that gas tax would need to increase from 18 cents to 30 cents a litre to make TransLink's current revenue model work. Not to put words into his mouth, but that would suggest that the federal and provincial governments should be the ones coughing up the cash for capital. Another positive comment was that from 2014 to 2021, the Ministry of Transportation will be out of the road building business in Metro Vancouver and will essentially become a transit agency. I hope this is true and it will sure be a departure from years past. It was great to hear from the Ministry of Transportation and speaking to others in the Ministry, I think there is a change afoot.

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