Wednesday, March 18, 2015

British Columbians want more transit, province to deliver wider highways

Yesterday, the provincial government released “B.C. on the Move.” This is the province's 10-year transportation plan. The plan opens with some facts about what British Columbians feel are transportation priorities.

95% said keeping highways, bridges, and side roads in good conditions was top priority
87% said expanding and increasing transit service was important
73% said we should expand high capacity and upgrade key highways and bridges to facilitate heavy hauling
72% said enhancing cycling infrastructure and improving transportation choices were important
70% said we should support regional and small community airports.

With this in mind, the province presented 12 key priorities for the transportation network in BC over the next decade.

  1. Rehabilitating Highways, Bridges and Side Roads
  2. Improving Highway Safety
  3. Improving Highway Capacity and Reliability
  4. Delivering a Provincial Trucking Strategy
  5. Investing in Transit
  6. Investing in Cycling
  7. Investing in Airports
  8. Enabling Efficient Ports and Rail
  9. Sustaining and Renewing Ferries
  10. Building Partnerships with First Nations
  11. Improving Accessibility
  12. Protecting the Environment

Sometimes when governments release new plans, they simply restate existing funding programs. B.C. on the Move is no different.

The provincial government plans to increase spending by $560 million over the next three years to repair or replace bridges, and improve the condition of provincial side roads. The province also plans to spend $75 million, a doubling of funding, for road safety projects. It is important to make sure that our roads are in a state of good repaid, and I’m happy that the province recognizes that fact.

I was pretty happy to see that British Columbians placed a higher priority on expanding and increasing transit service than expanding highways. With that in mind, I was eager to see what new funding program the province would announce for transit. I was shocked to find that the province has no new funding program for transit.

In the transportation plan, the province reconfirmed its support to match local funding for BC Transit outside of Metro Vancouver. In Metro Vancouver, the province reconfirmed its support to fund 1/3rd of the cost of TransLink capital projects. Without a Yes vote in Metro Vancouver, it is likely that there will be no new transit investment for a long time.

While British Columbians placed a much lower priority on expanding highways, the province is 100% committed to increasing the size of highways in our province. While no new funding for highway expansion was announced, the province plans to spend $1 billion over the next three years to expand roads. No questions asked, no referendum needed.

In Metro Vancouver, we can look forward to a six-lane Highway 1 between Langley and Abbotsford, a new George Massey Megabridge, more overpass, and more interchanges.

The province's highway expansion program flies in the face of our regional growth strategy which calls for investment in active transportation modes such as walking, cycling, and transit to accommodate the one million people who will call Metro Vancouver home in the next few decades, while preserving the livability of our region.

The B.C. on the Moves highway expansion program also flies in the face of provincial health authorities that call for investing in active transportation which improves health outcomes of people. Highway expansion actually leads to health problems.

When it comes to cycling, which was similar in priority to expanding highway, the province plans to maintain its cycling infrastructure program at $18 million over the next three years. While it may seem minor, it is actually important for cycling safety that the province sweep bike lanes. The province committed to doubling the frequency of bike lanes and shoulder sweeping at “priority locations” throughout the province.

Without a Yes outcome in the transportation and transit plebiscite, people living in the South of Fraser can expect a tolled George Massey Megabridge, and a six-lane Highway 1 to Abbotsford in the next few decades. There will be little else, and no new transit service.

While announcing the province’s ten-year transportation plan, Transportation Minister Todd Stone confirmed that a No vote means no transit investment for Metro Vancouver and “the province has no plans to make any further improvements to governance at TransLink.”

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