Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Provincial transportation priorities out of sync with transportation needs in Metro Vancouver

Back in March, I posted about BC on the Move, the province's new 10-year transportation plan. I noted that the plan would guarantee construction of more freeways in the region, but that's about it.

The province did extensive consultations throughout BC to see what residents thought were transportation priorities. Detailed regional summaries were produced, and it is very interesting to see what people in the Lower Mainland thought were priorities. Priorities are ranked by broad categories, then by the specific improvements under those categories. The Lower Mainland includes Metro Vancouver and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District up to about Whistler.

Participants in the consultation who lived in the Lower Mainland were asked to identify their top three priorities for transportation infrastructure improvements.

Transit (BC Transit and TransLink) 2,427
-Increase government funding to expand public transit options 1,105
-Skytrain/LRT expansion 491
-Build Broadway Corridor/UBC skytrain/LRT 439
-Improve public transit schedule/frequency 357
-Skytrain expansion/LRT for South of Fraser/Surrey 275

Highways and Side Roads 1,716
-Improvements to provincial highways (i.e., suggestions for improvements included upgrades for safety, 4-laning, intersection upgrades) 419
-Maintenance (i.e., re-surfacing, snow removal, concerns regarding maintenance) 372
-Improve traffic flow (i.e., reduce/remove lights, increase speed limit, HOV/bus lanes) 341
-Safety (need for wildlife fencing, reflectors, signage, reduction of speeding and aggressive driving) 265
-Trans-Canada Highway/Highway 1 (i.e., suggestions for improvements included upgrades for safety, 4-laning, intersection upgrades) 212

Cycling and Pedestrian 1,381
-Build more bike lanes/protected cyclist access 1,103
-Healthy living/good for the environment/fund new active transportation infrastructure/walkable communities/trails 271
-More sidewalks/protected pedestrian access 186

People in the Lower Mainland placed higher priority on expanding public transit than building new freeways. Replacing the George Massey Tunnel didn’t even make in on the top three list as only 123 people ranking replacing the tunnel as a priority.

So with this in mind, I find it odd that the province's transportation plan for the region includes:

-Advance development of the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project
-Initiate design for future construction of six-laning on Highway 1 from Langley to Abbotsford
-Work with communities to plan and deliver highway interchange and overpass projects throughout the Lower Mainland
-Construct highway widening, capacity, safety and operational improvements on provincial highways throughout the Lower Mainland
-Invest $18 million over the next three years to partner with communities to build new bike lanes and trails throughout B.C
-Widen shoulders, double the frequency of sweeping and implement safety improvements on provincial highways in areas with a high volume of cyclists

The province also committed to fund one-third of the capital cost of new public transit infrastructure in Metro Vancouver. Though the province called for a transit plebiscite, which if people vote No, renders this investment promise a moot point. $6 million per year for improved cycling across the whole province, while good is small, and is just a continuation of the current provincial cycling funding program.

People in our region want the provincial government to increase funding of public transit, invest in more bike lanes, and keep our roads in a state of good repair. It seems that the province is more interested in building new bridges and expanding freeways. There seems to be a disconnect between provincial transportation priorities, and regional transportation priorities in the Lower Mainland.

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