Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Provincial government recommends building more public transit

One of the things that I’m finding exceeding frustrating these days is the disconnect between the BC government’s own research, and its funding priorities. Earlier this year, I posted about the Province Health Services Authority’s “Healthy Built Environment Linkage” toolkit. Building infrastructure that supports walking and cycling, plus investing in public transit was high on the list.

This fall, the BC Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development & Responsible for TransLink released “Age-friendly and Disability-friendly Official Community Plans”. The guide was created to assist local governments in updating their official community plans to support building accessible communities. While accessibility can have a variety of meanings, in the guide it means “the ability of seniors and people with disabilities or health and activity limitations to get around their community and lead active, healthy, fulfilling and engaged lives.”

So what are the key ways to support building an age-friendly, accessible community?

  1. Outdoor spaces and public buildings are pleasant, clean, secure and physically accessible.
  2. Public transportation is accessible and affordable.
  3. Housing is affordable, appropriately located, well built, well designed and secure.
  4. Opportunities exist for social participation in leisure, social, cultural and spiritual activities with people of all ages and cultures.
  5. Older people are treated with respect and are included in civic life.
  6. Opportunities for employment and volunteerism cater to older persons’ interests and abilities.
  7. Age-friendly communication and information is available.
  8. Community support and health services are tailored to older persons’ needs

A community that supports seniors and people with disabilities is a community that is better for everyone.

The guide contains twelve recommendations for updating Official Community Plans. Here are two of the recommendations:

Guideline 5.6 – Land Use Objectives and Policies
Land use patterns impact accessibility. Complete compact communities with a wide range of mobility options (e.g. transit, cycling, walking) are generally more accessible for everyone, including seniors and people with disabilities, because distances between services, amenities and housing are shorter and easier to travel. These types of environments promote physical activity and provide opportunities for social interaction and inclusion, thereby helping to promote and support vibrant and healthy communities.
Guideline 5.9 – Public Transportation Objectives and Policies
Public transportation is an important option for seniors and people with disabilities who may not be able to drive a vehicle. As with active transportation, access to public transportation options helps to ensure that seniors and/or persons with disabilities are able to safely and comfortably carry out daily tasks such as working, going to school, shopping or attending appointments. Accessible and affordable public transportation is also vital to supporting participation in the social, cultural, and recreational life of a community, thereby decreasing the risk of social isolation.

The irony is that the provincial government has frozen funding for BC Transit, and refuses to show leadership to resolve the funding/accountability issues with TransLink. So while I’m very happy that several Ministries have done some great work around how to create healthly, accessible communities, it’s time for our provincial politicians to actually enable the funding required to move these recommendations forward.

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