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Big Transportation Trends – and the TransLink Referendum

June 18, 2013

Thanks to a link from our Brisbane contact, Peter Berkeley, here’s a handy chart of the changes in Motordom, from the “Driving Boom” of the past to the trends likely to shape our immediate future –  as summarized by Alan Davies in The Urbanist via Australia’s Crikey:

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Transport trends

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Alan then goes on to reference U.S. transport engineer David Levinson’s list of 14 key technology trends shaping transportation. Here’s the first:

1.  As state and local governments take on more responsibility for surface transportation, they will tend to make better decisions on capital and operating and maintenance costs, as they will be less skewed by the prospect of “free” or cheap federal financing;

Davies comments:

 … this trend is more relevant to the US than Australia at this time, although (federal opposition leader) Tony Abbott’s promise that a government led by him wouldn’t fund urban public transport might herald a structural change.

Yes, you read that right: the man who may lead Australia says he would get out of the business of funding transit.  Not roads, of course – full-speed ahead with them – but not even commuter rail.  From Melbourne’s The Age in April:

Abbott has signalled a return to the Howard government model of only funding  major roads and rail freight projects. ”It doesn’t mean urban rail, commuter  rail,” he said …

Combine that with Trend No. 3:

… the rise of electric vehicles will contribute to the collapse in motor fuel tax revenues, thus necessitating alternatives like VMT (vehicle-miles travelled) taxes or increases in retail sales taxes;

And you can see the outlines of a big shake-up in who builds transportation infrastructure, what they build and how we pay for it.

Perhaps that is the agenda behind Christy Clark’s strategy: A referendum requirement placed on local government for any new funding sources for TransLink could well fail, eliminating the prospect of new taxes for transit for at least a decade.  Meanwhile the Province funds highway infrastructure and taps any new source, including tolls and road pricing, for that dedicated purpose.

And it happens without any real debate of the implications.

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