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Dept. of Clarification

November 6, 2009

The indispensable Jeff Nagel, who covers transportation issues for the Surrey Leader (and should be doing it for a larger audience), quotes me in bclocalnews on the departure of TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast:

SFU City Program director Gordon Price says the funding standoff with Victoria and now Prendergast’s departure signals a “tragic” turning point for the region.

“As of this moment, our future is going to be auto-dependent,” Price said. “The truckers have won.”

He said he has no hope the province will now seriously come to the table.

Metro Vancouver appears destined to have transit services capped, he added, while roads and bridges expand to carry cargo and livability deteriorates.

“We’re being hung out to dry on the future of the region,” Price said. “All the sustainable region initiatives, all the transit-oriented communities – all the stuff we talk about – we have to be honest about it. At best, it’s on hold. At worst, it has no future.”

Price predicts the province will push the Evergreen Line construction through, but without sufficient funding, forcing other transit cutbacks coupled with steep property tax hikes.

Other proposed rapid transit extensions will likely falter.

“Prendergast is the best judge of this,” Price said. “He looked at the situation, saw this wasn’t going anywhere and said ‘What am I doing here?'”

No quibbles with the quotes.  But the headline says “Departure of TransLink’s CEO ‘tragic’ turn for region.”

Not quite.  The CEO of  TransLink doesn’t make the decisions; he implements the direction of his board – and whether Tom stays or goes doesn’t determine the future of the region. 

But the decision by the Mayor’s Council late last month, supported by the appointed board, to choose “Funding Stabilization” as the choice for the 2010 ten-year plan, even at another $130 million, is effectively a cap on transit expansion.  No way will we be shaping the region’s growth with a sustainable transportation strategy.   The growth south of the Fraser and east of North Road will be shaped by the expansion of the roads and bridges now underway.

This is what their future is going to look like:

Port Mann ramps - north end

An autocad image of the north end of the new Port Mann Bridge.

In that sense, the truckers won.  Paul Landry, writing for the B.C. Trucking Association in the Sun this week, called for maintaining the status quo on transit while striking “a balance” – i.e. more roads and bridges.  And that’s what we’re getting: roads and bridges.

Sea to Sky, finished.  Golden Ears Bridge, up and running.  Pitt River Bridge, just opened.  Port Mann Bridge, under construction.  Highway 1 expansion, underway.  South and North Fraser Perimeter Roads, in process.  Interchanges, arterials, the Fraser Highway, the Lougheed Highway, the border access roads – the list is staggering and hardly complete.  And, given the current political realities – the refusal to provide TransLink with new funding options – there won’t  be many more buses running on all those new roads.

Simply: our transportation infrastructure for the next decade has already been determined.  The options for the next generation have been chosen.  We’re going full speed ahead, backwards.  To the world of the 1950s and 60s, when we assumed that we would be driving everywhere for everything, and went out and built it that way.   Now, in most of the region, we’re doing it again.

And that’s tragic.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    November 6, 2009 7:58 am

    The question that I would love to have answered is: why?

    Why the obsession with building roads when clearly all the other great places around the world are doing just the opposite?

    Just because some truckers, road builders and new car dealers associations donated to the Liberals?

    Or is it something deeper?

  2. November 6, 2009 9:55 am

    Part of the reason is simple institutional inertia. There are well established methods of getting roads funded without requirements to prove the necessity or cost effectiveness of the road. Another major part is there are large lobbying groups behind road construction, including the aforementioned trucking group.

  3. Tessa permalink
    November 6, 2009 10:35 am

    Yeah, the focus I think is more around development industries than truckers so much. Plus, it’s an easily visible thing to point to to say that you’re getting something done on a very visible issue. Sure, the benefits will be short lived and quickly overwhelmed with the negatives, but the immediate political effect is quite tempting.

  4. David permalink
    November 6, 2009 9:51 pm

    Apparently rising sea levels will bring the coastline into eastern Coquitlam, that should ease the commute

  5. Chris S permalink
    November 7, 2009 11:24 pm

    I think it’s partly a philosophical thing Steve. The Liberals think these bridge and highway investments will support the next cycle of economic expansion in the region which will mostly be driven by trade with China. So the idea is spend big on roads now, benefit through increased tax revenues for the next 20+ years. Once the economy is chugging along nicely again, you start putting more money into those other ‘less important’ things like transit. Of course by this stage the roads are beginning to get congested once again, development is so thinly dispersed as to make almost impossible for transit to compete effectively with cars without huge subsidies, and whole cycle begins once more. Only the next time the stake are even higher and the ‘cure’ is twice as big and expensive as the previous.

  6. Sheila permalink
    November 8, 2009 12:49 pm

    It’s about the Liberal Neo-Con Ideology; Just like healthcare, the Liberals will squeeze us until we are screaming and then they’ll ride in like white knights with their P3’s to provide the services they were supposed to in the first place. We’ll endup paying for the needed upgrades to roads & public transit, etc. And the buisiness/private part of the P3 equation will be laughing all the way to the bank with the taxpayers money. What are we doing about it?
    We’re buying right into it by pointing our fingers at the people who drive all day in congestion to deliver the goods we so strongly demand. We need to be realistic about traffic in the lower mainland, we need to upgrade a lot of everything!


  1. Ex-Translink chief performs magic in New York « Price Tags

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