Insights West surveyed people in Metro Vancouver in the months leading up to the transit plebiscite. You remember that the ballot was the fulfillment of the provincial government’s election promise to ask if residents would support a hike in sales tax in order to fund transit. At the time, most people said NO.
Full disclosure-the Walk Metro Vancouver Society supported the yes vote in the referendum. As a Director of the Society, I spoke to seniors groups in support of the plebiscite and released a joint policy statement with Shannon Daub of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. If the plebiscite had passed, there would have been more HandyDart services for the disabled, improved walking facilities at bus shelters, and a 20 per cent reduction in congestion-significant for emergency vehicles to access seniors in stress.
Eleven months after the failed plebiscite, Insights West notes that our attitudes have changed. Immediately post-plebiscite, 62 per cent of people stated that changing TransLink was their main concern-not looking for a Plan B, or ponying more funding from the Federal Government. That percentage has now shrunk to 49 per cent of folks that say the main thing needed is changing TransLink. Another survey showed that 67 per cent of the current Compass card holders on TransLink are satisfied with the new card system.
But what of a bigger transportation and transit plan and paying for it?
What a difference a year makes. We have a new federal government that is talking about supporting infrastructure projects, and a provincial government that, well, has to think about being re-elected next May.
Insights West says that road pricing, eg. bridge and road tolls are supported by 34 per cent of people if it resulted in a shorter commuting time. The big issue here is asking people to pay for what they perceive is government’s responsibility, and something they currently enjoy free.
There is also a new report from the David Suzuki Foundation and it is more direct about the transit crisis. It suggests that “systematic underfunding of transit by the provincial government has contributed to the congestion that people face every day in densely populated areas like Metro Vancouver, while other transportation projects like roads and bridges are going ahead without delay, transit infrastructure has been put on an uneven playing field as the province continues to provide insufficient financial support.”
It’s always easier to say no and hope that things will go away. But a growing region needs efficient transit infrastructure and support. And that needs to be planned for now.
Bring on Plan B.