John Whistler provides background and comment on yet another massive road-and-bridge project proposed by the Province.
Multi-modal Accessibility was one of the criteria that scored poorly in the evaluation of the Sunshine Coast Fixed Link options. It can be expected a fixed link will reduce transportation options and there will be a greater dependence on the use of private cars.
Existing long distance public transit options from Vancouver to Powell River have deteriorated over the years and now consist of just one scheduled round trip a day. This is a part of the long-term trend where inter-city bus services have deteriorated throughout the province and North America. The fixed-link options would have the impact of creating a long-distance transit route from what is now served by local transit for the southern coast.
Either of the Langdale fixed link options would be a significant blow to the Sunshine Coast Regional Transit System (SCRT) as it would eliminate the most important stop – the Langdale Ferry Terminal. This would likely result in a reduction in services.
The SCRT currently serves approximately 20,000 people covering the area south of Halfmoon Bay. The SCRT schedule is integrated with the BC Ferries schedule and includes an express bus to and from Sechelt. When combined with the Translink 257 Horseshoe Bay Express bus, public transit is competitive and equal to driving from a time perspective between Downtown Vancouver and Sechelt. As such, this service is popular with people who travel for the day for work or shopping or other reasons.
Day trippers will have no other choice but to drive with a fixed link, at extra costs and these types of trips would likely decrease.
The termination of the Langdale Ferry Terminal and impacts to the SCRT service would also negatively impact other mobility options. Many of the taxi trips on the Sunshine Coast start or end at the Langdale Ferry Terminal or other stops on the SCRT. The loss of the ferry terminal or a reduction in SCRT services will impact taxi revenues and would likely decrease their service levels. In a worse-case scenario, taxi services become uneconomical and some operators would close down.
The Sunshine Coast Car Coop started in 2014 and now has five vehicles. Car coops benefit from the ability to offer many vehicles and from the network effect by combining with good public transit, taxis and other mobility options. The loss of the Langdale Ferry service and deterioration in SCRT or taxi services will likely limit the coop’s ability to grow.
Cycling would also be negatively impacted from the termination of the BC Ferry service. At this time, combining cycling and public transit is facilitated as both SCRT and Translink busses have bike racks. While it is expected that the fixed-link options would be built to current highway standards with cycling facilities, they would not be practical for local trips and likely would only be used for long-distance cycling purposes.
The cycling tourism potential from the fixed-link options are worse when compared to existing BC Ferry services for the Langdale run. Cycling tourism potential would be improved for the Powell River Bridge link and for cycling camping on the Powell River Road link, recognizing that the big economic benefit from cycling tourism are from those that use hotels and local restaurants.
The impacts to different transportation modes from a fixed link are disturbing as this will significantly impact people that have no other transportation options – in particular, youth, seniors and people with low income.