The last in a series by John Whistler:
The BC Government review of the Sunshine Coast fixed-link options is treating the existing BC Ferry services as the baseline. They have not provided the option of improving the ferry services for discussion purposes. This is unfortunate as this option may be a low-cost solution that can stimulate economic development while preserving the “island” lifestyle that is attractive to many residents.
It is also unfortunate that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) does not normally fund related initiatives that will mitigate the negative impacts of their projects. As such, it usually falls on the municipalities and regional districts which typically do not have the resources to manage unintended consequences.
Support will be needed for public transit to adapt to the impacts from any fixed link. Increased subsidies will likely be needed. A solution to manage long-distance public transit from Powell River to Vancouver is also important. It is unfortunate that MoTI is focused only on highways and they do not take advantage of the synergy of incorporating public transit into their projects.
In the case of the Langdale fixed-link options, the provision of a passenger ferry service from Gibsons to Vancouver or Horseshoe Bay would be helpful. This would retain an important origin/destination for local public transit, would maintain the long-distance link for the southern coastal area and would facilitate other transportation options.
Support to encourage rental and affordable housing is also needed as a fixed link is liable to drive up housing costs. In addition to social equity reasons, this is also needed to ensure that there are homes for the trades people that will be needed to build the additional homes that can be expected. Perhaps there is an opportunity for MoTI to partner with BC Housing as a routine strategy to manage their projects. The negative impact to housing affordability is not unique to the Sunshine Coast proposals.
It will be interesting to see if the announcement that the final investment decision to proceed with Woodfibre LNG will impact the route options and implementation timeline. This development would likely favour the Langdale road link as it would allow for road access to Woodfibre and because of the marine impacts of the bridge link.
The BC Government consultation process ends on Tuesday Nov 8. Now is the time to give your comments.