B.C.’s two main political parties have promised billions for transit projects, bridges and roads and have committed to cutting tolls, but they have no overall regional vision for transportation, says an expert in urban sustainability.
“It does strike me as odd, given the public interest, that their transportation strategies, at best, are unformulated,” said Gordon Price, a fellow at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue and director of the school’s City Program.
“There really is no overall vision that fits into either the ideology of the party or the importance of transportation in the public mind.” …
The Liberals have promised to match that $2.2 billion, but that was months after the NDP said it would pay for 40 per cent of capital costs associated with the whole mayors’ plan. The cost of the whole mayors’ plan has not been determined. The Liberals had previously committed to 33 per cent of capital projects, and the former minister responsible for TransLink said he had to wait for the federal money before the province could decide whether to kick in more.
The Green party pledged to match all federal funding, which includes the $2.2 billion, plus any other money the feds commit going forward.
“It’s almost begrudging,” Price said of the Liberal promise.
The Liberals have also said they will negotiate with the feds and TransLink on project specifics, which is something they have been saying for months. The Surrey light-rail and Broadway subway lines are specific priorities for the Liberals. …
Neither the Liberals or the NDP have been specific about regional funding sources for transportation, but Green party leader Andrew Weaver said he would use carbon tax revenues and mobility pricing to pay for transit improvements and reduce congestion. Mobility pricing refers to charges associated with using transportation services and includes road usage charges, transit fares and parking fees.
Price said it is helpful to have one party discussing revenue generating options, particularly mobility pricing. He said the details of implementation, however, would be critical and contentious.
He said the most significant policy shift is using carbon tax revenues for funding.
On the transportation infrastructure front, the Liberals want to cap bridge tolls at $500 per year, and build a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel between Delta and Richmond. The NDP’s plan doesn’t include a Massey Bridge (instead, Horgan has talked about widening the tunnel), but the party does call for eliminating bridge tolls.
Both tolling plans, Price said, are at odds with the parties’ commitments to transit, particularly because tolling is supposed to pay for half of the new Pattullo Bridge and removing tolls will not encourage people to abandon their cars. He said the move could put the region behind for unnecessary reasons.
“You can tell this is blatant vote buying. And having been a politician, I have no problem with that. I get you have to do that,” Price said. “It’s vote buying because you have these ridings on either side of the bridge and you make a single issue, a single appeal without context, without understanding what the implications of this are.” …
A few additional remarks:
No party makes the connection between transportation and the kind of region we want to shape. ‘Transportation’ is basically about big projects, whether transit or bridges, and how to pay for them – not about their impacts on land use, housing affordability, regional vision, equity and fairness, not even the opportunities for new technologies and jobs.
There is essentially nothing, even with respect to funding, on either the personal and regional impacts of mobility pricing. How we pay affects how we move – but, save for the Greens, the parties have little to say about that. And the Greens would fundamentally change one of the pillars of carbon pricing as introduced by Gordon Campbell: revenue neutrality. Big implications there.
Worst of all, the Liberals retain the referendum requirement, and the other parties have failed to attack them on that, as well as their record of impediment for transit in Metro. If the Liberals are re-elected and the referendum requirement stays in place, there’s almost no chance for effective mobility pricing – which means almost no movement on funding the next stages of the Mayors’ 10-year plan without a lot of political angst and delay.
Metro Vancouver is, as often said, the economic engine of the province; it’s where the jobs are. And the best jobs in tech, research, education, health care, business services, culture and tourism are dependent on a high-choice, technologically sophisticated transportation network. I mean literally along the Broadway corridor and along Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard.
Why aren’t all the leaders putting on their hard hats and digging their shovels into the ground to capture not just the project-based aspects of transportation but the vision for this region’s future – and all the connections to jobs and housing. It’s not about ‘solving congestion.’ It’s about an opportunity to capture the public’s confidence – and their votes.