Peter Ladner, on behalf of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, makes a plea for a a regional agreement on transportation funding – now! – in a Sun and Province op-ed.
Time to make a decision on transit plan
For decades we’ve negotiated and pleaded for federal and provincial money. Now it’s there, waiting for us to make a simple decision on how to close a very small funding gap for the next phase — about $80 million a year.
Even with our limited capacity, the number of workers taking transit to work in Metro Vancouver jumped by 43 per cent over the last decade — the biggest increase in Canada. And our per capita annual transit trips are the fourth highest of any city on the continent, behind only New York, Montreal and Toronto.
But if government gridlock doesn’t end very soon — within weeks — our opportunity to reduce congestion by 20 per cent while improving air quality could pass us by.
Momentum matters. We’ve still got agreement on the 10-year plan. Amazingly, this plan has been approved by the federal government, the provincial government, an overwhelming majority of the local mayors, the TransLink board and staff, tens of thousands of stakeholders, and the biggest non-partisan coalition in B.C.’s history.
Ironically, failing to come to a regional agreement on funding because of angst about the Broadway subway line could melt down the 10-year plan, opening the door for the federal government to pick the Broadway line as their favourite — and endangering indefinitely all the other vitally needed improvements in the region.
We need leadership here — at all levels:
- from the region’s mayors — in danger of coming unglued by calls to go slow, rethink priorities and double-guess the city of Vancouver’s contribution to a regional subway;
- from the Premier, who ultimately has control …
The time is now.
I’d note that the regional mayors have already come to an agreement on priorities – as they have repeatedly in the past. (It’s a myth that the regional mayors continually squabble, unable to come to a consensus.) Even the presence of Derek Corrigan as chair of the Mayor’s Council has not changed that.
For the record, it’s what I predicted:
… former Vancouver councillor Gordon Price believes it’s unlikely that the Burnaby mayor taking over as council chair will seriously jeopardize the Broadway subway or Surrey light-rail.
“That would really surprise me,” said Price, who believes both projects as well as the Pattullo Bridge replacement are critical priorities for the sake of the region. “That would just raise a lot of antagonism, needlessly. … I don’t think Corrigan is going to go there, I just can’t see that kind of fight.”
“Here is Corrigan’s chance to establish his big-picture legacy, beyond Burnaby,” Price said. “And I think he will go with it, I think he’ll take it.”
Greater concern are the cautionary messages coming from the Premier, like these quotes from a Vaughan Palmer column. Other than the reference to mobility pricing, see if you can distinguish his comments from any previous Premier:
“The mayors’ council has undertaken a review of mobility pricing as their attempt to meet their costs of increasing transit and transportation infrastructure in the Lower Mainland,” he continued. “I know that they want to aggressively (meet) their needs outside of property taxation.”
Horgan said he had not yet had time to digest the findings in the interim report, never mind guess at what the final might say. “It’s a mayor council initiative so I’ll leave it up to them to defend what the outcomes are ultimately.”
At the same time he warned local government leaders not to assume the provincial government would rubberstamp just any recommendations on mobility pricing.
“No,” he emphasized when pressed about supporting levies that would amount to tolls in all but name. “I want to see what they come back with and how it fits into our affordability plan for British Columbians … I don’t want to see inconsistent policies come forward from other jurisdictions.”
Something happens when politicians, even with municipal background, cross the water and occupy the wood-paneled offices of the provincial Legislature. They position themselves to avoid taking direct responsibility for Metro Vancouver transit issues, even as they make it clear they will have the last word.
In particular, when it comes to approval of a regional funding mechanism, a breakdown typically occurs if it looks like the provincial government will have to spend any of their political capital for an unpopular choice (which they all ultimately are).
Listen to Horgan’s phrases: It’s the mayors who will have to defend their position, nothing will be rubber-stamped, recommendations will be rejected if they’re not consistent with the provincial government’s agenda. And as always, an oblique reference to property taxes – something requiring no provincial approval but poison for local politicians.
It’s all so negative. No vision, no enthusiasm for the development of rapid-transit in the Metro by the NDP. Nothing like, for instance, Horgan’s enthusiasm (and quick announcement) on a widened highway that will serve his constituency.
It’s unthinkable that the Province would delay a decision on Metro transit that would mean the loss of federal dollars, nor proceed with the priorities that the BC Liberals failed to address. But gee, it would be nice to see that big smile when the Premier is talking about transit in Metro Vancouver.