The launch of the Get On Board campaign. This could be big. It’s about bloody time.
What is Get OnBoard BC?
On an average day, there are hundreds of thousands of trips daily in Metro Vancouver on a wide variety of transportation options. Whether you take the Expo Line from King George to Waterfront, the 99 B-Line from Commercial to UBC, the SeaBus from Lonsdale Quay to Downtown Vancouver, ride a bike down 41st Avenue, or drive your vehicle over the Port Mann Bridge every morning, in some way shape or form, you use Vancouver’s extensive transportation network. However, of all these options, public transit infrastructure lacks three key things: the ability to handle current capacity, lack of service options to rural and suburban areas, and sustainable funding to address these issues.
The B.C. provincial government is ultimately responsible for approving taxation mechanisms used by the municipalities of Metro Vancouver to fund TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority. In the past several months, the province has refused to grant any new taxation powers to the cities. At the same time, ridership in the entire region continues to grow, and has even passed Olympic levels system-wide. On the Broadway corridor alone, over 3,000 “pass-ups” or the ridership of some entire bus lines are waiting at the side of the street for a bus to get to work or to school. In Surrey, those trying to get to work in Burnaby or Vancouver have to wait upwards of a half hour to an hour for a bus, only to have to connect to another bus or SkyTrain, adding time to their daily commutes. In Burnaby, students and workers taking the 135 to SFU are shoved into busses like sardines in a can.
TransLink’s annual operating budget exceeds $1 billion and is funded by a variety of mechanisms including the Gas Tax, property taxes, and ridership fares. Given the increasing need in key areas of Metro Vancouver, however, the current funding model does not allow for future infrastructure projects.
What does that mean? Without a sustainable and equitable funding mechanism to better fund TransLink, any future transit projects are stuck in the planning phase. Demand and usage by transit riders will increase, but will be met the same amount of service and potentially even fewer options over the coming years – unless something is done. Although Translink must of course account for its expenses to the taxpayer, savings resulting from audits will never be enough to cover major capital expenses.
That’s where the Get On Board campaign comes in: It is a partnership-driven coalition of residents, students, workers, businesses and academics who all believe in a better future for Metro Vancouver’s public transit infrastructure. Get On Board is not a political organization, but exists to push for changes at the municipal, provincial and federal levels to ensure that public transit can adequately support the region’s demographic growth.
We firmly believe that improved public transit can be an important economic, social and environmental driver. Removing privately owned cars from the road while keeping Metro Vancouver connected are key to the region’s and the province’s continued economic prosperity, if only because it will move people more efficiently to and from their destinations (including stores), while also creating less congested roads for commercial users who do not have any realistic alternative to conduct their business. A good public transit system can also increase quality of life for everyone, such as families, individual with mobility issues, senior citizens and anyone who cannot afford or does not always want to rely on a car. And it goes without saying that by reducing our environmental footprint, public transit can contribute to protecting the environment for future generations.