Friday, March 30, 2007

Chilliwack gets wire barriers

The Chilliwack Times reports that a three-km stretch of Highway 1 will be getting a wire rope barrier to prevent crossover crashes. It's a good solution.

Valley considers own network

The Chilliwack Progress reports that the mayors of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Harrison, Agassiz and Hope are working on a "coordinated response" to the future expansion of TransLink.

The public outcry against joining TransLink has led Chillieack Mayor Clint Hames to suggest a Valley-only transit authority.

At least they're talking about better transit in the Valley!

What happens when you don't have proper transit service?

This.

The number of cars in the Lower Mainland continues to grow. Worrisome (but totally understandable if you saw the transit service here) for me as a Langley councillor is this stat:
The numbers also suggest Langley will have more vehicles than people within five years, based on current growth rates. The city and township added 23% more vehicles over the past five years, for a total of 104,467.


When you don't give people any options for intracommunity transit (let alone from one municipality to another), they have to have cars to work, take their kids to school, shop, etc. This is just another reason to twin the Port Mann, so we can get transit across that bridge for the first time in twenty years. The Lower Mainland needs more transit options and routes!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Don't delay Evergreen

While we at Get Moving BC are cautiously optimistic about the looming TransLink reshuffle, we are very unhappy with the news in the Tri City News that the Evergreen Line will be delayed by as much as 18 months. The line is desperately needed as part of the regional transportation and transit fabric.

Cycling and walking trails get boost

It sounds like local municipalities are taking full advantage of the provincial government's $40-million LocalMotion program, which will match municipal dollars for building cycle paths and walking trails.

A provincial government press release confirms that more than 400 applications have come in for LocalMotion, Towns for Tomorrow, and Spirit Squares.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Go green

The American Bus Association issued a study yesterday that shows motorcoaches are the most fuel-efficient way of travelling in America:
The motorcoach industry provided 148.4 passenger miles per gallon of fuel in 2004, the study reported, more than double the second most fuel-efficient sector, intercity trains at 74.1 passenger MPG. Total transit achieved 55.8 passenger MPG, air carriers achieved 40.9 passenger MPG, and automobiles achieved 35.4 passenger MPG.

Monday, March 26, 2007

For whom the bell tolls

The Tri-City News examines how tolls will be collected on the Golden Ears Bridge.

Get on with Gateway

Letter writer Graham Pfister tells the editor of the Delta Optimist that the province should get on with DeltaPort expansion and Gateway as soon as possible:
Delta's mayor and GVRD chair, Lois Jackson, takes the opposite view. She wants to stifle growth by preventing expansion and growth at Delta Port and the infrastructure that will be needed to support it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Transit marketing

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space makes a great point on the need to market transit services to potential riders. I can't remember the last time I saw a TransLink timetable.

Vancouver vs. the Centre of the Universe

It will be interesting to see how Toronto's transportation agency, led by municipal politicians, performs against the new TransLink. GlobeandMail.com reports on TO's start.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Why I can't take transit

The Tri-City News has a letter from PoCo commuter Chris Hale on why he can't take transit:
Eighty-five per cent of commuters don't go downtown, where the focus of our transit system is. For me, a 30-minute commute by car takes two hours and 30 minutes using transit. My transfer expires part-way through, so it now costs more than what I would spend on fuel. As well, I don't have five hours a day to spend commuting.

File this under: 'Why we need to fix both our transit and transportation systems.'

Thursday, March 22, 2007

We need Gateway

The Vancouver Sun reinforced today the need for the Gateway Program. Here is their lead editorial, in its entirety:
A report from the Conference Board of Canada released recently argues that our global success and ability to attract international investment depends most critically on improving infrastructure.

In its study of global supply chains, the Conference Board said developing infrastructure was essential for business to seize opportunities and maintain global competitiveness, a key determinant of our future prosperity.

This is what the $3-billion provincial Gateway Program -- and the controversial twinning of the Port Mann Bridge -- is all about. Increasing trade with Asia, the expected quadrupling of container volumes at British Columbia's ports by 2020 and moving goods efficiently to market are driving this project. Relieving commuter traffic congestion is a welcome ancillary benefit.

Critics of the Gateway Program, particularly of plans to double the capacity of the 43-year-old Port Mann Bridge, paint a distorted picture of the problem and propose unrealistic solutions. Environmental activist David Suzuki, for instance, urged the government to abandon expansion of the bridge and widening sections of the 37-kilometre stretch of Highway 1 from Langley to Vancouver, saying more rapid transit, an expanded SkyTrain and bus service across the bridge are better alternatives.

These suggestions, however well- intentioned, will do little to accommodate truck volumes forecast to nearly triple between now and 2031. The B.C. Trucking Association estimates that gridlock costs roughly $500 million a year with the movement of goods slowed or stopped 75 per cent of the time. With 50 per cent of containerized goods transported to and from terminals in Greater Vancouver by trucks (the balance is by rail), the cost of congestion 14 hours a day is unacceptable.

For too long, however, Victoria has emphasized the problem of growing automobile traffic -- the number of cars is increasing at a rate of 20,000 a year -- and the resulting inconvenience to commuters, rather than the more important message that the network of highways, interchanges and bridges is a vital link to the global marketplace and a key component of Canada's international competitiveness.

For months, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon has been telling anyone within earshot that the project is national in scope. Furthermore, he has put it in terms the federal government should understand: The Gateway Program is comparable to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Just as the seaway was key to developing trade with Europe in 1959, Gateway will be Canada's portal to Asian markets through the next generation. Given the national significance of the Gateway program, Falcon contends, it follows that Ottawa should contribute more than the $400 million over seven years it pledged in this week's federal budget. After all, building the seaway originally cost the federal government the equivalent of $6 billion in today's dollars and it has recently been contemplating a $10-billion to $20-billion rebuild of locks, dredge channels and other facilities.

British Columbians seem to understand the importance of the Gateway Program. They not only support it, but 77 per cent said in a provincial government survey that they are willing to pay tolls on the Port Mann, providing they are variable -- higher in rush hour, lower in off-peak times. Once the project is completed, the transportation department says commuters could see savings of 30 per cent over 2003 travel times. One study calculated that the benefit from fuel and time saved would be two-and-a-half times the expected toll of $2.50. In sum, travel time and operating cost savings are estimated at $8 billion over the 35-year life of the project.

The Gateway project not only holds the promise of easing traffic congestion, but opens possibilities for improved public transportation, including new bus routes and light rail along the Highway 1 corridor, an expansion of the cycling network and more HOV lanes.

Although the population in the 1,000 square kilometres of the Greater Vancouver Regional District is expected to grow to more than three million by 2031 from 2.1 million today, that's still low density by international standards (Greater London boasts eight million in 38 square kilometres), which makes mass transit alone impractical. The private vehicle will continue to be the main mode of people-moving in the GVRD for some time to come.

The Gateway Program recognizes this fact and sets out to deal with some of the region's major traffic concerns. But more importantly, it responds to the need to develop transportation infrastructure that will enable Canada to take advantage of its geography and successfully compete for Asian trade and the jobs that it will create in B.C.

It's like we always say... it's not transit vs. roads; it's yes to both.

Commuter car options

It seems like every day, we read of another incredible step forward in transportation. The latest may be taking place in Maple Ridge, says the Maple Ridge Times.

A business there has invented a single-occupant car that is incredibly efficient:
The Al‚ might be, according to investor relations manager Todd Pratt, North America's most efficient car.

According to its specs, the car gets 92 miles per U.S. gallon, goes from zero to 60 mph in five seconds, has 180 horsepower and has a "super-low" emissions rating.

The car is "as fast as a Viper," Parker said, corners like a high performance racecar, and gets better mileage than just about everything out there.

"It's extremely safe," he said, explaining that with the two steering wheels up front, the car is so stable "we can't figure out how to tip it."

And it looks a lot cooler, Pratt added.

"We intend for this to be a highway, high-speed commuter vehicle. We have too many people on the highways," he said.

Before, a commuter car that was good on gas typically meant a car "you didn't show anyone," Pratt said.

The selling feature is the fuel vapor system, which is currently in the patent pending process. The system allows the engine to run on fuel vapors rather than liquid fuel. According to specs, the Al‚'s 10-gallon tank holds enough for the 15-hour trek from Vancouver to San Francisco.

Ten gallons to get from Vancouver to the Bay Area? Unreal.

Jackson goes too far

The Surrey Leader reports on GVRD Chair (and Delta Mayor) Lois Jackson's recent assault on a Senate committee looking at Deltaport and Gateway.

It was parochial pandering at its finest as she railed against port expansion. Here's her most ridiculous statement:
Jackson said Gateway officials here wish they could use China's solution – simply order hundreds of thousands of people to move out of development's path.

"We still have, in Canada, a semblance of democracy," Jackson said. "But only a semblance."

Nothing Jackson could have said could have been further from the truth.

In fact, the Gateway folks have gone above and beyond in public consultation. We've had dozens of open houses, presentations to councils and committees, newspaper ads, websites, and other ways for people to make their feelings known. To be honest, most of the people I talk to in Surrey and Langley think the process is taking too long.

Real time bus news

Blogger Stephen Rees thinks TransLink needs to make more of a commitment to providing customers with real time bus information.

I couldn't agree more. I remember spending long periods of time in my college years waiting for buses that considered the official schedule only a rough guideline. I could have been a lot more productive if there was a sign on when the next bus was coming... or if I could download that information on my cell phone.

Budget does little

I was away for a couple of days on business, and have returned to find a federal budget that essentially ignores Briotish Columbia's desperate transportation needs.

Columnist Paul Willcocks points out that the central Canada government thinks less of our nation's gateway to the Pacific than it does of the St. Lawrence, its gateway to the Atlantic:
The whole Pacfic Gateway idea, for one. Campbell sees the task of building roads and railways and airports and ports to improve transportation links with Asia as a national dream, St. Lawrence Seaway kind of national megaproject.

Harper, based on the budget, sees it as something less. There's an extra $50 million a year toward the Gateway projects, far from what B.C. was seeking.

The Union of BC Municipalities, on the other hand, are grateful to be holding on to their share of gas taxes for the next four years:
The federal Budget extension of the funding commitment for Gas Tax transfer for four years means another $2 billion a year for green infrastructure investment across Canada. Under the current agreement, BC local governments will receive $245 million in the final year. Assuming BC's share continues for another four years at that level, BC local governments will receive nearly $1 billion in added investments for clean air, clean water and greenhouse gas reductions.

I do see that the feds are pushing car buyers toward greener vehicles, which is a good thing. The Surrey Leader reports that
The Tories will whack buyers of the most wasteful SUVs with a new tax of up to $4,000, while fuel-efficient vehicles like gas-electric hybrids are now eligible for new green rebates of up to $2,000.

It means buyers of a new Honda Civic hybrid, for example, will get $4,000 back, because the federal rebate is on top of the $2,000 provincial PST rebate on hybrids.

But Ottawa’s program goes one step further, extending the rebate beyond hybrids to all new cars that use less than 6.5 litres of gas per 100 kilometres, and light trucks that are better than 8.3 L/ 100 km.

It means someone who buys a fuel-efficient Toyota Yaris hatchback will now get $1,000 back, as will buyers of the Jeep Compass or Patriot. Pickup trucks will be exempt from penalties.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Abby Airport let down

This is terrible news for local transportation.

The Abbotsford News reports that Air Canada has scrapped its thrice-daily Abbotsford-Calgary flights.

That's a shame. It should be noted that WestJet thinks Air Canada is making a mistake and will continue its service out of Abbotsford.

It only makes sense from a traffic perspective to offer Fraser Valley and south Fraser residents another airport option. Abbotsford Airport is important to BC economically and hopefully this Air Canada decision is just a minor setback.

Falcon clarifies

The Chilliwack Progress reports that Kevin Falcon has clarified a few points on the TransLink governance review, including:
- Mayors will have "appropriate power" on strategic plans but don’t need to be in charge of day-to-day operations.

- A three cent per litre gas tax hike is the equivalent of giving TransLink an extra $1 billion.

- Legislation being drawn up to shape the new TransLink "will still stipulate that TransLink's plans must be consistent with the region's growth management plans."

- [TransLink will not be able to] override local zoning in order to build high-density development near stations.

- To suggestions the planned council of mayors will be too unwieldy, he noted it will initially have 21 members – smaller than the GVRD board's 35.

- There will be no arbitrary expansion of TransLink into new areas.

Those are all reasonable points, and should go a long way to soothing some of the concerns expressed in local papers.

Friday, March 16, 2007

We can only dream!

GlobeandMail.com reports that Toronto is unveiling its $6 billion transit plan, which will help connect its suburbs:
The TTC will today unveil $6-billion plans to build a massive new light-rail network, anchored by lines that would stretch all the way from Etobicoke to Scarborough and bring rapid transit to the city's underserved suburbs.

The ambitious plans, based on promises in Mayor David Miller's re-election platform, would create up to 120 kilometres of new light-rail lines by 2021, running in dedicated lanes separated from traffic, a source told The Globe and Mail.

Light rail? Surrey, Langley, and Abbotsford can only dream...

TransLink reaction

We continue to read reaction to the TransLink governance review throughout the region.

In Mission, the Record reports that Mayor James Atebe has mixed feelings:
"I have mixed feelings about it," said Atebe, who chairs the local transit committee. "As a transit system in the valley, we’ve always complained there are not enough resources to expand and enhance our transit system."

All the funding currently comes from property taxes if MATC wants to expand service, explained Atebe. The minister has announced revenue will come from gas tax and property tax, but we need to analyze how the money is coming in and what impact it will have on us, said Atebe.

A letter to the editor of the Tri-City News was especially happy. The Park the Tax Coalition is ecstatic:
"So, kudos must be given to Premier Gordon Campbell, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon and the BC Liberal government for deciding to restructure TransLink and abolish the unfair, inequitable and inefficient parking area tax."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gateway needed

The Vancouver Sun's editorial today hit the nail on the head:
There are steps governments can take to encourage development of housing for families in major cities like Vancouver and Surrey, such as making zoning changes that would increase the availability of serviced lots, easing the tax bite and providing incentives to builders.

But they also have to acknowledge that growth of the suburbs will continue and plan accordingly. They should ignore the vociferous minority that would stop road and bridge expansion to discourage vehicle use. The volume of traffic on the highways that connect the suburbs to the metropolis and to each other will inevitably increase as the population in these communities grows. It is one of the reasons that the Gateway Program to twin the Port Mann Bridge and upgrade the transportation infrastructure must proceed.

Bridge for sale

Apparently, the Okanagan Lake floating bridge is for sale. With the William Bennett Bridge set to open next year, builders are testing the waters to see if anyone is interested in buying the old bridge and moving it somewhere.

While it's unlikely that the bridge itself would be usable, the 12 massive pontoons (4,000 tons each) have value for breakwaters or waterfront development.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Golden Ears progress

The Langley Advance reports that a preview of the future Golden Ears Bridge traffic pattern (i.e. several one-way streets), will be seen in north Langley this week.

Local papers on TransLink

The local papers have been busy tracking the changes to TransLink, and they are giving it a mixed review.

In Langley, the Advance reports that the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce likes the plan. Said President John Campbell:
"Some of our recommendations that were accepted in the final report include extending the footprint to the true Lower Mainland region, from Squamish to Hope, and that the Transportation Authority should be administered by a board appointed from a nomination pool of experts in transportation, engineering, financial planning, and business management. We are also very glad to see that the parking site tax will be eliminated, as we have continued to lobby against this unfair burden to the business community."

But letter writer Steven Noble, just wants better transit service:
We need more transit and a more dispersed structure of transit across the Lower Mainland, not just having everything run into and out of the downtown core.

Abbotsford Mayor George Ferguson is still pondering the pros and cons of being part of TransLink, according to the Abby Times:
"The regional idea makes sense, but can we afford it? When do we start seeing benefits?" said Ferguson.

On top of other fuel taxes, GVRD residents pay about 12 cents a litre of gas to fund Translink, a tax valley residents don't pay. Falcon said that tax could up an additional three cents a litre, but it's uncertain what increase valley residents could see.

Potentially, "that's 15 cents on top of what we pay," said Ferguson. Creating a Fraser Valley Regional District transit agency may be an option, he added. In comparison, if the federal government allowed the FVRD to add a two cent tax to a litre of gas, "we'd be able to operate a lot better transit system than we have now."

In the same paper, columnist Keith Baldrey points out that the real power in TransLink will lie with the Board, not the Council of Mayors:
But this council will not have the real power in the new TransLink. It will meet at most just four times a year, hardly often enough to exert real control over TransLink operations.

The council will simply approve, and occasionally update, the 10-year strategic plan that has yet to be created.

The real power will reside with an 11-member appointed board of 'professionals' whose function will be to provide the council with planning options.

They are having a similar debate in Chilliwack, where Mayor Clint Hames told the Chilliwack Times that he needs to see more details before supporting his community's inclusion. In the Progress, Hames showed more concern:
Hames said that even with a weighted vote, Chilliwack's voice could get lost in the din of demands from the 30 mayors on the council.

"Little Chilliwack with two votes will simply not be able to get our priorities in front (of the council agenda)," he said. "Maybe I'm being parochial, but I'm elected to be parochial. Why is it a bad thing to be parochial, especially when it's tax money collected from my community?"

A Maple Ridge Times editorial is cautiously optimistic about the plan. The North Shore News, meanwhile, is less hopeful:
The result could well be an unelected organization with sweeping powers to determine development throughout the region - and not in the way local governments envisioned. Under this scenario, local politicians and the province could be headed for another collision course.

Rural roads dangerous

The US Department of Transportation has released a report that shows that most traffic fatalities in their country happen on rural roads. Click here for the study.

The big problem remains a lack of seatbelt use. The stats are staggering:
Highway fatalities are a major epidemic in this country; and most occur on rural roads involving rural residents. Only one-fifth of the Nation’s population lives in rural areas, yet two-fifths of the vehicle miles traveled and three-fifths of all fatal crashes occur there. In 2004, 59 percent (24,975) of the 42,636 people who died in motor vehicle crashes were traveling on rural roads. This includes drivers, occupants, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and pedalcyclists. The percentage rises to 65 percent when looking only at rural passenger vehicle fatalities: 20,302 occupants killed in passenger cars, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) on rural roads. Of these, 54 percent (11,043) were unrestrained – not using a seat belt or child safety seat at the time of the crash.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pondering TransLink

I spent the weekend reading and digesting the TransLink governance review. First off, I can guarantee you that Marlene Grinnell did indeed write this report with her own hand--Langley City mayors are the only people who refer to Langley Township and City as "the Langleys." Everyone else just calls it "Langley." But I digress.

The review is interesting, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. Top of my list is the relationship between the provincial Minister of Transportation and TransLink. As we have seen in recent years, things get complicated when a Minister disagrees with the TransLink Board. I think the review needs a clear statement on that relationship. Ultimately, the transportation buck in this province stops with the Minister, and that should be reinforced. He should have the power to mediate in any disagreement between the mayors and the board.

That being said, the call for a 30-year transportation vision is shortsighted, in my opinion. I'd like to see a 50-year vision. The rolling ten-year plans are great, but we need to look further down the road. At a recent Langley Township Council meeting, TransLink staff presented their draft South Fraser plan, which looked out to 2031. By the time that plan is adopted, there will be just 20 years until it's completed. We cannot be shortsighted in this area. In fact, Grinnell herself writes, "our economic, social and environmental health depends on whether we have the foresight to anticipate and serve significant transportation needs over the next 30 to 60 years and beyond." That 30-year view is too short.

I have concerns about how disagreement between the Council of Mayors and TransLink Board will be remedied. Grinnell's plan calls for a 90-day window where mayors will have to read, understand, digest, and ultimately choose among whatever options the TransLink Board comes up with.

First, a practical suggestion: that 90-day debate period needs to be in the second half of the year. Mayors and councils get busy with municipal budgets, and this will consume a lot of attention.

Don't underestimate the political ramifications that will come out of this. I suspect a number of mayoralty candidates will seize on an incumbent's TransLink record in the next campaign.

Second, 90 days does not leave much time for public consultation. From reading the report, I glean that the unelected Board will handle open houses on plan options. This is a bit odd; an unelected group dealing with the public. That will need to be worked out.

Third, 90 days on something as complicated as a billion dollar transportation plan is a short time to get approval. It'll feel even shorter once the reality of having 30 mayors sitting at the table kicks in.

There has been much gnashing of teeth among municipal leaders on the suggestion that TransLink should have the right to "ensure timely implementation of major capital projects, without being captive to municipal zoning or permitting approvals."

I suspect this would be a rarely used clause. To be honest, most of the elected officials bristling at this idea would admit that there are certain places (in other communities, naturally) where regional transportation good has been sacrificed for parochial concerns. We'll need to keep a close eye on how this recommendation proceeds.

Municipal politicians also worry about a recommendation that TransLink "should be given the authority to generate revenue through development of property along its transit lines."

It's too early to know the full impact of this. The theory is that TransLink could generate revenue by developing land around (and above) its rapid transit stations. That's almost back to British Columbia’s frontier days, when rail companies were given thousands and thousands of acres of land in return for building lines. It's a classic form of funding transportation infrastructure. We'll definitely need to keep an eye on this: I think we all want TransLink to find non-tax revenue, but whether this is the best way will remain to be seen. Certainly, TransLink's development process must be subject to the same municipal standards and zonings as any other development.

Scrapping the parking stall tax sounds good, although it will be more than made up by higher property tax. What I'd really like to see is a system where areas that have poor access to TransLink services pay less than those who have a lot of service. This would bring it closer to a user-pay model. Why should Chilliwack taxpayers, which will be lucky to see a few buses a day, pay the same as Vancouver?

This may sound negative, but they are merely suggestions as we go forward. The plan itself is an intriguing one--I certainly didn't support the previous governance model, which had communities like Langley, Delta, and White Rock sharing a TransLink Board rep, while Surrey and Vancouver had multiple appointees. Something had to change.

Grinnell makes one key point that we need to remember in transportation: "Everything we do in our economy can be done by a competitor. So, we must be competitive. Transportation networks… are all necessary to ensure our economy is efficient."

I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and, as a municipal leader, being as helpful in this reorganization process as possible.

TransLink fallout

As Abbotsford considers its TransLinkian future, the mayors of Surrey, White Rock, and Delta ponder questions like property tax fairness and other funding issues.

Evergreen Line update

Pacific Metropolis offers a quick update on the Evergreen Line. More transit and more transportation options are needed throughout the region, and the Evergreen Line is an important piece of that infrastructure. The TransLink revamp plan includes ideas on how to fund the $400 million needed to build the line.

For our Okanagan readers

Kelowna has launched a new website with real-time road closures and construction issues at www.DriveKelowna.ca.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A national transit strategy?

GlobeandMail.com reports that the big city mayors are pushing Ottawa for a national transit strategy and a larger share of the gas tax so they can better plan major transit construction:
The Big City Mayors' Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities says Canada's public-transit systems need $4.2-billion a year, with 44 per cent to fix existing buses, subway and light-rail lines, and 56 per cent to expand them. While cities do receive a portion of the federal gas tax, the mayors argue it is nowhere near enough to cover rising costs.

The biggest news point in the article can be found at the very bottom:
Natalie Sarafian, a spokeswoman for federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, said a "long-term, predictable" plan to fund transit was in the works, but couldn't say what form it would take.

Could fed help really be on the way?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Great YVR pictures

Pacific Metropolis has some great new photos of the construction going on at Vancouver Airport, specifically of the Canada Line.

TransLink fallout

The scrutiny has begun, as everyone with a stake in transportation and transit focuses in on the TransLink governance review.

The Langley Times is the first community paper out of the gate with the standard Black Press piece.

More interesting is the Times' interview with report author Marlene Grinnell. The former Langley City mayor said it was important to include future funding provisions and to show the public a direct line of electoral accountability (i.e., your community's mayor is your TransLink representative).

The plan gets a cautious endorsement from the Times editor.

Anyway, the Vancouver Sun continues its examination of the plan today with a lengthy piece on the funding structure:
The new provincial fuel-tax money will cover only one-third of the $200 million a year TransLink will need by 2013 to build everything in its plans.

In order to get it, TransLink will have to raise another one-third, or close to $70 million, from increased property taxes, and the final third from a combination of higher fares and revenue from property development around rapid transit stations and other TransLink facilities.

Under the plan, TransLink will get an additional three cents per litre from the provincial fuel tax, in addition to the 12 cents it already gets, which will provide $66 million in new revenue as early as next year.

The parking tax and Hydro levy will be scrapped, but TransLink will have to replace the revenue -- about $37 million in total -- by raising property taxes, on commercial and industrial property for the parking tax money, and on residential property for the Hydro levy.

The fuel-tax money would kick in immediately, but TransLink would have up to 10 years to ramp up its share of the revenue.

The report includes a suggested scenario in which TransLink would approve small property tax increases -- one to two per cent per year -- every year from 2008 through 2025. And it suggests fare hikes of one-half to one per cent per year every year for the next 14 years.

The plan also gives TransLink the teeth it needs to override municipal interference with regional plans:
The plan also calls for TransLink to be given power to override municipal zoning and permitting decisions in order to get its major projects built, said Marlene Grinnell, the former Langley City mayor who chaired the review panel.

That will be a bitter pill to swallow for many Lower Mainland communities. I know it raises concerns for me as a Langley Township Councillor.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The TransLink report

The full TransLink report is here.

TransLink do-over

So here we go. TransLink is being made over, and the plastic surgeon is none other than Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon.

The details are still surfacing, but it looks like a two-winged bird to me. There will be a council of mayors, stretching from Pemberton to Hope, who will oversee the new TransLink. Their votes will be weighted, which should be interesting: Vancouver and Surrey, for example, will be in a virtual dead heat for influence. This group will do the strategic planning and prioritization.

The second piece is an 11-member, full-time board of professionals who will have experience in law, accounting, finance, and transit-planning. They will ahndle the day-to-day operations.

Having pros on board is a good idea from where I sit. They knwo the ins and outs of the business, and, most importantly, have the time to invest in the operation. Having municipal politicians lead this thing in the time they cleave away from their city or regional duties has not been effective.

We'll be keeping an eye on this as more details emerge. The critical quesiton remains funding--who is paying for what, and will the province step up their commitment?

Toll rebates for transit?

The Surrey Leader has an interesting editorial suggesting that road tolls be banked under individual drivers' names and then offered back to the commuters as discounts on transit passes:
If road pricing or regional tolling is to gain any traction, proponents will have to counter the perception that it is nothing more than a tax grab.

How can that be done?

Here's one way. Take the money collected in tolls from each motorist and put it in a personal fund.

It will quickly build up into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

The money can then be drawn on to pay transit fares – for a maximum of one year.

In other words, get out of your car and onto a bus or SkyTrain and you can get your money back.

Interesting idea, and exactly the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we need to be doing as we move forward on transit and transportation improvements.

A worthy goal... but can we make it?

The Surrey Leader reports that TransLink officials are worried they won't be able to meet the pollution reduction targets set out by Premier Gordon Campbell in last month's Throne Speech.

TransLink officials estimate that ridership will have to go from 173 million transit trips this year to 400 million in 2010. Obviously that's a huge jump.

I like the idea of giving TransLink a worthy challenge. It will push the organization to put buses, rapid transit, and community shuttles into places where ridership could most quickly increase. And, where, you may ask, are those places? The growing communities of Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and the Tri-Cities.

Look at the Golden Ears Bridge. For the first time in three decades, it will be possible to send a bus across the Fraser River. The West Coast Express is soon going to be a viable alternative for thousands of south Fraser commuters.

Keep pushing TransLink, Mr. Premier. But make sure they have the funds they need to get the job done.

Huge overpass project under way

Tri-City News reports that construction on the $98.73 million Coast Meridian rail viaduct wiull start by the end of this year.

It's a massive project--the largest infrastructure project in the history of Port Coquitlam--but will be a huge help to drivers, transit users, and the rail companies. TransLink is picking up $60 million of the tab.

Welcome to the rest of the world!

The David Suzuki World Tour has Black Press columnist Tom Fletcher thinking. Fletcher is excited at the possibility that Suzuki may learn a thing or two about the south Fraser region, as his column in the the Tri-City News says:
Then there's Suzuki, motoring across the country in a big diesel campaign bus with his huge portrait on the side. Greenhouse gas emissions aside, it's an appropriate choice of vehicle, given that he seemed to spend much of his tour running against Stephen Harper. It's difficult to see any other point of the tour than to bask Gore-like in the adulation of factually challenged urban sophisticates.

I hope that at least Suzuki's campaign bus rolled down Highway 1, through the Fraser Valley and over the five-lane Port Mann bridge. It's an educational view too seldom seen by Kitsilano residents.

Too many people who never use the south of the Fraser transportation network speak out against it. There are a million people on this side of the river, more than there were in the entire Lower Mainland region when the Port Mann opened.

At Get Moving BC, we say yes to both transit and transportation improvements: we need them both.