Thursday, May 31, 2007

Langley Council pushes for free transit

As you may have seen on Langley Politics Dotcom, my Langley Township Council motion regarding free transit on election days passed:
My motion asking TransLink to consider following Kamloops's lead and offer free transit to anyone with a voter's card on election day passed unanimously (seconded by Charlie Fox). It will now go to the TransLink Board for their consideration.

Friday, May 25, 2007

TransLink news notes

The Abbotsford News reports that ridership was up 3% for the first quarter, and up 11.6% on the West Coast Express. Just wait until the Golden Ears Bridge opens: I guarantee many south Fraser residents will use it to get to the WCE. Just another example of how roads and transit work hand-in-hand!

Despite TransLink dragging its heel, Port Moody is going ahead with a study on safety deficiencies on Ioco Road, says the Tri-City News. The three-kilometre route links the city to Anmore, Belcarra, and parkland.

The South Delta Leader reports that Vancouver businesses are upset because scrapping the parking tax and going to straight property taxes has raised their TransLink bill. Why shouldn't Vancouver pay more? They have access to the best transit service TransLink provides. They reap the rewards of a transit system than can get their customers and employees to their door. South of the Fraser, that's just a pipe dream.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

NDP in tough spot on Gateway

There has been much discussion among the chattering classes over the NDP's position on Gateway. While the party hasn't taken a firm stance either way, the NDP Agriculture Committee is listed as one the Gateway 30 groups opposed to the project.

A recent comment over at Rabble paints a clear picture of the difficulty the NDP is having with this issue:
On the subject of Gateway, it may be politically fashionable, at least among their activist base though not the wider electorate in their ridings, for some Vancouver and Burnaby MLAs to say they are opposed to twinning the Port Mann Bridge and widening Hwy 1 by one (1) lane in each direction. But none of the Surrey or Delta or Coquitlam or other MLAs can afford to sign on for this kind of rubbish even with their memberships, let alone the voters. And the fact is that the Governments of Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark were committed to doing just that, twinning Port Mann and expanding Hwy 1.

It's valid to criticize Falcon and Campbell's desire to do these things as P3s, but it's political insanity of the first order of magnitude to oppose these projects in principle. The last time the BC NDP decided it had to learn this lesson the hard way was in 1979 when they came out in opposition to building the Annacis Island Bridge. They thought they could oppose this in order to appear "greenish" and fiscally parsimonious. They narrowly lost that election because they could not regain enough ground in suburban areas. No rational person believes that you can restrain consumer demand for autos and auto travel by simply refusing to build sufficient highway capacity. What is perhaps more important is that no rational person would suggest that a bus system can be good without a good highway system. It's like suggesting we can have a good rail system without good tracks.

And the inside joke was that the Annacis Island Bridge project was actually begun during Dave Barrett's term as Premier in the early 1970s. It was supposed to be rolled out as the main public works plank in an expected 1976 re-election effort. But Barrett called the election too early in December of 1975, and this item wasn't ready for prime time. So it sat in the Highways bureaucracy for another three years until Bill Bennett rolled it out for his 1979 re-election drive. By then the NDP brains trust decided that the best thing to do was oppose the project, since doing a "me too" positioning would not attract sufficient attention. By opposing the project the NDP painted itself into a corner as a party interested in only selected public services, unwilling to appeal to a broader market, and appearing to be opposed to economic growth and job creation. Big mistake.

It was the same miscalculation that the party had made throughout the 1950s and 1960s by opposing highways as "blacktop government". Bennett and Gaglardi would simply sit back and laugh as the CCF-NDP hung themselves with the voters.

Here's one final thought. Imagine if Mike Sather, the NDP MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows were to try to run for re-election on a platform that said this:

- Yes, I am in favour of the new six-lane Pitt River Bridge, with no toll on it.

- Yes, I am in favour of the new six-lane Golden Ears bridge being built by Translink with a $3+ toll on it (adding the proviso that he shares concerns about the use of temporary foreign workers on this project by the German contractor, Bilfiger-Berger)

- No, I am totally opposed to building a new Port Mann bridge under any set of circumstances whatsoever, now or at any time in the foreseeable future, even if it does have a $2.50 toll on it, because this bridge would cause GHGs to rise and urban sprawl to increase, ... but the Golden Ears and Pitt River bridges that directly serve my riding will not have either of these unhappy consequences so they can proceed, no problem.

The BC Liberals and their friends in the media would be at great risk of dying laughing if we gave them openings like that. The 180 degree contradictions would be so obvious to anyone that crying "hypocrite" and "phoney" would just be for openers.

It is unfortunate that this vital infrastructure upgrade has become a political football. Politics aside, these roads and bridges are desperately needed. So are transit improvements, especially south of the Fraser. We need them all, and we need them now.

At least the Rabble folks are allowed to debate this in a free and open way. Over at Gateway Sucks, one of their readers don't believe we should be allowed to have a voice:
A friend of mine got so irritated by their ignorance and mockery, that she actually decided to go to "getmovingbc.com" to actually leave a few angry messages, even if it's going to be constant and summon any ISPs. So she decided to use a trusted proxy to workaround any troubles...

But NOOO! Going there with a proxy server never seemed to get through.

I'm guessing they wanna fish out anyone who has legit info, and then get those folks into trouble by calling their ISP. Darn folks. Nothing but free speech censorship.

My friend's intentions was to actually...leave a few comments for those who are browsing the net from another place, to see that there IS oppression and BS going on in this city.

And yes, supporting the gateway project, is supporting oppression. As supporting the gateway project, will mess up some communities and homes...especially some Native friends of mines....

We're being accused of "censorship" by someone who wants to censor our site. Bizarre!

Even funnier is the fact that we haven't done anything out of the ordinary to protect the site. I'm not sure if Blogger has some built-in protections or something, but we haven't done anything special.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Roddick stands up for SFPR

You have to hand it to Delta South MLA Val Roddick. Despite the wild accusations of some of the anti-Gateway folks in her riding, Val has stood up for the vital South Fraser Perimeter Road.

On Saturday, the Delta Optimist ran a piece by Ian Robertson, questioning the need and cost of the SFPR. He had four questions, all of which were answered by Roddick in an accompany column. Here are the questions, and the answers:
Robertson: In the initial estimate of SFPR, the province was going to fund $300 million ($658 million minus $358 million). The most recent math says $635 million ($1 billion minus $365 million) for B.C. taxpayers. Will B.C. build the SFPR? Where will all this money come from? Please explain.

Roddick: The initial cost estimate for the project mentioned by Ian Robertson reflects the proposed alignment from Fraser Heights to the Alex Fraser Bridge. When the SFPR was included in the Ministry of Transportation's Gateway Program in 2003, the scope was extended to Deltaport Way to help alleviate growing congestion along Highway 17 in Delta, and redirect regional truck traffic away from communities such as Ladner. It was later extended east to connect with TransLink's future Golden Ears Bridge connector road in Surrey.

Robertson: What additional funds has B.C. obtained from the Vancouver Port Authority and truckers to offset the cost of building this road for them?

Roddick: The Ministry of Transportation works closely with the Vancouver Port Authority to ensure an appropriate level of cost sharing.

Robertson: SFPR was to be open by 2009 by the time the third berth was operating. The berth will open about 2009-2010. When will SFPR be open? Will it be 2012? Will you limit traffic on Highway 17 until the SFPR is open? If not, how do we cope with a 50 per cent increase of trucks?

Roddick: The SFPR will be open in late 2012, and traffic impacts from the new third berth at Deltaport will be monitored carefully to ensure public safety. Personally, I am strongly advocating the completion of the southern portion of the SFPR (from Deltaport Way to Highway 99) by 2009.

Robertson: Given the Panama Canal will handle much of the increase in traffic by 2015, am I to assume B.C. will spend $635 million of taxpayers' money to build a road where its prime value will be for less than five years?

Roddick: Introduction of the expanded Panama Canal will not have a significant impact on traffic at Deltaport and the SFPR will continue to provide excellent benefits to the economy of Delta, the Lower Mainland and the province.

On the Panama Canal note, we should be doing everything we can to attract shipping away from the canal and into BC. It's not just smart economically, but it can make a huge difference environmentally. BC is several days closer to Asia than Panama, and getting those ships to shore saves an incredible amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Who's really "astroturfing"?

After a couple of weeks of being accused of astroturfing, I must confess that I am enjoying seeing the anti-Gateway groups hoised on their own petard.

Sean Holman at Public Eye Online notes today that one of the "grassroots" organizations in the Gateway 30 network is the BC NDP. Other "grassroots" groups in the anti-Gateway coalition include the BC Green Party, the Canadian Action Party, and the Canadian Auto Workers.

Holman also notes that Green Party leader Elizabeth May is busy begging members to promote her agenda in various media outlets and online as well. Perhaps they could do it through "grassroots" groups like Gateway 30!

And to answer a question from the maturely named GatewaySucks.org, which asked: "Anyway, I really have to wonder: when was the last time you heard of a non-profit registering a '.com' URL?"

Well, we also own GetMovingBC.ca, but GetMovingBC.com just rolls off the tongue better.

Now that we know where everyone's political fortunes lie, perhaps we can get back to debating the real issues around transportation and transit, and the fact the Lower Mainland is woefully underserved in both areas.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Stop the 'nonsense'

The Langley Advance has an interesting letter to the editor from Cloverdale resident Scott MacGregor on Gateway:
The argument that we should simply not build any more roads and bridges, and push to build non-sensical transit solutions for people who don't want or need them, just doesn't make any sense, and I think most people know that.

Liveable cities need adequate road infrastructure in place to meet the current and future needs based on sound planning. There needs to be leadership to build out "reasonable" public transit options, and residents need to be provided with choices.

Those whose convictions are strong for public transit can live in urban corridors where transit is able to serve them without massive subsidization from the taxpayers.

I am no cynic, and I sincerely hope that the Gateway project goes forward, if it is to mean having adequate roads in place to ensure my family is not deprived of family time when sitting in cars on 40-year-old bridges and freeways waiting for unrealistic transit solutions while we abdicate our own personal responsibility for where and how we chose to live.

As density increases in places like Surrey and Langley, we will see more and more transit options come here. Right now, TransLink (and I wish I was making this up) has told Langley Township Council to put up signs in our higher density neighbourhoods saying, "Coming soon--a bus stop." When I asked how long it would take for a bus to come into those neighbourhoods, I was told 10-15 years!

Langley is densifying in a reasonable, controlled way. We are rewriting neighbourhood plans to increase population in urban areas, we are working on in-fill (Sam Sullivan would call them "eco-density") developments. We are doing our part--but adequate transit service is still 10+ years away.

That's why I support both road and transit improvements. It's not one or the other, as some claim, it's both.

Twin that bridge!

Blogger Walter Schultz continues his reaosned and passionate case for the Gateway porject:
On occasion, I take transit to work; it takes me one hour to get there, but driving my car takes 15 minutes. I need my car for work, so the only solution is to drive. This is the problem with the "don't build it crowd" and their dogma of telling people to get out of their cars. People will make the choice to drive for the sake of convenience and for the freedom of mobility. Transit doesn't always go where you want it to go and it often doesn't take you there in a reasonable time.

If the special interest groups opposing Gateway really want to get people out of their cars, why don't they become a political party and make that issue a central plank in their political platform. We'll then see how much support they truly have. Hey, here's another idea.....why don't they just ask the NDP to let us know where they stand on the issue of twinning the Port Mann Bridge and Gateway?

The government is building more transit, however it's only one piece of the puzzle. Transit will never be the only solution for all the people, all of the time. We also need to invest in our road capacity to allow for the efficient movement of goods and people within our region.

Back in 1964 when the Port Mann bridge was built, the population of the GVRD was 800,000. Today we have the same 43 year old bridge and we now have a population of 2.5 million. The twinning of the Port Mann is needed to build capacity for goods to move quickly and economically between Vancouver's Ports and Canadian inland routes. The bridge is also necessary to reduce congestion, shorten commuting times, reduce the cost to the economy and to generally improve the quality of life in our region.

With the population tripling in our region, the historical mistake has been not investing in our road infrastructure. We hear a lot of fear mongering that twinning the Port Mann and the Gateway project will bring Armageddon to the world as we know it.

That's a bunch of crap!

In the future, technologies will make the internal combustion engine obsolete and the cars running on the twinned Port Mann will be either electric or hydrogen or some other non polluting emission. We aren't getting rid of the car any time soon; no matter how much bellyaching we hear from these special interest groups.

Walter, I would argue that the NDP has said where they stand on Gateway: they oppose it, according to their membership in the Gateway 30 "grassroots" opposition network.

The facts on Get Moving BC

Many of you have seen that Sean Holman's website, Public Eye Online, has run a piece on some Get Moving BC fundraising.

Right now, GMBC has raised and spent a grand total of (wait for it!) $75. Some of our members would like to do some research and polling on congestion and Gateway issues, so they have approached some people to raise money.

It's no secret that I'm a provincial Liberal. But I do not believe that should disqualify me from talking about Gateway or transportation issues. If it did, the Gateway 30 group (which counts the NDP, Green Party, Canadian Action Party, and Canadian Auto Workers among their "grassroots" members) would also have to step out of the dialogue. We all vote one way or another. Living in a democratic nation means we get to speak our opinion no matter how we vote. I don't begrudge the Livable Region people having rallies, websites and blogs--why would they be upset with me having one too?

We send out emails to people who support Gateway about public meetings where they can share their opinions. We also encourage them to write MLAs, Mayors, Councils, and press.

In fact, we break with Kevin Falcon and the BC Liberals on Evergreen--GMBC wants it fully funded now, while they seem to be dragging their heels for some reason. I’m hoping the Emerson funding announcement will loosen ther province's purse strings for Evergreen.

I have found the comments on the Public Eye post most intriguing, and would like to address a few of them.
Since The Gateway Project is going ahead as is the Golden Ears Bridge (now being built), plus the Perimeter Roads, Canada Line, etc. what is the use of this group?
The Gateway opposition seems determined to drag out this fight through the next provincial election in May 2009. The quiet majority of folks who support both road and transit solutions must not assume that Gateway will be built until after the next election. While some projects are underway, many will extend past the next campaign and could be cancelled if the opponents get their way.
I doubt these groups are looking to get fat, they just don't want the construction slowed down by all these David Suzuki led groups that don't want our city to grow. I never see anybody complaining about all these negative citizen action groups. I'm pretty tired of hearing about these groups that complain about every transportation initiative that's taking place. Like twinning the Port Mann, doesn't that just make sense. I doubt anybody that complains about it has to drive across it. I don't know about the tolls, but shouldn't the people who use the new bridges and highways have to pay for them. I'd be happy to pay a dollar or two if I can get across the fraser river in under 30 minutes in the morning.
I completely agree.
Jared, There is info aplenty on this site http://livableregion.ca/ and their new blog that demonstrates quite clearly why twining the Port Mann and doubling Hwy 1 is only a stop gap measure. Besides that, with oil at $1.30/litre ($5.75/gallon)and climbing, we'd all be better off if they just did the less expensive option of a good transit system out to the Valley. Because in 10 years we won't be able to afford driving into Vancouver anymore by ourselves.
I'd respond to that one, but I think commenter Budd Campbell already did:
I suspect that Nic Slater is intelligent enough to know that the inspirationally titled "livableregion" site contains propaganda, not information.

If you look through their material you won't find papers authored by experts with professional reputations to maintain, such as a tenured professor at a university. Instead, you find MA level people who are employed by an advocacy group signing their names to various critiques.

In my opinion, these foot soldiers are being used in the holy war against Gateway that's being pursued by Vancouver and Burnaby real estate and political interests cleverly disguised as "greens". In reality, the only green thing any of these people really care about preserving and protecting is the immense untaxed capital gain in their principal residence, when they fear might diminish slightly if Gateway makes suburban locations more accessible.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Getting from A to B

Great to see the Gateway coverage in today's Province. First we got more on David Emerson's $365 million announcement and Kevin Falcon's speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, including some project details.

Then there is this piece, which looks at the need for more roads and more transit--music to Get Moving BC's ears:
But what might surprise some is that even Landry says that more roads and bridges aren't the only things that are needed.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," he says. "We really need to think differently, and to my mind, thinking differently includes expanding [road] capacity."

But for roads to work, other things need to be done, he says.

"We need alternatives in terms of a transit system," Landry says. "We also need to look at a bundle of public-policy initiatives that will complement those investments so that we preserve the capacity that is introduced."

In that bundle he suggests initiatives like trucks and warehouses operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to make better use of the roads at night.

Landry said consideration has to be given also to eliminating street parking on major transportation routes like Knight Street.

He also suggested better incident management -- dealing with stalls and accidents so that they don't cause immediate traffic jams.

We need it all--transit, better roads and bridges, out-of-the-box ideas like Landry's trucking schedule--all of it. This is why the vast majority of residents support things like Gateway. It simply makes sense. Greater Vancouver is terribly underserved by both roads and transit and needs sustained, massive investments in both.

Not what he said

The Surrey Now has a letter to the editor that is just plain wrong:
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon has neglected some very basic information in defence of the province's Gateway Infrastructure program. He states, according to your article, that adding more buses would simply clog the traffic arteries even more at rush hour.

Er, sorry, that's not what he said. From the original article:
"It's a cruel hoax to think you can add buses on a corridor that has 14 hours a day rush hour congestion and think for a minute that anyone's going to take those buses," Falcon said. "They won't."

You simply cannot plan a transit system when the heart of the most-travelled route is congested for hours and hours and hours every day. That's why there hasn't been a bus on the Port Mann for two decades.

Ottawa ups Gateway contribution

Here is some outstanding news for Gateway supporters: the federal government had added $360 million to its contribution to the province-led project. That brings Ottawa's total contribution to $800 million.

The Burnaby News Leader has the story:
Ottawa is pledging to spend $360 million more on six Gateway-related projects in the Lower Mainland, most of it for Fraser River perimeter roads to speed the flow of trucks and other traffic.

A full quarter billion of Friday’s announcement will go towards the billion-dollar 40-kilometre South Fraser Perimeter Road to run from Deltaport to Highway 1, pushing the federal government’s earlier $102-million contribution up to $365 million.

Another $65 million will go to the four-lane extension of United Boulevard as part of the $400-million North Fraser Perimeter Road, as well as a new four-lane rail overpass, a four-lane bridge across the Brunette River and an interchange at Brunette Ave.

“It’s not a bridge here or a road there,” said International Trade Minister David Emerson, who made the announcement Friday at Fraser Surrey Docks. “It’s an overall system for trade.”

He said Ottawa will deliver a total of $800 million that it has earmarked for its Asia-Pacific Gateway Corridor Initiative to B.C. projects.

The provincial and federal infrastructure spending aims to exploit rising trade with China, which is projected to triple container port shipments through Vancouver over the next 15 years.

Premier Gordon Campbell and B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon hailed the announcement.

“What it means is full steam ahead,” said Falcon, who has until now criticized Ottawa for providing too little, too slowly. “This is a huge commitment to British Columbia. I think we’ve seen a significant shift."

(clip)

Ottawa is also to add another $25 million for rail overpasses to help deal with growing congestion as more trains go to and from local ports.

Absent from the federal pledges was any money for the contentious twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and widening of Highway 1 that critics say will fuel sprawl and drive up air emissions.

Campbell cut off a question about the discrepancy aimed at Emerson, saying the province hasn’t asked Ottawa to put money toward the Highway 1/Port Mann project.

“That is our objective,” the premier said. “And in fact it’s going to be supported by a private-public partnership and supported by tolls.”

Emerson said he’s not worried about opposition from critics of port expansion. “I’ve never seen a project yet that didn’t have proponents and opponents,” Emerson said. “I’m not concerned about that.”

He was also pressed by reporters on how the road expansions will help reduce greenhouse gas reductions. “A more efficient transportation system has less bottlenecks, it has less idling,” Emerson responded. “This is going to be good for the environment.”

The work planned will make the Lower Mainland both “more livable” and able to support jobs for the long haul, Emerson said.

“Maybe you don’t want any more growth in Canada or British Columbia,” Emerson said. “Have that debate. But don’t disguise that debate as an environmental debate, because it’s a different one.”

If anyone was questioning the government's commitment to Gateway, Friday's announcement should lay their doubts to rest.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Albion Ferry Bulletin

This is from Langley Township's emergency crews:
All readings of the Mission gauge are in Meters and Sea level is considered zero on the gauge. The location of the Mission gauge is at the Mission railway bridge near the township of Mission.

Once the gauge reads 5.15 Meters, FRMT will start monitoring the ramps, which are attached to the trestles on both the Albion and Fort Langley locations. The concern for each of these ramps is the hinging points where they are attached to each of the trestle docks. The ramps must not bind at this point or damage to pins will occur.

At 5.2 Meters: Restrictions will be put into force and all heavy trucks will not longer be able to load onto ferries. Media will be given notification of restrictions so radio stations can broadcast information. Public washrooms will be shut down in Fort Langley Terminal and Porta-Potties will be put into place. The gray water holding tanks will be pump out; tanks will be filled with water and well system shut down.

At 5.25 Meters: Cars and passengers only will be allowed transit aboard each of the ferries. Media notification update to limits with service. EOC preparation in case river levels exceeds to flood stature. Have local trucking company deliver load of sand to fill 500 sand bags on location. Dike office area and secure oil-shed area for floodwaters.

At 5.29 Meters: Ferry service for all vehicles will be discontinued and possible passenger service will be considered. Media notification update to service limitation. Mainroad contracting will place a total of 30 no-post between each of the wooden trestles in order to weigh structures down. FRMT EOC will be put into place, direction from Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) and/or Translink Cooperate Emergency Operation Centre Incident Commander.

When levels exceed operational ability, both ferries will be secure at each of the government wharfs in Maple Ridge and Fort Langley on standby awaiting Provincial instruction. The operational perimeters may vary depending on inspection and noted strain placed upon the ramp hinges.

To keep an eye on the Mission gauge, click here and select British Columbia, and then Fraser River at Mission.

Playing both sides of the fence

Here's what I don't get about the NDP's push to control gas prices, as reported in the Richmond Review.

On the one hand, the NDP (through their various groups of supporters) say they oppose the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge because it will lead to more cars and more pollution. But then they want to hold back the price of gas (which most economists consider a natural control on cars and pollution), so that more people will be able to afford to put gas in their cars and make pollution. Am I the only one who sees that position as hypocritical?

Attention Abbotsford readers

The Abbotsford News reports that two open houses will be held to get public input on the community's new Master Transportation Plan:
The next public meeting will take place on May 10 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, located at 32315 South Fraser Way.

The second meeting will be staged on May 22, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre, 34690 Old Yale Rd.

Make sure your voice is heard!

Kamloops leads the way

Kamloops Councillor Arjun Singh reports on his blog that the Kamloops transit system will offer free transit to any resident showing their voting card on the next federal election day.

It's a great idea, and I will be following up with our TransLink folks to see if our system offers (or can offer) the same thing for all federal, provincial and municipal election days.

Safer streets

GlobeandMail.com reports that pedestrian accidents in Canada have fallen by 31% over the past ten years:
A new report reveals that pedestrian accidents serious enough to send people to hospital declined dramatically over the 10 years after 1994, dropping 31 per cent.

Youth and children – especially young children – seemed to benefit the most from the decline.

There was a 51-per-cent reduction in pedestrian injury hospitalizations among all people under age 20 and the rate dropped 62 per cent in children under five.

I think this is a testament to some of the planning and engineering improvements that have occurred in the past fifteen years in communities across the country. In Langley, for example, we have wider sidewalks, trails and greenways than ever before. I imagine this is happening all over the country, as more thought and consideration is being given to walkability.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Sorting out the poll

The Surrey Now gets to the bottom of the LRC's recent Gateway poll:

B.C.'s transportation minister isn't buying a poll commissioned by the Livable Region Coalition that suggests 73 per cent of B.C.ers would rather spend cash on improving public transit to fight climate change than on the province's Gateway infrastructure program.

The LRC poll, conducted by Strategic Communications in March, surveyed 606 British Columbians, with a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent 19 times out of 20; it asked if they'd "support or oppose redirecting money from the province's road building plans into better public transit in order to help stop climate change."

The question included a preamble that the government's own data shows Gateway "will indeed increase emissions that cause climate change. Yet in order to meet the emissions reduction targets set by this same government, the regional transportation authority has said that public transit use must double by 2020."

Ian Bruce, of the David Suzuki Foundation, said the results "confirm what we have heard across Canada, that the public wants investment in public transit as the foremost means to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in our cities."

But Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale, wasn't moved.

"I put very little stock in that poll," said Falcon, who used to be in the polling business before entering politics.

"The pollster they used - Strategic Communications - their list of clients is a who's who of left-wing groups including the B.C. NDP, the federal NDP, the Ontario NDP, Jack Layton campaign. There's absolutely no surprise here that they come out with that," Falcon said.

"We know the support level for that bridge (a twinned Port Mann Bridge) is in the high 70s."

"It's a cruel hoax to think you can add buses on a corridor that has 14 hours a day rush hour congestion and think for a minute that anyone's going to take those buses," Falcon said. "They won't. But under a newly twinned Port Mann Bridge with special transit priority lanes, with design built into the highway to allow transit to get past whatever queues might be there, that's how we're going to get people on buses and transit."


GetMovingBC's position is simple: it's not an either/or answer with roads and transit--it's both.

Friday, May 4, 2007

More Gateway

I wrote the following opinion piece for The Abbotsford Post.
On Monday morning, I was a guest on CKNW's Bill Good Show, talking about the need to get on with the Gateway Project and twin the Port Mann Bridge. I believe this investment in transportation is absolutely vital to the entire south Fraser region, including Abbotsford.

I know, I know. I'm a BC Liberal, so you're more than welcome to take whatever I write here with the appropriate grain of salt. Obviously, Gateway is a BC Liberal initiative, but I believe it's one I would support even if I wasn't a member of Rich Coleman's riding association.

Of course, almost 60% of you did vote to re-elect Mike de Jong and John van Dongen in 2005, so I suppose I'm within your political mainstream.

Anyway, politics aside, twinning the Port Mann Bridge is plain common sense.

Not only will it immediately reduce congestion on a bridge that is a virtual parking lot for more than thirteen hours a day, it will provide transit options that we have never had before. There hasn't been a bus on the Port Mann in two decades, because traffic makes it impossible to schedule them.

The new Port Mann will have an HOV lane going north, cycle lanes, the ability to accommodate buses, and, if TransLink so desires, a light rail line. Imagine that--a rail line going all the way down the centre of the freeway, from Vancouver to Chilliwack.

Right now, Highway 1 backs up past 200th St. every morning. This means Abbotsford residents wanting to get to Coquitlam have to either take the Mission Bridge and the congested Pitt River Bridge, or wait for a six-mile long traffic jam.

Forget the economic cost of this congestion, which is estimated at $1.5 billion. And put aside the environmental cost of having six miles of cars idling every morning.

Think of the social cost of having a parent (or two) sitting in four hours of traffic a day, while their children wait at home. If an Abbotsford parent works 9-5 in Coquitlam (not an unreasonable scenario), they leave before their children wake up in the morning, and don't get home until 6:30 at the earliest. That leaves them 90 minutes for supper and play before their child goes to bed at 8.

That's a heartbreaking, and all too common, reality. These kids don't get to have a parent coaching them in minor sports. They don't get to have a mom or dad help them through Girl Guides or Boy Scouts.

This social cost is the number one reason I support twinning the Port Mann. The economic and environmental spin-offs are nice bonuses. But I want moms and dads to be home with their kids longer than they are on the road.

The Port Mann Bridge cannot be twinned soon enough.

Port Mann twin long overdue

Letter writer George Rodger gets it. From the Tri-City News:
Every year, Canada's population increases by a number that is equivalent to the population of the Tri-City area. Roughly half of those people settle in the Toronto area and the other half here in the Lower Mainland. With that kind of growth, it should not be a surprise that we currently have serious traffic problems. We are currently in a gridlock situation on the Port Mann bridge. The time for that bridge debate was 15 years ago – we have to solve our problems now.

Prior to development of Westwood Plateau, Coquitlam was promised a rapid transit system to deal with the increased traffic. Homes have been built, adding to the traffic problems, but that promise has not been fulfilled.

Now, it is proposed to develop Burke Mountain for 24,000 people. Nothing has been said about how the traffic will be managed for a much higher level of population. I support Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon in his work to deal with traffic problems, with solutions for the Port Mann, Golden Ears and Pitt River bridges.

Well said, Mr. Rodger. That's just plain old common sense.

Tolls

Crosscut Seattle has a very thoughtful, considered piece on using tolling to relieve congestion. It's an excellent read and captures many of the arguments for, and against, tolling. Anyone concerned about the BC transportation system should give it a careful read.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Set your alarm clock

I'll be Rick Cluff's guest at 6:15 tomorrow morning on CBC Radio's The Early Edition, talking about the Gateway Project.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bumper-to-bumper

Interesting letter from Margie Pratt in today's Abbotsford News, although I'm not sure she totally grasps the issue:
When I stand on the overpass on McCallum Road at rush hour in Abbotsford, Highway 1 is like a bumper-to-bumper parking lot.

People commute from Chillwack and further east to Vancouver to go to work, and then back again.

Consider the emissions from all those vehicles! What kind of legacy are we leaving to our children and grandchildren?

The immediate solution would be to stop building more highways and get TransLink in place!

Certainly there will be a great initial cost, but a lot can be realized from tolls at Port Mann and the Patullla bridges. Isn't that how we paid for the Coquihalla?

She's right: Highway 1 is gridlocked. And she's right: TransLink is part of the solution. But so is a twinned Port Mann Bridge. How else can tolls be collected, unless more Bridge capacity is added?

There is no magic bullet solution to gridlock. More transit won't solve it. Neither will simply building more roads. We need both!

Meanwhile, The Abby News also gives its tentative blessing to Abbotsford becoming a part of TransLink, although they totally overrate the quality of south Fraser bus service:
The past weekend aside, Abbotsford generally enjoys slightly lower prices on average than GVRD communities. But certainly not 12 cents lower. By sacrificing a few cents worth of lower gas prices, Abbotsford residents may be able to go from having a terrible transit system to being part of one of the nation's best.

Given present gas prices here, it's worth council looking at becoming part of TransLink.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Common sense: Yes, Gateway will help transit

A commenter and blogger named Rob Baxter has been posting all over the place, including on Urban Vancouver, the following:
Jordan Bateman has blogged "...road and transit options--Gateway will help us with both..."

That Gateway will somehow help with transit is one of those ideas that keeps getting repeated but there seems to be no evidence to support it.

There have been some vague promises about bus service on the twinned Port Mann bridge in the far distant future but there have been NO specific plans on incorporating transit into the Gateway project.

In fact, transit projects keep getting delayed and reduced due to funding cuts. If the funding that is planned for the Gateway project could be used by transit we might be able to meet the original targets for bus and rail expansion in the lower mainland.

Transit is a much more efficient way to move people in urban and suburban environments. But currently
people are choosing to drive single occupancy vehicles because our buses and skytrains are overcrowded. An investment in transit could provide immediate congestion relief.

Common sense dictates that the twinned Port Mann will indeed be good for transit. There has not been a bus cross there for more than twenty years!

The six-mile stretch of congestion along Highway 1 every morning even discourages people driving from Abbotsford and Chilliwack from using SkyTrain, as they can't access 160th quickly enough to get to a Park and Ride.

Has Gateway made specific promises about what transit service will occur? No. They can't, because transit service isn't in their jurisdiction. That's up to TransLink. But the TransLink planners I have talked with are looking forward to running express buses across the new Port Mann to Baird Station and other locations, knowing they will be able to stick to a schedule.

The Gateway planners have even included space for a light rail line, which most Valley communities, including my own, would love to see sooner than later. No new bridge: no space for that line.

I haven't even mentioned the cycle or HOV lanes--or tolling--all of which will help move people out of single-occupancy vehicles.

So yes, the twinned Port Mann Bridge will be very, very good for transit. And with the Province increasing its stake in TransLink, I am confident they will be looking for transit projects to fund. Gateway doesn't preclude that from happening--it encourages it.

Bus service so bad, we'll look at anything

How bad is transit service south of the Fraser River? It's so bad that most of us are willing to give the TransLink reorganization a chance.

The Surrey Leader reports on the province's legislation to revamp the transit authority. The day-to-day operations of the organization will be carried out by a nine-member professional board. Folks will be appointed to that board after being screened by another group of five people--a municipal representative selected by area mayors, the Minister of Transportation, the Vancouver Board of Trade, the Greater Vancouver Gateway Society, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC.

So those five gorups will each name three candidates, and forward those fifteen names to regional Mayors. The Mayors will then pick nine members from that shortlist to be on the TransLink Board.

On the bright side, this gives the Province a huge stake in TransLink's success or failure, and will likely open the door to more money for important items like the Evergreen Line (which Get Moving BC believes should be funded by the Province). On the down side, it does mean the TransLink Board is still unelected.

The new board will take over Jan. 1, 2008. The area's Mayors will have the final say on all strategic plans and any tax increases.

The present transit situation in Surrey, Langley, Delta, and White Rock is terrible. This has led many of the people I have spoken with to give the new TransLink model a chance. "It can't get any worse," is a comment I have often heard.