Educating Todd Stone, the new minister of transportation and infrastructure

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      Most British Columbians probably read this headline and said to themselves: "Todd who?"

      But those who pay attention to B.C. politics know that Todd Stone, the rookie B.C. Liberal MLA for Kamloops–South Thompson, has been catapulted into one of the most important positions in cabinet.

      As the new minister of transportation and infrastructure, Stone oversees not only transportation planning and highway construction and maintenance, but he's also the minister responsible for ICBC, B.C. Transit, the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority, and the Crown corporation that operates the convention centre and B.C. Place.

      These are heady times for the 40-year-old software entrepreneur.

      Stone is going to be bombarded by lobbyists representing companies and industry associations that want him to approve new roads, bridges, and rapid-transit projects.

      Port Metro Vancouver will put pressure on him to replace the George Massey Tunnel with a new Fraser River crossing.

      He's in a position to advance several billion dollars worth of spending to the Treasury Board, even though he doesn't have a great deal of experience dealing with the transportation intricacies of Lower Mainland municipalities.

      However, he has been on the board of ICBC, so he isn't entirely new to the topic.

      One thing Stone probably already realizes is that young people are not driving as much as previous generations, particularly in urban areas.

      ICBC stats show that among those 18 to 24 years old, only 69 percent had a licence in 2011, compared to 79 percent in 1994.

      As a share of the modal split, motor-vehicle trips to UBC's Point Grey campus have dropped from 77 percent in 1997 to 43 percent by 2011.

      Meanwhile, Golden Ears Bridge tolls accounted for three percent of TransLink's revenue in 2012, thanks to 10.8 million crossings. Toll revenues were up 15.1 percent over 2011, partly as a result of TransLink making changes to make use of the Port Mann Bridge identification technology.

      But if traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge goes up, some of that likely comes from motorists trying to avoid the Port Mann Bridge toll. And if tolls are flowing into TransLink coffers rather than to the provincial government, this should be a concern for Stone.

      Speaking more broadly, vehicular traffic is declining in many areas of North America.

      The Seattle-based Sightline Institute's series, "Dude, Where Are My Cars", recently reported that in Washington state, road use fell 0.8 percent in 2012.

      The Washington State Department of Transportation has concluded that traffic in the state is slightly below what it was in 2002.

      "The flat-lining of traffic is due not to one single factor, but to many," Sightline's Clark Williams-Derry wrote. "Higher fuel prices are discouraging driving. Baby boomers have aged past their peak driving years. The 'millennial' generation is driving less. Mobile and internet technologies make transit more convenient and rewarding. And the popularity of compact neighborhoods lets more people live in places where they don’t need to drive much."

      Of course, as Williams-Derry pointed out, traffic will increase if more roadspace is added.

      Meanwhile, the website Walk Score is making it easier for people to discover how many amenities are in walking distance of any neighbourhood in Canada or the United States.

      Kitsilano, for instance, is described as a walker's paradise with a Walk Score of 93. Surrey Cloverdale gets a rating of 70 and is considered "very walkable". Port Coquitlam, on the other hand, only gets a Walk Score of 47, earning the descriptor "car-dependent".

      Toronto urban-design consultant Ken Greenberg told CBC's Michael Enright on the weekend that young people are increasingly relying on the Walk Score site to choose where to live. And it's transforming the real-estate industry.

      Walking is also good for people's health. As the province tries to curb health-care costs, let's hope that the new minister of transportation and infrastructure recognizes how he can enhance public health.

      For instance, we’re seeing a growing body of research using Walk Score data to study the relationship between where people live and health outcomes.

      "For example, public health departments are using Walk Score data to study the link between sprawl and diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular issues," Matt Lerner, Walk Score's chief technology officer, wrote on the site. "One of my favorite research studies involves giving GPS devices to participants to calculate a 'personal Walk Score' based on the places a person goes throughout the day. Cities are using Walk Score ChoiceMaps to measure how many residents can walk to fresh food or parks."

      UBC professor Larry Frank has been a North American leader in analyzing the links between transportation, walking, and public health. He's involved in a major project looking at the relationship between changing travel patterns, physical activity, nutrition, and cardiovascular-disease factors.

      Stone and the new health minister, Terry Lake, would be wise to read his research.

      Stone should also read and understand what transportation planning consultant Eric Doherty wrote in the Georgia Straight earlier this year about the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel.

      And the new minister would benefit from visiting SFU to hear what former Vancouver councillor Gordon Price has to say.

      If Stone does all of this and pays attention to transportation trends, he has an opportunity to become an outstanding minister of transportation and infrastructure. We haven't had one of those in a very long time.

      Comments

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      7 Comments

      peekay

      Jun 10, 2013 at 3:43pm

      I'm sure he will have the good sense to ignore anything Eric Doherty has to say.

      Shepsil

      Jun 11, 2013 at 12:00pm

      In response to "Mike". His link has the following Quote:

      <a href="http://flowalking.com/2013/05/what-does-walk-score-mean-the-surprising-r..., those people who want to walk to enjoy the great outdoors cannot rely on Walk Score. Walk Score is useful for those people who do not own a vehicle or who desire to walk to amenities (even if in some cases they need to carry a can of mace or even a 9mm)".</a>

      Clearly the author is resentful of having to live in a gated community due to his fear of real communities and that he would rather our working class communities were gated so that he could roam the countryside unimpeded by the results of his conservative political values.

      poppavox

      Jun 12, 2013 at 1:02am

      Run dont walk.
      In 2009 Global announced Vancouver has the highest property crime rate in NA, 4 times higher than NYC.
      2010 won the most gangs per capita than any other place on the planet.
      2011 hit a new child poverty record.
      Its doubtful it'll be safe to run by 2020, walking, lol only with a squad of airborne at your back.
      I have to wonder if statscan cooked the crime stats bringing down the crime rate to make it appear the streets are safe.
      Run don't walk

      pseb

      Jun 12, 2013 at 11:02pm

      . . . not to mention BC Ferries . . . eh?

      Reine Bruhn

      Nov 19, 2013 at 5:28pm

      This is a message to Minister Todd Stone,
      I hope that you will look into the ferry fiasco, what I mean by that is there seems to be a clear lack of common sense with the cost increasing and schedule's declining. The most responsible thing to do, would be to take a close look at the consumption rates in fuel that the ferries use, the biggest problem is they are run by 2 cycle diesel engines. I have not come across to many that are 4 cycle which use 50% or less. Would it not be smart to replace these inefficient and outdated engines, with new fuel efficient ones? It makes no sense to keep using them at the cost to the environment, fuel being consumed. The new engines would cost less in the long run, plus being good for the environment and especially the fuel costs, since they are continually going up in price. Do you not think, that it's high time we should have responsible government?

      anonymous

      Aug 16, 2014 at 10:00pm

      BC child poverty double in a decade.
      You need investment, who would invest in management that doubled child poverty with 90% of child support paid and a top G8 economy, in a decade?