B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon claims Gateway critic misses the mark

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      B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon continues to defend the Gateway Program’s $4-billion price tag against criticism that it is not money well-spent.

      On January 17, Eric Doherty, a director at the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, told the Georgia Straight that Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell’s announcement of a transit plan requiring $11.1 billion in new funding “eliminates the rationale” for the highway expansion and planned twinning of the Port Mann Bridge that are big components of Gateway.

      “He has been saying a variation of that message for a long time,” Falcon said by phone on January 17. “He would be wrong about that again. As Eric keeps forgetting, we want to have transit over that corridor and we want to have transit that works over that corridor. But he also keeps ignoring the fact that this is the most important commercial-goods–movement corridor in the province of British Columbia.”

      Falcon and Doherty have participated in a back-and-forth debate since the first announcement of Gateway in 2004. Doherty, a member of the Livable Region Coalition, is also completing a master’s degree in community and regional planning at UBC. Falcon sarcastically referred to Doherty as “one of my biggest supporters”.

      “He always talks about transit, but he has never addressed the fact that you cannot put container trucks on top of buses,” Falcon added. “So it has got to be dealt with, and I guess he disagrees with me on that. We are just going to continue to have to have an honest discussion and an honest disagreement, but we are going forward with it [Gateway].”

      The Straight pressed the minister on Doherty’s point that cancelling Gateway would save B.C. taxpayers $4 billion.

      “Remember, first off, the taxpayer is not paying that [Gateway costs]; it is going to be paid through user fees,” Falcon claimed. “So the people who use it will pay. Every economist will tell you that is one way you drive people to public transit: by charging them for the use of infrastructure like that. Which is what we are doing. So we are striking a balance, and I think it is the right balance.”

      According to the Transportation Ministry’s Web site (www.th.gov.bc.ca/gateway/ ), drivers crossing the Port Mann Bridge will pay a toll of about $3 when that portion of the project is completed in 2013. A three-zone commute to Vancouver on public transit now costs $5 per trip.

      Responding to Falcon’s claims, Doherty said there is “only one pocketbook”.

      “If you are taking people’s fees—whether it’s transit fares, taxes, or tolls—it is all coming out of our pockets,” he said. “And the money from tolls could be going to transit, or we could decide not to have tolls. That is public money. I think it is a very important point in a democracy to have public officials seeing public money as precious—regardless of whether it is coming from tolls, transit fares, or taxes.”

      Maureen Bader, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation—which advocates for lower taxes, less waste, and accountable government—poured cold water on Doherty’s argument.

      “I disagree with him,” she said by phone. “Gateway is something that has been long on the drawing board and is way overdue.”

      Bader said the CTF has also taken a strong position against the B.C. Liberals’ transit announcement, arguing that it relies too much on “Cadillac” fixed rapid transit and not enough on rapid bus and other services that could deal with rush-hour traffic on busy highways and arteries in a less costly and more flexible manner.

      “It is a poorly thought-out way of spending $11 billion,” Bader said. “A fixed transit system is a waste of money. Why do we need a massive Cadillac transit system for use at clearly identified times of the day?”

      Doherty said citizens will decide ahead of the May 2009 provincial election.

      “If things go according to plan, that is when the shovels go into the ground [for Gateway],” Doherty said. “I think he [Falcon] could be dealing with blockades and tree-sits during the election in 2009, just like we are seeing right now at Bear Mountain in Langford [near Victoria].”¦It definitely will [be an issue] if the price of oil keeps going up. I think it is going to anyway, but given the new reality, that we are no longer living in the cheap-oil age and we can no longer ignore climate change, it just multiplies the reasons for not going with the 1950s freeway model.”

      Falcon said he is ready to respond come election time if anyone questions his spending of $4 billion on Gateway.

      “That would be the easiest response in the world,” he said. “I’d say it was because I am also trying to make sure that I respect Vancouver’s economy and make sure that it continues to grow, so that we have got an economic foundation that is going to continue to provide revenues to pay for our health care and education system, and all the other spending that people want to see.”

      Comments

      6 Comments

      Grumpy

      Jan 24, 2008 at 9:44am

      And what does Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon know about transit and transportation? .............. Nada! He carries on a grand BC tradition of greatly inept politicians, masquerading as Transportation Ministers, who continue with 'rubber on asphalt' transportation planning, which keeps the political pals, the 'Road Builders Association' and Trucking lobby very happy.

      Gateway is a massive subsidy to the trucking industry, and to road builders. Gateway is a cumulation of 27 years of extremely bad regional transit planning based on the obsolete SkyTrain light-metro. the Failure of SkyTrain has led directly to Gateway.

      The Premier's 'back-of-an-envelope' transit plans is hugely expensive for what little it will do. Another hugely expensive subway for Vancouver, despite the fact that subways are very poor in attracting new ridership and RapidBus, again mode that has proven poor in attracting new ridership.

      Who builds with subways? (And please don't use Hong Kong or London as examples, as their populations equal that of Canada West of the lake-head!)

      Who builds with RapidBus? Where has RapidBus worked?

      Gateway is needed because of the grand failure of BC Transit's & TransLinks transit planning, another massive 'Gateway' roads and highways project will be needed to cater to the effects of Campbell's & Falcon's dated and inept transit plans.

      It is obvious that "Had you had enough yet" Kevin Falcon hasn't even read a book about public transport, let alone understand the subject of transportation. Mind you he is in good company in BC!

      Gateway and Campbell's & Falcons transit plans are intertwined and like the 'blind leading the blind', will end in a massive financial disaster.

      Falcon and Campbell need not worry, because they have a huge financial lifeboat, in the guise of MLA's pensions, to keep them afloat, where the average taxpayer will be suckered with massive property tax hikes to fund 'pie in the sky' transit planning that will force many to take the car!

      Falcon is a puppet, doing his master's (Campbell) bidding and in turn Campbell is a puppet doing his master's (the corporate elites) bidding. Such is BC, ever was and ever will be, a corrupt little place in the world, where very small politicians pretend they are something important. In reality the world see them as they are, ignorant nobodies!

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      RickW

      Jan 24, 2008 at 3:17pm

      RickW
      “Remember, first off, the taxpayer is not paying that [Gateway costs]; it is going to be paid through user fees,” Falcon claimed. “So the people who use it will pay. Every economist will tell you that is one way you drive people to public transit: by charging them for the use of infrastructure like that..."

      But the Province (that would be us!) is putting up the principal, on which there are very large interest charges. Will all this be paid for with tolls? I somehow doubt it. And, if tolls drive people to transit, is that tantamount to Falcon ensuring there WILL BE TRANSIT for people to be driven to.....? I somehow doubt it, as most commuters today would be more than happy to take public transit, were it convenient.

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      NicS

      Jan 24, 2008 at 11:33pm

      It is interesting to hear Mr. Falcon say that we need more freight, container transportation infrastructure here on the West Coast. It is all predicated on this percieved Global supply chain of cheap and not so cheap Asian goods and everybody buys the idea because we all buy something, from China in particular, every week or even every day!

      Show us a study done by an independant group that shows that Globalization in Asia means we need more transportation (port) infrastructure. Sure the Federal Gov't says we need more infrastructure, but where is the proof? Talk to the Delta group, www.AgainstPortExpansion.com. They'll tell you that the expansions of the Delta Port and other port facilities in Vancouver is not currently needed, not even in the near future.

      The announcement of the expansion of Delta Port was made before the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund bought the Company that runs Delta Port, which by the way was a Chinese Company. As soon as the expansion was announced the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund bought the Delta Port Operations company. So there is even an argument to be made that they needed the expansion to make the sale.

      With the world markets the way they were this past week and oil prices staying steady at $90+, rationing of diesel and coal in China and abroad for the past 3 months, our Minister of Transportion, Kevin Falcon is completely out of touch with what Vancouver and Canada needs. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we need more freight/container infrastructure like we need a hole in our heads.

      Kevin Falcon needs to take a course in Governance 101, ya don't ruin a city like Metro Vancouver by turning it into a Transportion Hub for North America, especially when Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles are all doing the same thing! Besides didn't his boss Gordon Campbell say he wanted British Columbia to become the greenest city around. These guys really need to get their priorities straight. Because if they don't, we the people will be paying for some pretty big white elephants for a long time to come.

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      Grumpy

      Jan 26, 2008 at 8:56am

      Falcon's grand transportation plans are dated and proven poor in attracting ridership, unfortunately the blame for 'Gateway' goes back to the Socred's, when they forced the proprietary SkyTrain light-metro on the region.

      In one fell swoop, SkyTrain made public transit uneconomic and for many a poor consumer choice. The philosophy behind SkyTrain is a simpleton's philosophy: a hugely expensive metro running on a 'spinal route', being fed by buses. For many, to use transit, one must take a bus to SkyTrain and then transfer onto another bus to finish ones travel. This has made transit inconvenient for vast numbers of potential customers and taking the car is just easier. Because the cost of SkyTrain is so vast, it has created the myth that there is no density in the Fraser Valley for 'rail' transit.

      For 28 years the region has floundered with uneconomic and unrealistic transit planning, by less than stellar transit planners based on the obsolete SkyTrain model. During the same period the population in the Fraser Valley has increased dramatically, but there has been little transit investment, why?

      Simply, SkyTrain is being subsidized by over $200 million annually and $200 million could buy a lot of transit improvements on an annual basis.

      So, the Fraser Valley, is left with no transit alternative but roads, highways, and bridges; so was born 'Gateway'.

      Because it seems to be illegal to plan for modern light rail and its proven philosophy of taking the customer from where he lives to where he wants to go, without transfer, the region is left without any viable 'rail' alternative. The result: Build more roads!

      Since Falcon is so utterly ignorant of modern public transit & transport philosophy, he rejects modern an proven transit options such as modern LRT, in favour of hugely expensive subways for Vancouver, yet subways have proven poor in attracting new ridership, and 'RapidBus' which is very expensive for what it does.

      Why is Vancouver getting subways, while the rest of the 'Metro' region get crumbs?

      Who builds with SkyTrain?

      Just where has RapidBus worked?

      Why hasn't anyone copied Vancouver's B-Line express buses?

      Campbell and Falcon has forced almost $20 billion worth of roads & transit projects on the region, without any public debate, creating massive public debt (For god's sake where is his brother, CORUS or the Asper press on this??), which will burden future generations with largely obsolete transit system, which will be of little use.

      Any fool can spend $20 billion on transit and transportation projects, a genius would only spend $5 billion for the same results. Falcon, Campbell and the TransLink gang are certainly no geniuses!

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      Al

      Jul 10, 2013 at 4:51pm

      I think that as much as we need better transit in metro Vancouver I do think that the gateway project is necessary to boost trade. we have to hope that the farmland will stay there in spite of gateway,s impact and we continue to eat local as much as we can.

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      ALEX

      Oct 27, 2013 at 6:40pm

      While Mr. falcon did wreck our farmland with the south Fraser perimeter road at least we can say he resigned gracefully for his dirty work of freeways over transit in august 2012 in the long run well see the affects of climate change and ask ourselves why we didn't change when we had the chance

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