Eric Doherty: Good jobs and climate stability hinge on transit decisions

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      Even if there is a “yes” vote in the Metro Vancouver transit referendum much more will have to be done to reduce carbon pollution from transportation. The good news is that improving transit will create good jobs right here in B.C.

      Road transportation in Metro Vancouver is responsible for more than five million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution, more than half of the region’s total. Global warming and ocean acidification are both caused by burning too much oil and other fossil fuels.

      Interior communities in B.C. are already losing hundreds of jobs because of trees killed by the pine beetle, which is directly linked to rising temperatures. Sea water in B.C. is already so acidic that oysters often cannot reproduce. The biggest threat to livelihoods in B.C. is now carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels.

      A “yes” vote would be a significant step forward in terms of doing our part to reduce carbon pollution. It would also mean less sprawl onto farmland and therefore more food security at a time when drought in California farming areas has become the new normal due to global warming.

      The plan being voted on projects a stabilization of carbon pollution from transportation despite rapid population growth. However, we can do much better as there is considerable flexibility in the plan to enhance both pollution reduction and job creation.

      Numerous studies show that improving public transit is a better job creator than building new and wider roads, and the same or lower overall transportation expenditure can produce more employment. For example, the B.C. Treasury Board estimates that a $1 million transit expenditure creates 21.4 jobs in B.C., compared to 7.5 jobs for the same automotive expense and only 4.5 jobs in oil and gas.

      Using much of the $200 million allocated in the plan to Major Road Network capital to create bus lanes and improve safety for pedestrians would have employment, health, and environmental benefits. This choice is largely up to the municipalities where TransLink’s “major roads” are located, so residents can influence these decisions in their own communities.

      In Metro Vancouver, people spend about $9 billion every year to buy and operate private automobiles, including fuel costs. Even a small portion of this redirected to things such as restaurant meals would have a substantial positive effect on regional employment. The opportunity for people to work less with lower personal transportation expenses is also an important social and economic benefit to consider. A transportation system that forces people to work excessive hours in order to pay for cars and fuel to get to work is no recipe for sustainable prosperity or a healthy society.

      We also have the opportunity to create good jobs by changing how our buses are powered, by expanding the trolley bus network. Spending on fossil fuels, such as diesel fuel, has among the worst jobs return of any sector. In contrast, renewable electricity is one of the better ways of creating jobs. And those jobs would mainly be here in B.C., which has very good renewable electricity potential.

      Building new bridges and roads is a huge expense. In contrast, good maintenance and refurbishment of existing infrastructure produces more jobs, and those jobs are more likely to go to people who live in the region. Lower Mainland residents can also influence provincial priorities for the better, such as by pushing for better transit and improved highway maintenance instead of the multi-billion-dollar freeway bridge slated to replace the Massey Tunnel.

      Younger people have shown that they are not very interested in jobs in the fossil fuel sector, in part because of ethical considerations around climate change. Everyone wants to be able to make a living doing something they feel good about, and governments have the opportunity to create many more good jobs people can feel proud of by making the right decisions about transportation infrastructure. But this won’t happen without vigorous and ongoing public involvement, which is even more important than a “yes” vote in the transit referendum.




      Apr 23, 2015 at 4:20pm

      Update: Yesterday, Industry Minister James Moore indicated that the new federal 'transit fund' could be used to build roads and bridges, such as the proposed new Bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel. So a Yes vote sets up a competition between transit and roads, but with transit having the head start of a popular vote and approved funding from the region. A No vote could mean that BC's federal transit money goes to a freeway bridge designed so coal ships and bigger oil tankers can get into the lower Fraser River.


      Apr 23, 2015 at 4:38pm

      Awesome. 'No' vote all the way. I love coal ships and oil tankers. I guess if we see oil tankers in the Fraser River, I guess we can say 'so long to recycling'. Thank god.

      Evil Eye

      Apr 24, 2015 at 8:06am

      A YES vote will mean the same expensive and user unfriendly transit service that we all have become to expect and love with TransLink.

      A YES vote will mean vanity transit projects will hold sway in the region, while the potential transit customers flee to the car because of the inept operation so favoured by regional mayors.

      A YES vote will mean more and bigger freeways to operate TransLink's version of BRT, which will make the Road builders Association happy.

      A YES vote will mean higher fares, but more deep discounted "specialty" fares for politically correct groups to pretend the buses and SkyTrain are at capacity.

      A YES vote will mean huge tax increases to complete political vanity projects and increased bonuses for TransLink's high paid career bureaucrats.

      A YES vote will mean the status quo of financial flim-flam; dealings with questionable engineering firms and maybe more $million dollar$ filled suitcases to be left in various parks around the city.

      @Eric Doherty

      Apr 24, 2015 at 10:30am

      Sure, in the unlikely chance that you allow this comment: can you kindly provide us with your calculations showing how transit buses which are empty about 80% to 100% of the time reduce carbon pollution? What is the reason for the empty transit buses during off peak hours, to reduce road congestion or to provide transport to freeloaders paying 30% of the cost of their ride on transit? I'm not questioning your assertion that carbon emitting buses reduce carbon emissions more than electric vehicles and cycling, I just need the numbers to verify your specious claims.

      If you believe that building roads creates extra road space to in turn add cars to the roads, then you must also concede that putting people on buses creates extra road space to in turn add cars to the roads. Correct? In other words, the paradox (I always tell lies, for example) is that transit has no effect road congestion: as shown by research. Maybe, you don’t like the truth, but hey, it is what it is.

      Have some character, Mr. Doherty. Admit that you might be just a tad delusional. I do support transit; however, the farce that transit reduces road congestion and carbon emissions for you and every loon out there to push his or her agenda is tiresome. I do like the trolleybus picture in your article, but as you know, 80% to 100% of the bus service here is carbon emitting diesel bus service with few riders on board, most of the time. Get it through your head: hub to hub transit is no alternative to point to point transport (driving).


      Apr 24, 2015 at 8:23pm

      The writing smacks of a shill penning propaganda, which is pretty much the "yes" campaign over the last six weeks. Not only will a "yes" vote move us towards Transit Utopia 2030 it will create more jobs! Oh and it will help save the earth. The only thing we know for sure about where the money from a "yes" vote will go are bonuses & salary increases for bureaucrats & executives in addition to an entire department to handle all the new projects. That will blow more than $1 million and the waste will continue.

      Apparently there are people who not only accept the mismanagement of Translink but they demand that we all accept the incompetence. It is mind boggling: at least those who attempt to use Translink's own data or commissioned studies to declare they are "the best in North America" or very efficiently run are merely endorsing creative accounting & meaningless studies. Accepting and endorsing incompetence shows just how dangerous the fantasy that "everyone is special" has become. It is important to discriminate against incompetence when we are the ones paying for it.

      The threats, promises, doomsday scenarios and rosy projections are meaningless and will not sway thinking voters. If this is such a vital need then let the Mayors and the Translink minions make us an offer we won't refuse. The Mayor's are the ones who are pursuing growth policies that demand more spending on Transit: why is that policy set in stone? Why must we vote to spend more everyday to service an already mismanaged system? Why is this impending doomsday so close at hand that if we don't act now everything will be lost?

      The "yes" propaganda campaign has been well funded, far better funding than the "no" side could dream of. The "yes" side has mobile billboards all over the lower mainland, ironically costing themselves advertising revenue in order to tell us they need more money. The "yes" side has the support of a range of special interests and political machines, such a diverse range that their eagerness makes their shared cause even more suspect.

      This is a rare chance for us to tell government that are not paying more taxes. It is too easy to increase taxes and survive electorally, it is too common that incompetent public bureaucracies are allowed to continue cutting services even as their budgets increase. Promises are meaningless until the incompetence is ousted.


      Apr 25, 2015 at 10:54am

      An anonymous commenter above says: "putting people on buses creates extra road space to in turn add cars to the roads"

      No, improved transit makes more efficient use of existing road space. The best way to improve transit and reduce carbon pollution is to create transit lanes from existing road space. This gives people the choice of avoiding congestion by riding transit. A trip to the public library is worthwhile if you want to learn more

      As for expanding the electric trolley bus network, it will only happen with strong public support. There flexibility in the plan, and if there is a Yes vote and sufficient pressure we will see an expanded trolley network.

      PS. The No side may win this referendum, but things are shifting very rapidly as people recognize that the climate crisis is here and now. Expect the unexpected.

      @Eric Doherty

      Apr 25, 2015 at 1:55pm

      I'm not interested in a debate about whether extra road space adds or does not add more cars - credible research shows that transit has no effect on road congestion and you can keep your transit industry propaganda crap about polluting transit being environmentally sustainable to yourself. Unless coercive measures are in place to force drivers onto transit, most drivers will not use it.

      Now, let's not bicker. I want to see better transit and you want to see better transit. If we continue to fund the crooks (scum) using transit to get rich, we're all screwed. About 10% of the commuters use transit (whole population in Lower Mainland) and about 90% of the TransLink operating budget is used for expensive transit infrastructure (subway and the like). This is not the recipe for success.

      Build some more bridges with the money and cut costs for transit with LRT having stops every 300 m to 400 m to get the far too many feeder buses hampering traffic off the roads. You want to get somewhere fast in Vancouver?

      Drive where there are no bus routes screwing up the traffic (West 12th Avenue rather than Broadway with three damn bus routes, and all are carrying few riders, now while UBC is out for the summer). Can't TransLink just run one bus route on Broadway to rationalize service? I mean, three bus routes on Broadway, all starving for passengers most of the time, WTF? Thanks for having the character to post my last comment and maybe this one. I'm actually on your side, believe it or not, and just want the corruption to end at TransLink so that we can move forward.

      Vern Shein

      Apr 25, 2015 at 6:45pm

      "Younger people have shown that they are not very interested in jobs in the fossil fuel sector, in part because of ethical considerations around climate change.".

      Fine, they can get me my double espresso but don't whine about not being able to afford to buy a home.

      Richard Campbell

      Apr 26, 2015 at 6:20pm


      Haven't seen the news for the last few months?

      The price of fossil fuels has tanked. Huge job losses in Alberta and the government is running a huge deficit. Meanwhile BC and Ontario are leading the country in economic growth.

      Pretty obvious that the Chinese are going to reduce their fossil fuel use. Spending trillions of dollars to buy our dirty oil and coal is obviously a poor idea.