George Heyman: Lower Mainland transit stuck in B.C. Liberals’ policy gridlock

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      Since early 2013 the B.C. Liberal government has cynically delayed taking action to address Metro Vancouver’s transit needs.

      Today, Transportation Minister Todd Stone is touting the economic and lifestyle benefits of the Evergreen Line. Yet in reality, this project was almost derailed when Premier Christy Clark tried to undercut the funding agreement that then–Minister Blair Lekstrom had reached with Metro mayors.

      Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberal government’s irresponsible plans for a referendum on transit funding are delaying any real action on the pressing needs south of the Fraser in fast-growing communities like Surrey and Langley, along the Broadway corridor, or for our underfunded bus system.

      This is not simply a question of whether or not we will spend money on transit, it is a question of what our region will look like if we don’t. Traffic congestion costs taxpayers by requiring additional road maintenance and construction to meet needs that could be alleviated by accessible and timely transit options. It costs us in quality of life through time idled away in backed-up traffic rather than being home with family members and friends.

      And congestion damages our provincial economy when goods and services cannot move freely around the region and to our ports. Estimates of this congestion cost run as high as $1.5 billion per year.

      It’s bad governance, as well as cynical politics, to risk the economic future of our region by miring it in endless transit policy gridlock.

      Our regional population will grow by a million people over the next 30 years. Yet without new funding, in 2014 TransLink is planning no new infrastructure projects, and rolling back a planned 306,000-hour expansion of bus service. Faced with growing demand, this amounts to transit cutback. TransLink projects that per-capita service will steadily decline to 2004 levels by 2020.

      Already, the funding gridlock created by the Clark Liberals has meant that the struggle to meet demand in growing areas has come at the expense of other routes, while people with limited mobility who depend on HandyDART have seen a seven-fold increase in service denials over the past three years.

      So Metro residents suffer through longer waits, more transit crowding, and even greater road congestion. The resulting lost productivity and delays for commercial transport mean increased economic loss.

      With less than 11 months to go until the November municipal elections—and the government’s transit funding referendum—the premier and the transportation minister can’t agree on the question to be asked, or even the form of the question. The issues are complex and regional voters deserve an informed discussion of this critical issue beginning today—not more months of waiting while government representatives try to agree on a plan.

      It’s time for Minister Stone to stop crowing about one overdue transit project, and start co-operating with the mayors in a meaningful way to build a solid, integrated transportation system in line with our regional plans. It’s time he stood up for the needs of Metro Vancouver’s people.



      bob johnson

      Jan 13, 2014 at 8:59am

      Increase funding for public transit by immediately installing a toll system on ALL major bridges/tunnel......say $1 each way. A much fairer system than only tolling the Port Mann and the result would put balance back in traffic patterns and funding.


      Jan 13, 2014 at 11:04am

      Read their terrible budget. $400 million for ICBC "business restructuring". $6.2 Billion for BC Hydro to build more dams and speculate up a storm, selling the power to the US while jacking up our rates. Billions in LNG development that is pure speculation. Carbon Tax is pointless, it's "revenue neutral" so huge corporations just get a tax break instead of pouring it into transit like other states/countries do. So we have a gigantic inflated provincial branch of technocrats all making salaries in order to process tax refunds. Stop hiring endless PR managers and lawyers. Stop paying the CEOs of BC Ferries and ICBC mutli millions to run a zero risk company since they have monopolies.


      Jan 13, 2014 at 2:39pm

      This is classic neo-liberal tactics. I think there's even a chapter in the playbook titled: "privatization through atrophy of public services". It's the same thing that is happening with healthcare and education in BC. Simply starve a public system's resources so that it's no longer an attractive option for the public and the people start to look for other/private options. Transit is the first and most obvious instance of this, but there's more to come for sure.


      Jan 13, 2014 at 3:06pm

      I agree that transit needs a plan right now. No more consultation. We haven't got time. Municipal governments know right now where the population growth will be in the decade ahead. This government's addiction to roads has seen the delaying of the building of the Evergreen line in favour of billions spent on roads and on the Port Mann bridge construction. Now that the tolls have gone up, the Pattullo Bridge is busier than ever. Wasn't the Port Mann supposed to take pressure off the Pattullo. Rapid, public transit is the best way to get people out of cars.


      Jan 13, 2014 at 7:15pm

      Translink was created by the NDP to make the budget look good. They created a bureaucracy with few options for raising revenue and saddled the corporation with millions in debt knowing full well that they left behind a time bomb for the Liberals. The Liberals took their turn to continue the mismanagement of Translink, allowing bureaucrats to over-spend on managers, studies and everything except providing services. The NDP abandoned a stupid baby and the Liberals kept giving it money.

      Lee L

      Jan 14, 2014 at 1:34am

      BOb Johnson said :>>>
      "Increase funding for public transit by immediately installing a toll system on ALL major bridges/tunnel......say $1 each way. A much fairer system than only tolling the Port Mann and the result would put balance back in traffic patterns and funding."

      So let me be sure I have this right. You GOUGE the people who are not using transit to pay for the transit they dont use, as that is fairer than... than what? Fairer than getting the developers and buyers of 'transit village' condos in the areas where growth and densification is occurring to pay for it so they can leave the area? Fairer than charging people who ride it a fair fare?

      Odds Bodkin

      Jan 15, 2014 at 1:19pm

      Totally agree, George. But shouldn't you and your party been saying this BEFORE the last provincial election? If your party's policy before the election (and I voted for you), was NO policy and you lost, build up credibility first before making and writing what seem to me ex cathedra pieces. What makes you think the folks of the lower mainland are NOW astute enough to understand the validity and importance of these issues? I'll leave it at that.