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Greater Victoria, BC News

ARTICLE

Date ArticleType
4/8/2017 Published Article
We Need a Regional Transportation Commission

Traffic is bad. Travel times, congestion and parking are getting worse.
It’s a problem faced by every growing city in the world. Those that manage traffic well, stay liveable.
Right now, every one of our municipalities does its best to manage transportation within its borders. But no one has responsibility for managing transportation for the region.
If we manage transportation we can create a sensible future. For example, TransLink in Metro Vancouver is a world leader in creating Transit-Oriented Communities.
A Sky Train station becomes the hub of the neighbourhood – not just a means to an end. People live there, work there, get their services there and can travel by transit connections throughout the region. It’s transforming major parts of the Lower Mainland.
We won’t have anything like Sky Train for a long time but we have excellent public and private bus services. We can have land use planning focused on transit hubs where people can move in and out easily and get what they need at the hub, saving time, space, money, and emissions.
As another example, along with frequent transit service, some European cities have introduced incentives for not driving or changing when you drive or what you drive. In London and Stockholm you pay to drive in the city centre and in London you pay more if you have a high emitting vehicle. This type of change takes investment in licence plate reading technology, but it starts with sophisticated transportation planning.
There is no transportation planning across our municipal boundaries.
So there is no regional priority setting or funding for important roads and bridges. The municipality where the road or bridge is located – pays for it, even if it’s critical for the region. No organization leads the development of additional modes of public transit such as water-based transit or light rail. Or how about something as simple as a bus-only lane - for public and private buses - along the provincial highway between the Westshore and downtown? Or a dedicated bus lane to the airport and ferry? If the bus goes faster than cars, it becomes an attractive alternative. No one has the mandate to build those lanes.
The BC Transportation Minister recently breathed new life into the dream of transit along the E & N rail corridor. That good news is possible because the Province is leading the planning and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission will operate any new service including parking, bus connections and a common fare system. Service on the E & N route won’t happen if it has to be paid for by the four municipalities and two First Nations it crosses.
Currently, we have two regional transportation services.
There is CRD’s recreational bike and walking trails. They’re great. You can go from Sidney to Sooke. They would be even better if they were connected to the bus system and the road network and to where people work and live.
Our bus service is regional. Thankfully, we don’t have a bus system just for Oak Bay and a separate one for Saanich and another for Westshore. How does the Victoria Regional Transit Commission do it? It has the right governance, funding, provincially-legislated mandate and expertise. So a regional service is possible – but right now it’s only for the bus.
The transformational change we need is a Greater Victoria Regional Transportation Commission. It needs a provincially legislated mandate to provide a regional system of roads and bridges, parking, bus lanes, bike lanes, rail, water and any other mode that makes sense – running as a single system. It needs good governance, which means clear decision-making authority in the interests of the region, transcending local government boundaries. It needs operating responsibility and the ability to contract with the best operator available - whether public or private. It needs adequate revenue sources. It needs expertise to plan and design long-term transportation improvements and set big goals for increased bus riders, reduced emissions, reduced number of vehicles and faster travel times.
Then we will be on the right pathway to keeping our region liveable.
Catherine Holt is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. 250-383-7191, CEO@victoriachamber.ca, www.victoriachamber.ca

Published in April 2017 Capital magazine

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