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Greater Victoria, BC News

ARTICLE

Date ArticleType
10/5/2017 Published Article
How Many Roads Must We Walk Down?

“…and, of course, all of this would be easier if there was only one local government…” is a comment I hear at almost every meeting I’m at. How many times has it been said in this region? It has become our anthem.

Harmonizing with our chorale, the Capital Integrated Services and Governance Initiative Report by the Province has provided a full explanation of why. It is an exhaustive and exhausting description, of the crazy world we live in when it comes to local government services.

It tackles 16 services and describes each thoroughly by municipality including what the service is, what parts are shared with other governments, the different ways it’s delivered, what it costs per capita, how decisions are made and who pays. The authors could not identify a single municipal service that is provided the same way for the same cost across this region. This is the best evidence we have ever had that we need better governance through fewer governments.

The report authors surveyed stakeholders to identify what makes them the most frustrated. Transportation rates pretty high and nearly a third chose it as the one service that would most benefit from an integrated approach.

Respondents ranked the 16 services on the following:
      • Most important local government service: Transportation is second after Water.
      • Level of satisfaction with current service delivery: Transportation is 16th (i.e. dead last)
      • Best opportunity to improve the service through integration: Transportation is third
      • Best opportunity to improve the service through standardization: Transportation is third
Why is it everyone but local governments see that transportation is obviously regional. As the report states, “Communities within the CRD are experiencing significant growing demands and changing needs in regards to transportation services. A high-level of coordination at the regional level is required to advance many of the required regional transportation initiatives. Currently, the region does not have a regional transportation authority, so local governments, the CRD and the Province coordinate with each other on an ad-hoc basis.”

If we had a transportation authority or commission we would have a way to make better choices: Is it more important to build a dedicated bus lane from downtown to the Westshore so the bus can go faster than the car or to build another road connector so more cars can go from the Sooke Road to the TransCanada Highway? Is it better to have 13 communities each with their own bike lane projects ranging from 0.6 km in Sidney to 49 km in Saanich or a regional bike lane network with design standards and connections and an expansion plan? Should each local government decide unilaterally to change major arteries of traffic to increase/restrict flow or should there be a designated major road network that is funded and maintained regionally so traffic is managed?

The transformational change we need is a Greater Victoria Regional Transportation Commission with a mandate to provide a regional system of roads, bridges, parking, bus lanes, bike lanes, rail, water and any other mode that makes sense – running as an interconnected system. It needs good governance, which means decisive decision-making authority in the interests of the region, transcending local government. It needs operating responsibility and the ability to contract with the best operator available - whether public or private. It needs adequate revenue and the 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.

Next time you’re stuck in traffic, take a read of the Capital Integrated Services and Governance Initiative report because there is a better route.

Catherine Holt is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. 250-383-7191, CEO@victoriachamber.ca, www.victoriachamber.ca

Published in Business Examiner (Victoria) October edition.

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