December 31, 2013

Referendum: The Posts of 2013

For those who would like to keep track of the unfolding story of the transit referendum in Price Tags, but don’t have the patience to click through the various posts, here is a chronological summary of the best ones to date:



PRICE TAGS BLOG – Posts on the Transit Referendum



June 19, 2013

TransLink Referendum: Can it win? What do we need to know?

I’ve been conducting a very informal (and too limited) poll to ascertain whether the referendum on TransLink funding options, required to go to a vote in the Metro region no later than the next civic election on November 15, 2014, has a reasonable chance of passing.

If the vote is lost, then the consequences are dire, since surely it would be suicidal for a Liberal government, with the HST still painfully fresh, to go back to British Columbians with a new, negotiated deal that involves a tax.  In other words, there is no Plan B.

So we need a very hard-headed discussion now as to whether this process is actually do-able.  If not, then why start?

The region might still at this point say to the provincial government:

This initiative is not, in our assessment, winnable, so we’re not starting.  There won’t be a ballot measure next year.  What do you want to do?

If your position is ‘No vote, no transit,’ then say that now.  We’ll be no further behind than where we would likely be on Nov 16.  And you would have to take some political responsibility for rejecting transit plans and, with it, our regional growth strategy.

If the Province then wants to consider other options, now is also the time to start discussions, before the machinery gears up, sides are taken and we’re locked into a process that could, in its worst manifestations, rip the region apart.

Or, more optimistically, if this referendum is winnable, then we need to decide that now too, since it would break a deadlock and move us forward in a way that wouldn’t be possible without public affirmation.  But we’d need to move fast, be united, and find strong leaders to make it a reality.

So you can see why it’s necessary to get a realistic sense of ‘winnability.’

Yesterday I had the chance to ask a group of knowledgeable Vancouverites on matters urban.  It was at Stantec’s Urban Development Innovation Series that brings together key industry leaders who, in many ways, shape our urban environments across public and private sectors, academia and industry.  Who better to ask?

I tried a straw poll with a question phrased as neutrally as possible: “Can a question on the ballot at the time of the next civic election that specifies taxes needed to fund transit growth in the region (with none of the above as an option) have a chance of winning a majority?

Of the group of about 50, not a single hand was raised.  None thought it had a chance.

But it’s still too early to decide.  We’ve hardly had a chance to consider how this process will work, much less all the factors that need to be weighed.  No one has yet looked at this challenge, or the process involved, in any depth.

As of June 19, there are 514 days left.



June 24, 2013

The Referendum: Mobilizing Opposition

It’s just a matter of time before the awfulness of the proposed referendum (for any new source of revenue for transit funding in the region) becomes fully apparent.  This is, despite the appeal of breaking through the impasse between region and province, not a proposition that has much chance of success.

To get a taste of the debate likely to ensue, just check out the letters in today’s Sun.  In all the three, there are either mistakes or misunderstandings – but so what?  TransLink serves as the convenient whipping boy, and few are likely to come to its defense.  The frame will be set before the wording of the initiative is even settled on: Send TransLink a message to protest a grievance.

If the Province proceeds with a referendum under the current proposal, the implication is pretty clear: ‘We do not want to take responsibility for approving taxes to fund transit expansion for Metro Vancouver – but don’t want to have to say that.  The referendum will do it for us.  Meanwhile, we expand highways.’



June 27, 2013

Transit Referendum: Should there be one?

The Mayors’ Council thinks not.

Referenda are tools without context and would be divisive to the region… [and] making complex policy by referenda is contrary to principles of good governance.

The real question is whether the Premier wants a ‘Yes’ vote on the result.  If so, she will have to take some ownership of the question – which I expect is the sign the mayors are looking for.

If the Premier believes ’No’ is an acceptable response from the voters for any new funding – and hence no transit expansion for Metro Vancouver – then why should the local politicians and leaders participate in an expensive, divisive process that gets them no further ahead?

You can vote now on this question in the Metro newspaper poll:

Should the question of how to fund TransLink be put to a referendum?

At posting, about 62 percent say no.



July 8, 2013

Referendum: Colour me skeptical

I discussed the referendum with a councillor from one of the northeast municipalities who, despite his enthusiasm for transit, doubts a referendum would win.  He’s doubtful that there will be much in it for those beyond the Evergreen Line.  Indeed, if there was a strong challenge from anti-tax candidates, he might be, by the time of the municipal election, at best neutral and at worst forced to oppose it.

There’s also an interview with the new Transportation Minister Todd Stone in the Sun today.   (I had forgotten that he was an assistant to Premier Gordon Campbell; he is certainly that style of leader – and was probably influenced by Campbell in the same way that Campbell was influenced by Mayor Art Phillips when he was his assistant.)

Astonishingly, other than a question regarding tolling policy, there is no reference to the referendum.  Yet this will be a huge test for Stone’s abilities.  Can he find a way through the tangle that the Premier has created with a requirement for a vote on any new funding source for TransLink with a ‘none-of-the-above’ option?

[As of July 8, there are 495 days left – if the referendum is held on municipal election day.]



July 12, 2013

Referendum: The War on Transit

Are rural-dominated legislatures fighting a war on transit that they can win by default?  It looks that way in the U.S., as close as our nearest neighbour:

From the Seattle Times:

The Legislature failed to grant local cities and counties the power to ask voters for transportation funding. We will face crippling congestion in the coming year.  (Without the option to ask voters for funding, the county will need to cut the transit system by 17 percent in 2014.)

A coalition of business, labor, environment, social services, and regional and local officials warned state legislators of the dire consequences of the massive transit cuts King County Metro bus service would face without this option.

In the state Senate, leaders chose to ignore those warnings and avoided action. Hollow promises of action next year or beyond will come too late to avert massive transit cuts that will gridlock the region. The Legislature should regroup and reconvene in a special session this year to act on transportation.

One supposes that representatives outside the Puget Sound urban area see transit as a social service for the urban poor, even if paid for by local taxpayers.  Ironically, by standing in the way of sufficient funding, they are also hobbling business and the source of wealth that finances infrastructure in their districts.

King County is the economic engine of the state of Washington. Forty percent of the state’s jobs are located in King County. Transit is critical to our county’s transportation network. It is how 43 percent of people get to work in downtown Seattle.

As employment is reaching pre-recession highs in the Seattle region, transit ridership is growing dramatically.

It’s an affordable, efficient and environmentally friendly way for people to get to work in a place where expanding highways to accommodate more cars is often prohibitively expensive and geographically constrained.

Proponents of the referendum can argue that, unlike in Washington, Metro Vancouver is being given a vote.  Masterfully, the Premier has positioned herself so that a ‘no’ vote on a referendum to provide new sources of revenue for transit will be seen as a vote against TransLink, presumably without the provincial government having to take the blame.

But what happens the day after a no vote?  Is it viable to say to the Lower Mainland: No more transit for you, regardless of the million more people who show up and the increased congestion that will hobble the economy?

The best advice I’ve heard so far is that, if a referendum goes ahead, it has to be about jobs and economic growth – the same planks used by Christy Clark to win the last election.  Without effective transit service, as Washington State will learn, it is not just the poor who get punished.

[As of July 12, there are 491 days to the proposed referendum date.]



July 15, 2013

Ladner on the Referendum: Seriously, why not?

Peter Ladner does a guest column in Metro:

There has been a lot of misguided commentary about the proposed referendum on transit funding. The premier had a populist brain burst during the election when she blurted out the promise of a November 2014 referendum on new sources of money to keep buses and SkyTrains running and expand to new routes.

Of course: Ask the people directly! Let the people decide on which new taxes they want! Look how well it worked with the HST!

Rather than oppose this referendum, as the smarty-pants mayors, councillors and so-called forward thinkers are all doing, they should learn from the premier. Every time some piece of essential, complex infrastructure has to be funded, go to the people with a simple yes or no question. Why didn’t someone think of this before?

So I propose we really put this idea into action.

What’s good for the bus is good for the airport. It’s time to freeze ALL spending on new infrastructure until a November 2014 referendum. Here are some new questions to add to the ballot. Remember, yes or no answers only.

New funding for a Massey Tunnel replacement: Do you approve of higher income taxes to pay for a new $1-billion tunnel?

New funding for B.C. Hydro: Do you approve of a 30 per cent increase in your hydro bill to generate power for liquefied natural gas plants in Kitimat?

New funding for sewage treatment: Do you approve of an increase in your Metro Vancouver bill to cover the $700-million cost of a new Lions Gate sewage-treatment plant?

New funding for airport improvement: Do you want to roll back the increases in user fees at the airport that pay for terminal improvements?

New funding for ferries: Do you approve of a fare increase so B.C. Ferries can keep paying huge salaries to their executives?

New funding for old bridges: Do you want to roll back tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann Bridges?

New funding for new bridges: Do you approve of tolls to pay for a new Patullo Bridge?

Finally, our MLAs can get out of the way and let people fed up with taxes make sure we don’t get any new buses or SkyTrains, highway improvements, airport improvements, ferry replacements, or new bridges, and the people on the North Shore can stew in their own waste. Work with it — the people have spoken..

Peter uses satire to make a point.  But seriously, why aren’t all transportation projects, not just those within TransLink’s jurisdiction, going to be put on the November 2014 ballot?  Why isn’t, at minimum, the Massey Tunnel replacement? 

The Premier would likely say: because it’s in our jurisdiction, because a growing economy requires it, because it’s provincially significant infrastructure, 

And so by implication she would be saying: transit isn’t.

If the referendum therefore fails, no big deal.  Vancouver will get by – yes, with increasingly overcrowded buses (sorry about that B-Line) and existing rapid transit (just be careful on those too-small Canada Line platforms), with deteriorating and poorly maintained vehicles, with no hope for expansion for a generation.  But it’s not as though our economy necessarily requires a good transit system.

And that’s where the debate needs to go.  Transit needs to be seen as important to the economy as tunnels and highways, as in need of expansion as the airport terminal, as necessary as water and sewer projects.

Referendum proponents need to justify why taking a high risk, given the prospect of a no vote, is justifiable, given the resulting hit to the future of Metro – and why a hit to the Metro economy isn’t important to the province.   And above all, why, if one part of our transport system is worthy of a vote, why not all?

[As of July 15, there are 488 days to the proposed referendum date.]



July 18, 2013

Referendum: Hoist, Meet Petard

Here’s another angle.

If the referendum fails, the conclusion will presumably be that the voters of Metro Vancouver do not want to increase taxes to pay for transit.  But it won’t mean that they don’t want more transit – just that, whatever the proposal on the ballot, it was unfair, wrong-headed, misinterpreted, insufficient – or whatever reason people use to justify a no vote.

The Province will then be an awkward position.  It may say, initially, that the vote means no new transit proposal is viable – but how viable a response is that?  How long could they tell an increasingly hostile electorate to put up with the overcrowding, the decay and the absence of any hope for improvements in the future? Essentially, the local MLAs would have to tell their constituents, ‘you’re screwed.’  And that’s not a good line in an election campaign.

No, they’d have to come up with something – and they’d have to pay for it.  All of it.

The capital costs of the Expo and Millennium Lines were covered by the Province; TransLink or its predecessors then paid for the operating expenses.  For the Canada and Evergreen Lines, however, the Province insisted that the region take on a proportion of the capital costs.

But post-referendum, local leaders would be able to say, “Thanks to you, Province, we have no source of revenue for any new rapid transit, not even for increased operating costs.  You’ll now have to pay the whole shot – and forget about raising any local taxes.  The voters said no to that.”

So in the end, the Province may have to pay for TransLink’s new infrastructure out of general revenue, just as they do for highways – and it would have to be paid for by all the citizens of the province.



July 19, 2013

Referendum: The Soft Strategy

One way out of this mess may be to craft a motion so soft in its implications that it invites an easy yes – with so few specifics that it takes all the tough decisions and puts them off until at least two years from now.  (Premier Gordon Campbell did the same when he realized the consequences of a referendum on native treaty negotiations promised during the provincial election.)

Of course we would then have to put off any improvements in transit while we go through the charade – and lose half a decade or more if we then have to return to the voters for anything more specific.



July 22, 2013

Referendum: The Easy Question?

Following from the argument below – “The Soft Strategy” – what question could be put on the ballot that has a reasonable chance of getting a majority yes?

How about this:

Should Metro Vancouver be able to raise money for transportation?  Yes or No.

A few assumptions:

  • This is not a vote on TransLink.
  • This is not a vote on specific projects.  The citizens of Metro are voting to fulfil the vision embedded in the Regional Growth Strategy and, consistent with it, the Regional Transportation Plan.
  • Only the citizens of Metro will be taxed.  Only their elected representatives will decide on the mechanisms.
  • There will be no more referenda.



July 23, 2013

Referendum: “The whole system will crash”

Vancouver Sun: Metro Vancouver transit options not meeting demand, some say, by Kelly Sinoski.

[Coquitlam Mayor Richard] Stewart warns that the region is already at a tipping point. If the referendum on road pricing fails, which is likely, he said, the public will face  even higher costs because without transit, more roads will have to be built.

“The whole system will crash,” he said. “We could build wider roads and lots of parking and let (Burke Mountain) become a car-dependent neighbourhood. But we made the decision that we’re going to try to create a livable region.

“We have an important decision to make. It’s not a choice of spending or not spending. It’s a choice of spending on transit or (spending) a lot more on roads.”



July 26, 2013

Referendum: The High-Risk Strategy

If the referendum is about TransLink, or just which particular tax is the least obnoxious, the referendum results in a big ‘no.’  But if it’s about the future of this region, its economy and whether we’ll get the transit we need for the future we want, then maybe there’s a chance.

So, in contrast to the Soft Strategy, the idea is to go big.

The campaign would focus, on one hand, at conveying the impact if the vote is no: we all lose, and the hurt will be hard.   A choice of “None of the Above” means no more transportation choices.  No more rapid transit but lots more congestion.  A loss of economic opportunity and jobs, for both the region and the province.  Little hope that anything will change for the better in the governance of our transportation system.

On the other, accompany the negatives with some big positives: a commitment to increased efficiency in the system, a change of governance, a cut in other taxes (that might be the Province’s contribution!) – and the result could be a big ’yes.’

But we’re staking it all on this one vote.



August 15, 2013

Referendum: The Questions – 1

Time for a few questions regarding the referendum the Premier is requiring for new sources of revenue for transit expansion in the TransLink region.  (I’ll update the list as I get answers.  Feel free to help out!)

  • Who is writing the question to be put on the ballot?
  • What projects have been agreed on?  Is there something for      everyone?
  • What sources of funding – i.e. taxes – will be voted on?       (Will it include ‘None of the Above’?)
  • Who is mounting the ‘Yes’ campaign, and how much money have they      raised?
  • Will the ‘No’ campaign be funded?
  • What is the role of the Mayors Council?
  • What is the role of the TransLink Board?
  • What is the role of the Minister of Transportation?

And perhaps the key question:

  • What is the position of the Premier?

As a political strategy, the referendum looks at first glance to be a clever maneuver: If it passes, it’s a breakthrough for the Province and Region, without either having to take responsibility for raising taxes.  If it fails, the Province can blame it on the lack of regional leadership.

But as a strategy for the future of the region – the economic engine of the province and home to most of its growth, jobs and population – a loss would be a disaster.  Has the Premier thought through the consequences?  Is failure – no new transit for a decade, eventual massive cutbacks – an acceptable outcome for her?  If not, how much political capital will she spend to assure success of the referendum?  (Without her support, why should any other leader, elected or otherwise, risk failure and have to take responsibility?)

This is Christy Clark’s referendum.  For the future of this region, and for the province, she has to take ownership.



August 16, 2013

The TransLink Hate-On

There’s a valid difference of opinion as to whether the referendum on transit funding can be won or lost.  But everyone agrees on this: If the referendum is just about TransLink, it loses.

Then the referendum becomes an opportunity to ‘send TransLink a message.’  And there’s a menu of messages to choose from.

From salaries to safety to the cost of it all – and now social-media reaction to the roll-out of the Compass Card – every voter, regardless of their support for transit infrastructure, will have a reason to vote no.

It’s almost as though it was a strategy.

Since there are so many unknowns about this vote, including the actual wording, it’s left a vacuum – one that can be filled with an incessant litany of complaints and criticisms of TL, led by the professional anti-government critics and magnified by a media already comfortable with the frame.  Building public disdain constitutes a good ol’ fashioned hate-on, with no competition for the media microphone, that will shape the public opinion no matter what wording is proposed for the referendum.  It’ll be just about TransLink, and whether it’s worth the money.

Those who want to get out a yes vote will have to defend TransLink first – something they really don’t want to have to do.  Starting from a defensive position is not the way to get support for raising taxes.

And there are only 457 days left – assuming the vote is left as long as possible.



August 20, 2013

The Referendum Barometer

Here’s a measure to keep in mind as the referendum on transit funding proceeds.

The further away the local MLAs and Ministers try to stay from it, the more likely the loss.

This is the future of their region at stake.  The commitment that local leaders like Sam Sullivan and Suzanne Anton in particular have made to Eco-Density – a compact, livable region with a high priority on transit – will be tested in their role as Liberal MLAs.  Are they going to spend political capital to fight for its passage, or just take a ‘neutral’ stance?  How close will they get as the consequences of win or lose go up?

You’ll be able to measure the distance in speeches, prepared statements and appearances.

If it goes down because of the way the referendum has been imposed, worded or rushed, will they accept any responsibility?  And what would then be their Plan B?



August 23, 2013

Referendum: The Poll – 1

Every couple of weeks, PT will check in on the public mood (presumably a relatively well-informed public if they’re reading this blog) to see how you assess the likelihood of the referendum passing at this point.  I’m not asking whether it should pass but whether it’s likely to.


Will the Referendum on Transit Funding Pass?


No  78.01%  (110 votes)

Yes  21.99%  (31 votes)

Total Votes: 141



August 27, 2013

Hillsdon and Pachal’s “Leap Ahead” – A Funding Solution for TransLink

Paul Hillsdon and Nathan Pachal – two young transportation bloggers – have offered an option for funding transit in this region.

Based on over a year’s worth of research, the Leap Ahead proposal provides a clear path forward on stalled transit expansion plans. If implemented, Leap Ahead would unlock $15 billion in economic benefits and provide rapid transit to every part of Metro Vancouver.

In line with regional and provincial priorities, Leap Ahead would fund the immediate construction of significant transit infrastructure including:

  • UBC SkyTrain
  • South Fraser LRT & B-Line
  • Expo Line Upgrades
  • SFU Gondola
  • Marine Drive (North Shore) B-Line
  • Hastings B-Line
  • 41 Ave B-Line
  • Hwy 7 B-Line
  • Hwy 1 B-Line
  • Hwy 99 B-Line
  • 200 St B-Line

The Leap Ahead plan concludes that a 0.5% regional sales tax is the most comprehensive and affordable solution to fund the region’s share of the plan. Voter-approved regional sales taxes have been successfully introduced in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver for similar transit expansions. With a 2% decrease in the federal GST and 0.5% decrease in the PST over the last decade, there is room for the proposed sales tax. A 0.5% regional sales tax would amount to just $0.35 per day, per resident.

The Leap Ahead plan will:

  • Provide $21.5 billion in economic returns and produce a net benefit of $15 billion for taxpayers
  • Support 234,000 jobs over 30 yearsExpand the system from 65 to 138 rapid transit stations
  • 33 times more than the $1 billion South Fraser Perimeter Road
  • Nearly 4 times more than the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline
  • Introduce rapid transit to every part of the region including Surrey, White Rock, Langley, Maple Ridge & the North Shore



August 29, 2013

The Bateman Strategy: Killing TransLink – and the regional vision

Not that I want to publicize Jordan Bateman (the local spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation) even more, since the media do enough of that already (and let’s face it, I get my fair share of coverage too) – but in the absence of leadership from local leaders, his strategy regarding the transit referendum may well prevail.

And what strategy is that?  Why, getting people to vote against their self-interest in order to effectively disable TransLink – and with it, the regional vision we have pursued for decades with considerable success.

Not, of course, that Metro citizens will intend to vote against more transit or a more sustainable region.  But thanks to Jordan’s strategy, that’s what will happen.

Here’s how the strategy works.

(1) First, discredit government – in this case, TransLink, and the collective goods we pay for with taxes.  Ignore the larger purpose of the organization and concentrate on the ‘bureaucrats’, whom you can dismiss contemptuously.

(2) To do that, use small examples, real or manufactured, to tar the entire organization.  Whether free coffee for staff, bonuses for executives, teething problems for Compass Cards, policing costs (or not enough policing), the installation of fare gates (or not installing fare gates), it doesn’t matter what the examples are – so long as there is a steady beat of criticism, amplified for and by the media.

(3) Maintain that any new programs can be paid for by eliminating ‘waste, fraud and abuse.’  Never give credit for any instances where that actually occurs.  TransLink has already had three performance reviews and an audit, it has already saved millions in ‘efficiencies’ (often a euphemism for cuts) – but never mind.  Always maintain that spending is ‘out of control.’

(4) Establish the bottom line as ‘No More Taxes.’  Do not ever get into a debate about the value and merit of what those taxes purchase.  Simply repeat, and repeat: NMT.

(5) Suggest that voters can ‘send TransLink a message’ by voting for ‘none of the above’ on the transit-funding referendum.  It matters not that eliminating the entire administration of TransLink (about 4 percent of its budget) would barely pay for a few more bus routes, much less a multi-billion-dollar rapid-transit line.  Insist that cutting salaries and perks is a necessary condition (though never sufficient) before discussing new revenues.  At that point, simply assert that we’re taxed out, even if we’re paying less taxes or getting new services.

By aggressively attacking the organization so that those in favour of a new tax will have to defend it before they can argue in favour of its funding, you disarm the proponents before they even begin a ’yes’ campaign.

Want to see this strategy in action?  Go here for today’s salvo.  (And yes, I’m perfectly aware that this simply gives another opportunity for the CTF to reinforce its messaging.)

Meanwhile, time is running out – 442 days left til Nov 15 (though it’s possible that the referendum might be held in May or June) – and we haven’t even got the wording yet, much less leadership for a yes vote.

One wonders whether the CTF was instrumental in convincing the Premier to go with the referendum idea during the election since it gives them an ideal platform to pursue their agenda.  Better yet, blame for a No vote can be put on local politicians for their inability to convince the electorate.  And the subsequent cutbacks on local transit services as other sources of revenue decline will thereby justify another round of criticism of TransLink.

It just doesn’t get any better than that.



September 10, 2013

Referendum: The Frampton Update

From Caelie Frampton’s comprehensive Metro Vancouver Update:

Regional Referendum for TransLink

The Province continues to move forward with plans for a referendum on transit funding for 2014 but next to nothing is known about the details. Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure Todd Stone says that if all parties can come to an agreement, changes could be in place as early as the spring session..

In June, the Mayors’ Council unanimously opposed a referendum to determine further sources of funding for transit. The Mayors’ Council said in a press release they believe that “referenda are tools without context and would be divisive to the region” and “taking complex policy by referenda is contrary to principles of good governance.”.

Mayors across the region have said for years that they don’t want to pay for more major infrastructure projects with property tax increases. The need for more funding options was supported in 2010 with a Memorandum of Understanding to discuss a long-term funding signed by the Province and the Mayors’ Council..

According to his mandate letter form the Premier, newly elected Minister Stone is to work with the Mayors’ Council to develop improvements to the governance structure and “identify funding options to provide additional resources to fund transit in the Lower Mainland while remembering that any new funding source would need approval from voters through a referendum no later than the 2014 municipal election campaign.” .

Several commentators have come out opposed to the referendum. The Canadian Auto Workers Local 111, representing bus drivers, raised concerns about the possibility of no new funding when riders are already facing overcrowding and pass-ups. “The BC government not only doesn’t have a fair question formulated, they are not even sure if the referendum will be held in November 2014 or the spring or whether the government will be supporting a YES vote to improve transit and funding for roads and bridges,” President Nathan Woods says. “This is the most critical vote in the history of public transit and transportation in BC and that’s not good enough.”.

Many questions loom around the referendum including the type of question, and responsibility for education and leadership. Former NDP Councillor Peter Ladner explains that the level of complication involved in such an undertaking: “Referendums are costly and complex. In Los Angeles, the combined information and political campaigns to win a 2008 ballot initiative cost more than $8 million. In St. Louis, a 2010 transit tax ballot question won after only $1.5 million in spending, whereas last year in Atlanta, in spite of widespread agreement that traffic was unbearable, a $9 million campaign for transit funding failed. Organizers said the scope of the campaign was comparable to electing a new governor.”

With TransLink also facing a high level of public dissatisfaction, from executive pay increases to changes related to the Compass Cards, it will make it difficult to get a successful referendum vote around TransLink. As Gordon Price explains: “Those who want to get out a yes vote will have to defend TransLink first – something they really don’t want to have to do. Starting from a defensive position is not the way to get support for raising taxes.”

This week, two young south of the Fraser based bloggers released a report on their research into funding a TransLink referendum: Paul Hillsdon and Nathan Pachal argued that a 0.5% regional sales tax could bring in $250 million per year. They argue a regional sales tax is a widely used funding mechanism for transport infrastructure in the United States..

The TransLink Mayors’ Council had previously outlined their long term and short term funding priority options to the Province. The short-term funding sources are a regional vehicle registration fee, a 0.5% regional sales tax for public transit, and future reallocation of new incremental carbon tax revenues from within Metro Vancouver or a new regional carbon tax with revenue allocated to TransLink. The Mayors’ Council also supports potential long term funding options of land value capture and road pricing. These discussions have gone nowhere with the Province.



September 13, 2013

Referendum: Will it even happen?

What are the odds that the provincial government, after considering more carefully the corner it is painting itself into, will decide that, um, no, it’s not actually necessary to hold a referendum in 2014?

The mayors are clearly not going to cooperate by taking on the heavy lifting: conducting, paying, campaigning or doing anything for a referendum that wasn’t their idea.

Anyway, the Mayor’s Council members may not be the ones representing TransLink.

The Minister of Transportation emphasized at a Chamber of Commerce event that there will be a change in the governance structure of TransLink.  Does it make any sense to negotiate with a body that won’t likely exist in its current form on the wording of a referendum question if it means that some other group will have to commit to the projects and tax measures that it will enable?

Amendments to the TransLink governance structure must go before a Legislature which is now not sitting until spring. Therefore, the timing of the vote is likely to be in a very small window: sometime after the legislature sits and sometime before municipal elections.

Even if the last possible date, November 15, is chosen, and the summer is used to get agreement on the particulars with a new TransLink governing body, that leaves a couple of months for the actual campaign. That’s too short, likely, for all the events needed to explain the options and implications, but long enough for the No campaigners to fill the vacuum left by the absence of leadership.

If public meetings are part of the campaign, they will attract anyone who has a grudge about transit in particular and government in general.  This could get very ugly, with a lot of unpleasantness for Metro MLAs who will be expected to take a stand.  (I’m thinking of you, Sam Sullivan.)  They might be looking around for an alternative too.

And who, by the way, is going to lead and pay for the Yes campaign, along with the costs of the vote itself – an accumulative amount in the many millions? Especially if the polls indicate that this sucker is going down.

Since the prospect of no transit expansion in the future for the Lower Mainland is realistically unacceptable, a No vote would mean that the forces in favour would have to reunite, rebuild and start the process all over again, hoping for a more favourable outcome in a year or so.

So why hold the referendum in the next year?  Why stick to an unrealistic date?  Why not just say, well, we’re not ready to go to the voters with a tax proposal.  We’ll get back to you later.

That means, of course, no progress on transit expansion for Metro.  But that’s where we’d likely end up on November 16 anyway, only with a vote that rules out any consideration of an alternative deal.  At least with a delay to some unspecified time in the future, this region might have time to put together a coalition, a plan and the prospect of a winning vote with a provincial government that might have a more sympathetic perspective, or at least a better grasp of reality.

But at the rate we’re going, the paint will have dried and all the players will be cornered.



September 24, 2013

Defenders of TransLink: The Teenager

As Jordan Bateman continues his unobstructed TransLink bashing (part of a larger strategy outlined here), where are the defenders?  Specifically, the board.  There is a lot of high-powered talent sitting around that table, many familiar with the operations of large, complex organizations and the kind of talent needed to manage them (and what you have to pay to get them) – and yet, as far as I can tell, they have remained silent on issues such as executive compensation and operational efficiencies.

Perhaps  they believe that the record speaks for itself, that the public, when surveyed, is on the whole pleased with TransLink’s performance, and that rational people understand that the attacks are unfair.  I presume they think that when the time comes a few months before the referendum, they can mount an information campaign on the importance of transit funding, and the public will do the right thing.

Just like they did on the HST.

In the meantime, crickets.  No one officially is responding to the attacks, even though the campaign has effectively started with Bateman’s op-ed in the Vancouver Sun.

No, that’s not quite right.  There is someone.

A teenager.

Daryl Dela Cruz is a young Surrey guy, not quite 18, who has a passion for transit.  I got an email from him a week ago:

It’s unfortunate that you’re right – I agree that taking a stance of pro-transit is something that now has to be defended for the sake of an anti-TransLink agenda pushed forward by  … anti-tansit/TransLink advocates.  The op-ed is interesting in that it brings forward a lot of numbers that might seem convincing at first read, but it is also evident that these numbers are spun in a way that might mislead the public …

I’ve noticed this happening a lot, and I believe it may have even happened in one of the TransLink audits. …

I’m going to be having a look at those numbers, and in the process I hope to build the first real, research-based defence of TransLink efficiency for readers in this Metro.

And by gosh, he did.  You can find his first efforts here: Was TransLink audited correctly?

Some key points:

  • TransLink is far more cost-efficient, in terms of provision of      transit service per operating cost dollar, than both Toronto and Montreal.
  • It is very questionable whether people are getting the right      picture of TransLink as our transit provider.
  • “Cost effectiveness” is fundamentally different from “cost      efficiency”
  • TransLink does have a cost-effectiveness problem, but the solution      this is the opposite of what has been suggested by the anti-TransLink      voice.
  • By believing the doctrine of TransLink inefficiency and believing      that the only way to solve the low cost-effectiveness of TransLink’s services      is by rejecting funding for TransLink and voting “no” in the upcoming 2014      transit referendum, advocates like the CTF’s Jordan Bateman are taking an      incorrect position in the “fund-transit-or-not” debate…

But really, why are we relying on a teenager and other young people (notably Paul Hillsdon and Nathan Pachal) to be putting out the ideas, making the case, mounting the defense and generally doing the job that we expect from the people appointed to boards, elected to office and hired to perform?  Where are they?

In one respect I’m almost beginning to agree with Jordan Bateman.



October 8, 2013

The Referendum: A Turning Point for the Region

Just in case there’s even the slightest bit of ambiguity left, here are my current thoughts on the transit referendum, as recorded by Doug Ward in Novae Res Urbis (an indispensible newsletter on urban development in Vancouver, but only available by subscription.)


The decision by the B.C. Liberal government to put transit expansion to a referendum is a threat to Metro Vancouver’s long-standing goal of a more sustainable and livable region, says a leading commentator on urban issues.

“This referendum is a turning point for this region and it is likely to fail,” former Vancouver city councillor Gordon Price told a forum on transportation infrastructure held last week at Simon Fraser University.

“We are at a turning point in the region that is as potentially significant as anything in my lifetime,” said Price, arguing that the referendum result could shape the region’s future, just as resistance to freeways in Vancouver did in the ‘60s.

“The stakes have never been higher,” added Price, who is now director of the City Program at SFU, saying that the government appears ready to “doubledown” on creating a more car-dependent region. “This is really about your future in as stark a way as I can think.”

A no vote on the referendum, which must be held no later than the municipal elections in November, 2014, would be a massive setback for those who want a more compact, less automobile-centric region, said Price, at the panel discussion organized by the Science Policy Congress.

“Think about what it means if there is a ‘no’ vote as far as the province is concerned. What do they conclude? No transit for you.

“And you don’t get to go back into the room and negotiate a deal.” …

The transit expansion referendum is doomed, said Price, because there is no consensus over various project proposals, including the rapid transit line down the Broadway corridor. Nor is there any broad agreement on how expansion could be financed, he added.

“This thing is designed to divide us.”

Another pro-transit panelist, Patrick Condon, proved Price’s point by musing that the referendum should fail if it includes the proposed $3-billion addition to the Millennium Line that would run underground from Commercial Drive to the University of B.C. …

Condon did agree with Price that “it’s absurd to have a referendum on transit and not one on freeways.”



October 9, 2013

Cast your vote: Referendum Poll – 2

Lots of you expressed your opinion yesterday on the likely success or failure of the referendum on transit funding. Almost a hundred of you. So let’s get a nice round number – or beyond. Cast your vote here:.

Will the Referendum on Transit Funding Pass? – 2

No  72.5%  (116 votes)

Yes  27.5%  (44 votes)

Total Votes: 160




October 29, 2013

Face-to-Face: Bateman versus Price on TransLink funding

Business in Vancouver has just posted the ‘face-to-face-off’ between myself (here) and Jordan Bateman (here) of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.  The question: Should funding for TransLink be increased over current levels?

Here’s an excerpt from Jordan’s side:

TransLink has wasted too much of our money over the years to be trusted with more of it.

It’s a nightmare list of waste.

Six boards of directors. More than 400 staffers making six figures. Executives cashing in bonuses while raising taxes and fares. The Main Street poodle on a pole. …

There’s more, unbelievably, but you get the point.

TransLink has made many questionable expenditures over the years, and it’s time for taxpayers – the ones footing TransLink’s $1.4 billion annual bill – to have their say through a referendum.

An independent review of TransLink, done by the transit commissioner in 2012, showed that “TransLink’s funding formula is the best in Canada.” …   Yet, TransLink is insatiable in its thirst for more. Like a pyromaniac fidgeting for more matches, the agency wants other taxes – maybe a vehicle levy, perhaps a sales tax, maybe more road tolls or a regional carbon tax – whatever it can shake out of taxpayers’ pockets to fund its dreams of a $23 billion spending spree.

TransLink’s waste problems have corroded the trust of many taxpayers. The executives in charge would do well to follow their chair’s lead, scale back their grandiose expansion plans, and instead work on rebuilding their credibility with the public.

TransLink must show it can be trusted with its current funding formula – “The best in Canada” – before it is given any more taxpayer money. •

Whole argument here.


Here’s an excerpt from my position:

By wording (the question) that way, the vote turns into a poll on the organization, not its purpose. For the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that wording is a terrific opportunity to further discredit the agency – an opportunity to vent, to “send a message.” If the question were worded “Should funding for transit be increased …” that might get a different response.

So what happens in the event of a no vote? No more transit for Metro – for a decade? For a generation? Forever? No one believes that. But this imposed referendum – unlike every other major transportation project (no vote on bridges, no vote on highways) – puts the whole regional vision at risk. …

We’d also be in endless rounds of negotiations, conflicts and expenses. Perhaps after considerable angst, we’d find some way to make transit happen. But why then have a referendum with “none of the above” as an option – especially if a referendum is required every time the region wants to expand its transit system to accommodate growth and shape development? …

There’s likely a reason why the taxpayers’ federation would have you believe otherwise.

If a government agency delivering a public good paid for collectively can be discredited and defunded, it leaves more room for other purposes: namely roads and bridges, and more reliance on individuals to fund the transportation system privately through car purchase and maintenance.

A more expensive way to get a worse transportation system.

Just as some would have you vote no to send a message, the referendum is a way to vote yes to send a better message: a message that our quality of life, our economic prosperity and our hope for a more livable future is dependent on continuing to plan, implement and pay for an expanded transit system as part of a regional vision that has served us all so well. •

Whole argument here.



November 13, 2013

How Vancouver could be Forded over

Forget the crack.  And the thuggery. And the drunken stupors.

The Mayor of Toronto, according to one poll, still has a 44 percent approval rating.  Some think he could get re-elected.

How can that be?  Is it his personal charm?  All those return telephone calls to citizens with complaints.

Or is it, as some commentators affirm, the anger of the suburban base for what they perceive as the contempt of the “downtown elites” and a wasteful City Hall – and for whom Rod Ford is their avenging angel?  Is Toronto politics really just a consequence of the amalgamation of the mega-city by a conservative provincial government which perfectly understood that an ideologically divided region would rebound to their benefit?  They probably never expected a Rob Ford (Mel Lastman was more their style), but Ford’s personal antics are secondary to the value of a suburban-dominated Toronto.

Could something similar happen in Vancouver?

In particular, is the transit referendum a chance for the suburbs to express their frustration and contempt for the City of Vancouver – its greenies, its bike lanes, its grab of regional resources – while they get stuck in traffic in order to find more affordable housing from which they are priced out in the city?

Isn’t that what the ‘White Rock Friend’ was expressing in “What the ‘Yes’ side is up against …“?

If the provincial government can’t amalgamate us, they can least use the suburban voter base to limit the taxes that are seen to disproportionately benefit of the core by requiring region-wide votes.  And yes, of course transit benefits the region as a whole, of course the city and suburbs are co-dependent.  But isn’t that true in Toronto as well?  While we may not get a Ford running the City, we’ll get the consequences of the divide.

There’s another way in which Vancouver could get Forded: in the transformation of our image.  The world sees us as, well, nice.  We’re a stable and fortunate and beautiful place on the planet, not very exciting, but admirable, diverse and desirable.  The Vancouver region, in particular, is seen as a place that ‘mostly got it right.’ The City has, in urban circles, been credited with “Vancouverism” – the way we have accommodated to a constrained environment, how we’ve learned to live with limits and without freeways, with aspirations to be the greenest city in the world.  Just as Toronto was seen as ’New York run by the Swiss.”

Then came Rob Ford and “I smoked crack in a drunken stupor.”   Toronto will never be seen the same.

Perhaps Vancouver will go through a similar, if not as extreme, re-evaluation.  That green halo in our case could get not just tarnished but burned to a crisp.

We’re on the verge of the biggest expansion of carbon-transfer infrastructure in our history.  Let’s say we expand those coal terminals on Burrard Inlet and, especially, on the Fraser River – taking the thermal coal from Wyoming that the Pacific Northwest states have rejected.  Let’s say we approve those pipelines. Or we transfer bitumen by rail.  And build one, two, three or more LNG plants on our coast, amping up the number of tankers by the dozens that flow through our dangerous waters.

Then, here in the region, we defeat transit expansion.  We open up the Agricultural Land Reserve. We build a ten-lane bridge to sprawl onto our wetlands and lowlands.  Even the First Nations pave over part of a continental flyway for a car-dependent shopping mall.  Realtors take out options on farmlands and then erect tilt-up warehouses, as the port expands its operations on the farmland it purchases.  And to top it off: no more of those damn bike lanes.

What of our image then – and our sense of our self as the world discovers that we’re not who they thought we were?

That we’ve become the environmental equivalent of Rob Ford.



November 27, 2013

Translink Update: The Base Plan … and its consequences

From the excellent summary written by Caelie Framption – just in case this gets missed.  It provides an important perspective, highlighted in bold.

TransLink’s 2014 Base Plan

Mayors’ Council, September 26; Transportation Committee, October 9

The TransLink Mayors’ Council was presented with the 2014 TransLink Base Plan on September 26th, raising concerns about the transit authority’s financial decisions and the state of the TransLink Board.

TransLink’s Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning and Public Affairs at TransLink, Bob Paddon said that with no new revenue sources, the transit authority will be at 2004 levels of service in 2020. The 2014 Base Plan shows no new service hours.

The Base Plan demonstrated that not only is the transit authority short of funds for expansion but that expected revenues are not coming in. The Base Plan says confirms: “current funding levels cannot keep pace with the targets set out in the Regional Transportation Strategy.”

As Clark Williams-Derry from the Sightline Institute explained: “…when gasoline and toll revenues don’t show up, but debt service obligations keep coming, everything else gets squeezed. Transit in particular has been on the chopping block over the last two years.”

The Metro Vancouver Transportation Committee turned down approving the Base Plan. However, this is a symbolic vote because Mayors’ Council doesn’t have a formal means to influence or amend a Base Plan.

Some may try to frame a no vote on the referendum as maintenance of the status quo.  We’ll have to live with what we got, and spend existing taxes more wisely.

Not so.  With no prospect of a new revenues and a continuing drop in gas taxes, TransLink would have to begin the process of cutting back aggressively over time; new growth would add more pressure.  The result: 2004 levels of service in six years.

It must surely becoming clearer to Victoria that such a scenario would be intolerable – and lead to a new political issue that would unite otherwise disparate forces, increasing with severity as cutbacks occur.   Is that not seen as a problem – at least for the local Liberal MLAs?  Does the Premier consider the threat inconsequential?

It would really be interesting to know the rationale behind this referendum, and the political calculations involved.  Feel free to speculate.



November 28, 2013

Referendum: The Monster They’re Making

A few weeks ago, The Sun ran a remarkable column by Andrew Coyne: Rob Ford Enablers: The Strategists.  Given that Coyne comes generally from the centre right, it stuck with me, notably for the last few paragraphs:.

…there Ford sits, immovably: disgraced, largely powerless, but still the  mayor. …

Of all his enablers, the most culpable are the strategists, the ones who  fashioned his image as the defender of the little guy, the suburban strivers,  against the downtown elites, with their degrees and their symphonies – the ones  who turned a bundle of inchoate resentments into Ford Nation.

Sound familiar? It is the same condescending populism, the same aggressively dumb, harshly divisive message that has become the playbook for the right generally in this country, in  all its contempt for learning, its disdain for facts, its disrespect of  convention and debasing of standards. They can try to run away from him now, but they made this monster, and they will own him for years to come.

Get help? He’s had plenty.

The relevance?  I’ve been trying to figure out the political strategy behind the transit referendum imposed on this region by the Premier.  Given that the requirement for  a referendum is being applied only to transit and not to similarly expensive highway projects, notably the Massey Crossing (which have a far greater propensity to be overbuilt and under-utilized), there is likely some rationale beyond  taxpayer accountability.

Many observers assume it was a quickly devised response during the heat of the election to avoid taking a position on what or how transit would be funded in the Lower Mainland.  Both NDP and Liberal governments have in the past avoided ‘contamination’ from the regional requests for new or increased taxes to fund TransLink’s ambitions, even if the only requirement is for them to approve the consensus achieved by the mayors for, say, a vehicle levy, already sanctioned in legislation.

But perhaps there’s something more.

By creating a mechanism to exacerbate the division between the centre city and the suburbs, as was done with the amalgamation of Toronto, aggrieved voters in the conservative base have a chance to vent their anger and resentment.  Given the suburban majority, City Hall can be snatched from the Left and neutered as a source of annoyance.

While amalgamation is a remote possibility for the Metro Vancouver area, the transit referendum could unleash the same force. A resentful suburban base, by voting no the referendum, will be able to send the same anti-government message (No more taxes for TransLink) without the Province having to take responsibility.

Result: An urban transit agency no longer competes for tax room or, more importantly, demand for capital to fund infrastructure, leaving more flexibility for the provincial government to fund highways and bridges – something more popular in the fast-growing suburbs where their political gifts will be rewarded.

The hope is that the nasty deed can be done without leaving any fingerprints on the weapon.  The provincial representatives, while declaring their sincere support for more transit, will deeply regret being unable to approve any significant new funding given the results of the vote.  And the blame for its failure will be apportioned to the local leadership – the mayors, in particular – who were unable to mount a united campaign to convince their voters.

What, from a provincial view, could possibly go wrong? Once the monster of division is unleashed, it should only do damage to local government, and the plans of its federation, Metro Vancouver.

Counter-argument: there is really no distinct separation of interests in Metro Vancouver; there is no stark line between urban centre and suburban interests.  Surrey has as much stake in transit as Vancouver.  But that’s the problem with this monster: it potentially polarizes debate, tramples over collective self-interest, obscures the longer view, and leaves the damage for someone else to clean up.

Perhaps even the strategist who came up with the referendum idea.



November 29, 2013

Referendum potholes: Three more indicators

From Novae Res Urbis:

Mayor Greg Moore said TransLink has “many people that they’re trying to please at the same time,” and needs to address the funding, and that the forthcoming referendum on transit financing will be important.

“This isn’t a debate about whether we need the Broadway line or the Surrey line, or more buses or another bridge,” he said. “We need all of this. And if we don’t have it, people won’t get to work on time, quality of life will be decreased and we collectively have to figure that out.”

So: the referendum imposes on us exactly the debate we don’t need.   We may need “all of the above” – the Broadway line, the Surrey line, more buses, another bridge – but the Premier indicated the referendum has to give voters a chance to choose ”none of the above.”   Unless everyone gets something but nobody has to pay a lot, the referendum likely fails.

Or, as we’ve seen today with Surrey, municipalities strike out on their own, appeal to senior governments for direct funding (constitutionally dubious) and turn the whole process of regional transportation planning into a political game of constituency rewarding. 

So: more damage from this referendum process.  But wait, there’s more!.

Moore said the referendum question is still unknown, but it will not involve mobility or road-pricing, “although the mayors around the region have said that’s the best long-term strategy for funding a transportation system.

So: the referendum will rule out the best options for funding because of political impracticality..

“One of the down sides of a referendum is, it’s probably not going to happen until November of next year,” he added. “It’s highly unlikely to have such a complex referendum discussion next spring.

According to TransLink, if you want to buy a new bus, hire and train a new driver, it’s a year and a half to do that, so even if we’re successful next November, we still have to wait that time to see some changes in our system.

We’re growing so quickly, I think we’re going to have more gridlock in the short term, which is why we need to figure this out, and what we as a mayors’ council requested was the referendum question as soon as possible.”

So: The referendum has already succeeded in creating delay, inevitable gridlock in the short term, and the inability to deal with complex issues.  And that’s operating on the assumption that it passes.



December 2, 2013

Referendum Pothole: Double-Billing

Here’s how it works if you live in Metro Vancouver.

The provincial government thinks you should have a vote on whether and how you want to pay for transit.  It does not think you should have a vote on major highway infrastructure, like the Massey Bridge.

So if you vote yes on the transit referendum, that means you will get a tax bill (one way or the other) for (1) transit, and (2) highway infrastructure.  You’ll pay for both buses and bridges.  And, since you are also a provincial taxpayer, those bridges could be anywhere in the province.

If, however, you live outside Metro, you get one bill.  Fortunately, since about half the provincial taxpayers live in Metro, it is considerably less than it would be if you were paying only for what gets built in your part of the province.

One imagines the Premier thought it would be appealing to assure non-Metro taxpayers that they weren’t paying for goodies going to the city slickers.  If Vancouver wants a subway, Vancouver will have to pay for a subway.  (Though in the end, the Province would be expected to contribute.)

Here’s the irony: if regional taxpayers vote no on the referendum, it may well be because they realize they are being double billed.  And if they say no to more transit-related taxes, the Province, in the end, will have to use provincial dollars to pay for whatever major transit expansion occurs – unless it’s really prepared to say that nope, that’s it, no more transit unless you pass another referendum sometime in the unforeseeable future.

And then it will have done what the Opposition can only dream of: it will have created a sense of unfairness – and a political movement – that will unite all of Metro Vancouver.

That’s a pretty steep price to pay for a political maneuver.  A double bill, if you will.



December 13, 2013

Referendum: Premier must champion the vote

A quick response (via Puerto Vallarta) on Justine Hunter’s story in The Globe. Key quote:

Ms. Clark said the referendum would take place next November in conjunction with municipal elections and she won’t engage in shaping the outcome.

“The people will decide. People will need to do their homework to make sure they get the answer that is right for them, but I’m not going to try to decide for people what their answer should be.”

No, no, no. She mustn’t opt out. This is, after all, her idea.

More importantly, the future of the region – the province’s economic engine and job generator – is at stake.

But her own Minister has given the essential reason why the Premier must be involved, why her political capital must be spent to achieve a win.

(Transportation Minister Todd Stone) said … “It is imperative to get this right, to win this referendum.”  (He) reviewed the past 63 transit-funding referendums held across North America and found three-quarters of them won the required public support for more spending. … Those transit referendums that were successful “were largely run like political campaigns, with a semi-co-ordinated attempt to get the vote out.”

Precisely.  All political representatives, at all levels – municipal, regional, provincial – will have to be united and committed, pulling together, and led by a strong leader determined to achieve victory.  If the Premier says, ‘well no, it’s really all up to the people, don’t expect me to take a position,’ then why should any other politician?

Why should a mayor, for instance, facing a tight election with a ‘No more taxes’ challenger, spend political capital defending TransLink, arguing for a significant tax increase that may not even directly benefit the voters in their part of the region – while the leader who imposed all this on us is sitting it out in Victoria, abdicating responsibility for the future of half the province’s population and its economy.

If the Province’s first minister isn’t going to lead this ‘political campaign’ to get a yes, then one can only assume she is perfectly happy with a no.

And Todd Stone is talking bafflegab.



December 27, 2013

Matt Taylor Video: What a Motordom Metro would be like in 30 years

Matt Taylor did that terrific video: What would Commercial Drive look like with Surrey parking standards?

Here’s his latest: Growth and Mobility in Metro Vancouver.

Do not let that dry title or Matt’s deadpan delivery discourage you from watching.  This is another devastating critique of the consequences of Motordom in shaping our region – and the possible consequences of the transit referendum.

Let me add a little sensationalism:

  • *See* your worst nightmare for Metro in three short decades!
  • *Discover* how many 46-storey towers we would need – every year!
  • *Imagine* what 730,000 additional vehicles would look like if      parked.  [This really is devastating when Matt lays it out, road by      road.]
  • *Guess* how long that line-up would be across Canada.
  • Or how much space the parking lots will require.
  • Or what it would cost to build the parking underground.
  • *Boggle* at the expense – and what it could otherwise build!
  • *Calculate* the freeway equivalent of the Expo line.

Matt makes a plea to share the video (you can do so below) and keep it in mind when the transit referendum comes forward.

To my mind, it raises the question as to why we have to vote on rapid-transit expansion in the first place, (especially given that the Province simply announces more highways and bridges as a fait accompli).  Matt’s video shows how it would be both physically and economically devastating (if not practically impossible) to handle the expected growth without transit.


Answers to bullet points above:

Expected population growth (2014-2044): 1.1 million people.

Number of new Metroplaces (Burnaby 46-storey tower for 730 people): 1,500 equivalents, or 50 more every year.

Number of additional vehicles by 2044 at current vehicle ownership rates: 730,000.

Length of new lane kilometres to park additional vehicles (at 200 vehicles per lane km):  3,700 kilometres – from Horseshoe Bay to Sault St. Marie.

Number of new parking spaces required (3 spaces per vehicle: home, work and all other):  2.2 million.

Space needed for parking: 66 square kilometres.

Cost of underground parking: $90 billion (@ $40,000 per space).

Or $3 billion per year (equivalent to proposed Broadway rapid-transit line).

Expo line equivalent (26,000 passengers per hour per direction): 26 lanes of freeway.


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