COLUMN, BRUCE CARTER: Regional transport body needed

Co-ordinated approach the best way to move forward on planning for region

A strong transportation system is essential to economic development.

Fast, easy and reliable transportation attracts talented individuals and investors, whereas poor planning stifles growth. As Greater Victoria continues to grow, a larger number of people need to travel throughout our municipalities. Growing our transportation system simultaneously with our population is no easy feat, as those who have sat through the Colwood Crawl can attest.

In order to create the most effective system, we need to assess our community’s needs on an integrated and regional scale.

The current structure makes it tough to serve the region’s needs, as it involves a large number of organizations with overlapping responsibilities, including B.C. Transit, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and individual municipalities. Having so many organizations involved makes it easy to lose sight of the common goal: creating a more efficient system that supports all users. An integrated system that combines transportation resources with planning is the most effective way to achieve this goal.

A divided transportation authority can only continue to create divided plans, as each organization is responsible for different pieces of a larger puzzle. Municipalities and the province have individual responsibility for maintaining particular roadways and developing infrastructure, while transit is governed by B.C. Transit – a Crown corporation.

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission currently makes decisions about fares, routes and services for B.C. Transit in Greater Victoria. Rail is governed by the Island Corridor Foundation and the Capital Regional District supports municipalities with planning and development projects such as improving cycling routes.

This divided approach hampers Greater Victoria’s ability to address transportation issues on a regional scale, and instead gives us a scattered scheme of transportation plans that fail to support one another.

Translink is often maligned as a very poor example of a transportation authority and model that should not be repeated anywhere. Yet for all its faults, it operates a very efficient system of integrated transit and shares responsibility for major road networks and regional cycling.

Translink has been successful in building more than $7 billion in transportation infrastructure, including the Evergreen, Millennium and Canada Line SkyTrain systems and the Golden Ears Bridge. It carries more than 354 million passengers annually. The model may have some rough edges, but the results are impressive by any measure.

Prior to the creation of Translink, responsibility for Greater Vancouver’s transit and transportation planning was divided between municipalities and provincial ministries. Much like Greater Victoria’s current challenges, decision-making was not integrated with land-use planning and was contributing to uncoordinated growth and urban sprawl, which was straining the transportation network.

Translink is the first North American transportation authority responsible for the planning, financing and managing of all public transit in addition to major regional roads, bridges, and cycling infrastructure.

Although Greater Victoria is much smaller than Vancouver, the issue remains the same: our region needs a single governing agency that has the authority and appropriate funding to create an integrated transportation plan that spans municipalities and means of travel. Continuing to make individual plans for roads, transit, cycling, infrastructure and rail will never give us an efficient system.

Moreover, the Capital Regional District’s proposition to assume the authority and powers of the Transit Commission is not the solution to this problem, as it is only shifting responsibility for transit planning, without joining it with overall transportation planning.

In order to move towards an efficient regional model, we need a single, united authority that can create an integrated plan. Only with such a regional authority can our transportation system efficiently meet the needs of all of Greater Victoria’s residents.

Bruce Carter is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.