While timing, content, and format of the vote are uncertain, the importance of this referendum is not, and here are five key reasons why:
1. Git ‘er done
Despite the sting of recently being dethroned as the “best place in the world to live,” Vancouver is still among the world’s top three livable cities. What makes a city great? In part, a world-class transportation system fosters safe and healthy communities. Transportation options and good urban planning lead to cleaner air, a more active population, and fewer road fatalities. Take Sweden for example, its Vision Zero policy aims to get rid of road injuries and fatalities altogether by lowering road speeds and separating cars from other modes of transport. With Expo ’86 and the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouverites saw the opening of brand new rapid transit lines, but some of the architects of the region had bigger dreams. With explosive population and economic growth South of the Fraser and along Vancouver’s Broadway corridor it’s clear that there is more work to be done on our regional transportation system.
2. Growing pains
As fast as Metro Vancouver has grown over the last three decades it will continue to do so over the next 30 years. By 2041 the number of people in the region will climb from 2.3 to 3.4 million and there will be an additional 600,000 jobs throughout Metro Vancouver. In Surrey alone, the number of people and jobs is projected to nearly double. Transportation both fuels the goods economy and moves us around. Given that the current road and transit network is already stressed, the outcome of the referendum will have a drastic impact on how we accommodate more people and jobs.
3. All stopped up
You’ve heard it before: Vancouver is one of the most congested cities in North America. For communities outside of Vancouver, particularly around bottlenecks at bridges, road congestion is a major headache and incurs real costs for businesses and consumers. With our road system already built out and at (or over) capacity, we will need to make more efficient use of a scarce resource: road space. Recent polling suggests that citizens think that expanding the region’s public transit system is the key to reducing congestion.
4. Good business
Would you deposit your hard earned money into a bank if you weren’t sure it would be around in five years time? Just as people evaluate risk and reward, businesses are continually making decisions about where to invest or grow their operations. In particular, the development community craves certainty and to be able to build where people want to live. Without knowing when or if new modes of transportation are coming and “where the people will be,” it’s quite difficult to plan and build denser communities with new businesses to accommodate them.
5. The people’s choice (show me the money)
When you travel, you need to make a number of decisions and weigh the alternatives for getting around. Is time a factor? Do you need to haul anything? How’s the weather? Are the roads congested? How much will the trip cost? For many people in Metro Vancouver a lack of transportation options means they rely on cars for all of their trips. People don’t want to take transit because of long wait and travel times and poor hours of service despite the fact that most households would be much better off financially if they could do so. In short, more transportation options means more flexibility and affordability.
(Feature photo courtesy of drowcliffe/flickr)