The referendum campaign is underway

Today marked a vote by the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council to move forward on a referendum for a comprehensive transportation investment plan for the region. Pending approval (UPDATE: Minister Stone has approved the referendum ballot question) from provincial cabinet next week, the referendum campaign has begun. How did we get here? What’s in the package? Why do we need investment? And what’s next?

Throughout most of 2014, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation worked together to create a vision for transportation that greatly enhances Metro Vancouver’s transportation system. This plan was created in response to Premier Christy Clark’s requirement that any new funding for transit infrastructure in the region be put to referendum. While referenda are common in US jurisdictions, they’re rare in Canada and this one was widely opposed by policy-makers and stakeholders throughout Metro Vancouver. Nonetheless, 18 of the region’s mayors voted in support of the referendum for the transportation package and revenue source while three voted against.

What’s in the package?

Brokered over a period of several months in 2014, the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation came together to negotiate something for every region:

  • New light rail transit system for Surrey and Langley
  • Vancouver Broadway subway
  • Patullo Bridge replacement
  • 25% increase in bus service across the region
    • 200 more kilometres of B-line routes
    • more frequent service
    • 80% more NightBus service
    • 30% more HandyDart Service
  • 2,700 kilometres of bikeways
  • More SeaBus service
  • Maintaining and upgrading the Major Road Network (yes, TransLink is responsible for the region’s major roadways and bridges)
  • Major upgrades to transit stations and pedestrian infrastructure

Check out the details of the plan here. You can also see benefits for each of Metro Vancouver’s sub-regions at the same site.

Why do we need transportation investment?

The region’s transportation network is already stressed: road congestion and overcapacity on transit routes are leading to major economic costs and degradation of quality of life in Metro Vancouver. By 2041, we’ll have one million more people and 600,000 new jobs in the region. A major investment in transit and transportation infrastructure will be required to cope with a growing population and economic footprint. Specifically, transit investments will provide options for residents so that they’ll have more affordable options of getting around; with the plan’s investments, 70% of residents in Metro Vancouver will have access to frequent transit.

This will help to free up road space and keep residents and goods moving freely—whether it’s young people on the way to school, a family having the option of leaving a car at home (or moving from two to one cars), or small businesses taking advantage of timely deliveries, a good transportation system keeps a city moving.

What’s next?

The plan is comprehensive and has benefits for all residents of Metro Vancouver and will be put to vote via a mail-in ballot starting March 16, 2015 (see the question and ballot here). The package calls for funding from both provincial and federal levels of government as well as the introduction of a 0.5% sales tax for Metro Vancouver in order to provide the capital for new buses, rapid transit, and other upgrades. Moving in a Livable Region, a project of the SFU Centre for Dialogue, has been convening a group of business, labour, environment, transportation, and other stakeholders to work together on sustainable funding for transport in the region. We’ve come together to provide a place to discuss the issues as well as to educate stakeholders and the public on the importance of transportation for the economy, environment, livability, health & air quality, equity, and jobs. We will continue to provide information to the public and ask that you support our work by getting word out to your networks and distributing our materials. The members of the consortium want to see a positive outcome on the referendum.

In the meantime, a coalition made up of groups as diverse as the Vancouver Board of Trade, Unifor, Tourism Vancouver, Downtown Surrey BIA, David Suzuki Foundation, Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, and BC Chamber of Commerce have come together to advocate for a ‘yes’ vote. The coalition, “Better Transit and Transportation Coalition”, will hit the ground to make the case for transit and transportation investment in the region.

Icon photo courtesy of  Matthew Tichenor/Flickr