Editorial — Priorities skewed in transportation plan

The province wants public input on transportation priorities, but leaves some significant issues off the table.

The provincial government has asked residents to take part in discussions about improvements to the transportation system over the next 10 years. While public consultation is always a good idea, the province’s On The Move document, which provides information to guide public discussion, is missing some key elements.

While it makes reference to BC Ferries and to the Metro Vancouver transit system, neither is part of the discussion the ministry wants to have. Bridge tolls are completely ignored. The guide asks participants  a series of very general questions which do not even mention ferries or tolls, and make just passing reference to transit.

This comes just a few weeks after the provincial government’s approach to BC Ferries was roundly condemned by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and a report commissioned by that body stated that the cuts to ferry service and increased fares have reduced B.C. economic activity by $2 billion.

As for transit within Metro Vancouver, mayors are supposed to be putting together priorities for a referendum, scheduled to be held next spring. While a great number of projects have been proposed, the means to pay for all these ambitious projects remains very elusive.

It is obvious that the province does not plan to give up any revenue, and property taxes to fund TransLink are already high. Boosting the gas tax will just send more people south of the border, and impact local businesses even more. Adding new taxes to pay for more transit projects will be a tough sell, particularly given the soft state of the economy. Most people are not enjoying increased incomes, and high housing prices and already-high taxes are sapping disposable income.

The province seems determined to whistle its way by these major concerns about transportation. While there are many other priorities and public input is very helpful, ignoring several of the biggest transportation issues does not seem reasonable.