Landowners have a stake in rapid transit

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Sep 23, 2011 No Comments ›› Wickson

Approach to design should start with a blank slate, fresh ideas BY ROBERT WICKSON, SPECIAL TO TIMES COLONIST DECEMBER 23, 2010 I am amazed at how long it has taken us to begin to understand the benefits of a rapid transit system for our community. As an economist and a past president of IslandTransformations.org, I spent many hours in the early days of this century explaining the costs and benefits of specific transportation infrastructure investments that would link the West Shore communities to downtown Victoria. We have finally come to understand that a rapid transit service is the best option to offer real travel choices and reduce the impacts of the private automobile. But we need to make significant investments now to accomplish this task. It is decision time. The choices are complex. Which piece do we do first? How does rapid transit fit into the available land space and what types of technology would be best? Some suggest that bus rapid transit would do the job for a lower cost, but will this maximize land-use investments? Light rail might be more expensive initially, but will the return on land use investments be enough to actually contribute to the operating costs of the system? These are the questions that are being asked of everyone — businesses, residents and politicians. But where are the landowners in this discussion? It is time to ask landowners for their vision of this corridor’s future. Perhaps the most important questions in this process have yet to be adequately addressed. How will land use on the corridor change as a result of specific investments in the transportation infrastructure? What land uses would we like to see? What would give us the best return on our public investments? The answers will vary widely based on how the rapid transit plan unfolds. Each route has pluses and minuses for every stakeholder. Who should be involved in this process? How can we deal with such complexities in a timely manner? I suggest that the best method would be to bring together the experts in land investments to examine the opportunities of this significant public investment. What is their vision for the future of this corridor? Are there any gaps in their knowledge that we can help fill? What kind of partnerships with the public will be needed to fulfil such visions? In order to do this work, I propose we create a design charrette specifically for the land owners along the rapid transit corridor. A charrette is a process that begins with an open mind and blank page. With the help of experienced facilitators we will fill those pages with ideas to be considered. We will discover agreements which were not known. We may be able to resolve differences quickly without years of debate. I am willing to volunteer as much of my time as needed to bring this together. I will be seeking other community minded partners to join me in this process. Most importantly, I am asking landowners along the Douglas Street corridor to rise up and get involved in a charrette process. This could be the ideal way to show leadership to the rest of the community. Their contributions to this process can be significant and should bring about positive solutions to the transportation problems that beginning to overwhelm not only the Douglas Street corridor but the capital region as a whole. Robert Wickson is a partner in Discovery Economic Consulting (on the web at www.robwickson.ca). © Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist