I was thinking that it was about time to have a focused debate about regional transportation. But wait a minute; is that not what we were all doing when we gathered together from 1999 through 2003 to consider our transportation future under the Regional Growth Strategy? I certainly thought so when I and many other members of the community contributed hundreds of hours of effort to find the best answers for the region. While some of the language could be sharper, the message is clear – our transportation system must change.
Changes need to occur throughout the system. It is not just about public transit. It is not just about a new McKenzie interchange. It is about moving people, goods and services to create the region we want. There are many ways to get this done. We may argue about dollars, but we do know how to achieve the goals set out in the regional strategy.
As a member of the regional growth strategy advisory committee, I was pleased with the final Travel Choices Strategy http://www.crd.bc.ca/regionalplanning/transportation/travelchoices.htm. Despite its short comings, we have is a good foundation to move forward to a more sustainable transportation system.
The issue in the report that was clearly supported by the business community of the day was governance. This is still the most crucial part of the puzzle that is outstanding today. A region this size with our great potential we must get our planning and decision making right. It is time for a Metro Victoria Transportation Authority.
Just to be clear, I am talking a proper Transportation Authority, an organization that centralizes all regional transportation revenue and investments with the authority to manage and plan for the region. I am not talking about a Transit Authority which would only have a mandate to provide public transportation options. While BC Transit as a business might change as new systems get built, they are but one component of the bigger picture. We would not think of a bridge and intersection authority so why one for public transit.
No the bigger question right now is, are we serious about a sustainable future? If we are, there is a myriad of things to try. We have strong staff resources that need the clear political leadership that would come with MVTA. Coordinated leadership is absolutely key to achieving the goals of the Travel Choices Strategy and the updated Regional Sustainability objectives.
Until we can develop the kind of leadership our community needs, we cannot shoot ourselves in the foot by holding votes about a simple tax question on such a complex economic issue. The proposal by some to hold a referendum on the LRT project is part of the bigger issues of transportation planning and management. The real issue is whether or not ready to get on with shifting our transportation system over the next 25 years as outlined in the RGS? This not an accounting question, it is an economic question.
If we decide the effort of creating the Travel Choices Strategy was waste of time, I will be very sorry I wasted mine.
Partner, Discovery Economic Consulting
September 10, 2011 Times Colonist Op-ed Article.