Five Reasons Why You Need to Vote Yes

Unfortunately, things cost money and there’s been a long history of difficulty finding money to fund transit and transportation in Metro Vancouver. Finally, the mayors and the province have reached consensus on a plan to eliminate that difficulty and:

  • start improving our aging infrastructure
  • meet exponentially growing demand with new service and infrastructure
  • ease congestion by improving transportation choice and improving road infrastructure
  • lead the way in reducing transportation-related carbon emissions
  • improve public health
  • maintain our position as one of the most livable regions in the world with a world-class transit system

Reason 1: This is the kind of stuff that should just happen and shouldn’t be subject to a vote given all the benefits it will yield.

Sounds great, right? Normally we elect our politicians to make the important decisions in our best interest, right? Not this time. The current premier of British Columbia promised a referendum on new funding sources for transit and transportation and these urgently needed benefits are subject to a yes vote in a mail-in referendum. Crucial improvements like these should not be subject to a referendum. That being said, here’s the question:

Do you support a new 0.5% Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax, to be dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan?

(I’m still waiting on my ballot so I can vote on that new Massey Bridge…)

Reason 2: If we don’t say yes to progressive taxation, there will be other, regressive, less-desirable ways to pay for transportation improvements we desire.

The reason why Metro Vancouver is being asked to support an increase in the sales tax is because, after exploring many other funding options, a modest increase to the Provincial Sales tax that only applies within the Metro Vancouver Region was found to be the most fair. The region’s mayors have already dismissed increases in property tax, and the provincial government has dismissed the idea of redirecting the revenue-neutral carbon tax.

alex_gaio_2015-Apr-16If the referendum fails, speculation is that because Metro Vancouver residents continually demand better transportation, the additional investment will come from an increase in property tax. Property taxes are only paid for by property owners instead of  sales tax which evenly distributes the cost over tourists, residents, and businesses. Critics say that an increase in the sales tax hurts low-income families, however, it will still be subject to the same exceptions as the Provincial Sales Tax.

Reason 3: Transit and Active Transportation improvements allow people to make more practical, healthier choices in their everyday lives, which lowers healthcare costs in the long-term and improves public health.

One number may determine how healthy you are and how long you will live. It’s not your weight, cholesterol count, or any of those numbers doctors track in patients. It’s your address distance to transit..

This is probably the biggest benefit of improving transportation options. Today, healthcare costs are “escalating at alarming and unsustainable rates” and, in a recent study released by UBC, Vancouver Coastal HealthMHMC Transportation and Obesity Infographic, and the Fraser Health Authority, found that people who regularly commute by walking biking and transit fare better than those who commute by car.

The issue of unhealthy communities is magnified in suburban municipalities. Places that do not have safe places to walk or bike see increased car dependance, and if they are not adequately served by transit, those people who invest in a car do not see it wBbfcz4uCAAAmDjC.png-largeorthwhile to choose transit as a practical option.

My personal favourite argument in investing in safer walking, biking, and transit infrastructure is giving kids more autonomy.

Reason 4: We all rely on transit now, or will in the future.

streetcar-gif-torontoTransit is space efficient. If everyone who takes transit on a daily basis drove to work, we’d be in big trouble. With Metro Vancouver forecasted to grow by a million more people, we’re going to need to move people in more efficient ways. Either we plan for growth now, or we let it slap us in the face later and scramble to do a shoddy, patch work job later.

Not everyone has the option of taking transit, and they will continually need to have a car for their work. By building better transit for those who can make the choice, we make it easier for those who don’t have anothchart17er choice.

Not everyone can drive. People are getting older. There is a big chunk of people that are aging and have the potential to be unfit to drive. These people will rely on transit and if we don’t plan for it, we will immobilize a large portion of our population. We’re all going to end up in this situation one day, and it’s probably a smart move to be thinking about our future so that we can continue to live the same quality of life that we are living now.

PS; fewer and few people are getting driver’s licenses and you need to be 16 to get one. About 30% of BC’s population doesn’t have a driver’s license1.

Reason 5: There’s a really good chance you’ll save a ton of money.

Cost of Owning a CarIf there’s better transit, there’s a good chance you’ll choose it more often. If households choose transit because of improved service, they might be able to sell a car or two and forgo the expense of car ownership. Others might avoid the need to purchase a car altogether and could join a car share if they need access to a car.

Three Improvements for the King Streetcar

There’s one thing that we can all agree on– the King streetcar is slow and needs some optimization. Why is it important to optimize the King Streetcar? It’s the busiest streetcar in Toronto’s network, and it often gets bunched up. There are a number of reasons why, but I’ll focus on just a couple.

  • Single door boarding
  • Sharing the road with other users, more troublesome at peak travel times
  • Close proximity of stops

As of late, the King Streetcar has been given some TLC and will see the introduction of all-door boarding in the new year. It’s the first step to improving service but I think more can be done.

Three things that will make the King Streetcar better:

  1. All-door boarding.
    • Happening in the new year.
  2. Make the downtown portion of King St exclusive to transit and taxis.
    • A similar tactic is used on Calgary’s 7th Avenue.
    • An old idea that has already been proposed a little differently.
  3. Ensure that stops are 250-350 metres apart.
Conceptualised streetscape for an exclusively transit and taxi King St

Transit Funding Options in Metro Vancouver

I recently wrote a paper that took a look at a variety of transit funding options for Metro Vancouver as proposed by several different sources. The funding sources that I’ve taken a look at are:

  • Vehicle levy
  • Re-directed carbon tax
  • Road network mobility pricing
  • Absentee homeowner surtax
  • Land value capture
  • Half-percent regional sales tax
  • Contributions from other levels of government
  • A combination of the above revenue sources

You can download the paper here.

Ladner Transit Hub Concept

Sorry, mobile users, only Android has an app for Google Maps Engine so you can view the map above.

A friend of mine started this brilliant concept of Ladner being a transit hub that I previously hinted at. What he conceptualized was an extensive makeover for the network in South Delta and adding a (much needed) FTN link to the Tsawwassen Ferries. In the map above, you can see the tweaks that I made to his idea.

Conceptualized Routes:


What if TransLink Executives were Volunteers?

There is always a lot of drama surrounding the fact that TransLink Executives make a lot of money– I’m not here to say that they don’t– but I just want to put some things into perspective about how people say that if we stop paying the executives so much, we’d have no problem funding transit. I’m sorry if this comes as a shock, but, we’d still have a problem.

Allow me to crunch some numbers and compare with something we can identify with:

Total amount of executive compensation for 2012 at TransLink:
Average cost per kilometre of SkyTrain projects built to date:

$2.5 M

$78.7 M

Length of SkyTrain network that could have been built if TransLink Executives were volunteers in 2012:



What this leads me to conclude is: for all those who think that cutting TransLink Executive salaries, even to those in comparable positions in the industry, we’re still going to need more transit funding.

When I say “comparable position” I mean the Chief Executive of a transit agency. What most people don’t realize is our transit agency does a whole lot more than just transit. TransLink operates passenger commuter rail, public bus, a ferry service, automated rapid transit, a police force, motor coach, four bridges, and most of a city’s major roadways– among other things. Personally, I can almost justify their salaries.

If you don’t take the Bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain, Westcoast Express, or Canada Line, TransLink owns and maintains the Knight Street Bridge, the Pattullo Bridge, the Westham Island Bridge, and the Golden Ears Bridge as well as the “Major Road Network” which encompasses most major arteries in Metro Vancouver that the BC Government doesn’t maintain.

The upcoming referendum is a huge deal and it affects virtually everyone. Judging the wide scope of TransLink’s mandate, I’d call the upcoming referendum a “mobility referendum” rather than a “transit referendum”.

Update: SkyTrain cost per kilometre not adjusted for inflation.

South Delta Citizens and Rapid Transit


Each year, Ipsos puts out a survey that surveys how people feel about their city. This year’s hot topic? Transportation.

Transportation is the number one issue concerning people and for 44% of the survey responses. Of that 44%, 6% of the concern was around public transit subcategory– the second biggest concern in the category. Where there is concern, there is demand. Most people just need a more frequent and convenient transit network to get them to leave their cars at home.

In a recent statement on expanding rapid transit to South of the Fraser, the CEO of TransLink, Ian Jarvis stated that “[he] wouldn’t say it’s a ‘dream.’ (Light rail) is something we need to look at in terms of how the Lower Mainland is going to develop.”

A comment made by Marvin Boutlier on that article made me think about expanding rapid transit to Ladner– and at first it seems like it would never work, but after taking a closer look at the idea, it makes a whole lot of sense.

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 14.50.46
A radical idea for a South Fraser LRT line.

Right now, 40 buses use the Hwy 99 corridor per hour at peak times. Most of these busses (the 351, 352, 354, 404, 601, 602, 603, 604 & 620 to name a few) run through the tunnel and feed an overcrowded Bridgeport Station.

If light rail were to connect South Delta in Ladner at Hwy 17 and Ladner Trunk, all the buses that typically run through the tunnel can connect at Ladner thusly reducing the cost to run them (noting that South Delta is the most expensive region TransLink operates in).

With a new Hwy 17 on the South Fraser Perimeter Road the repurposed Hwy 17a is the perfect corridor for buses to connect to Ladner, especially with the new separated lane at exit 28 on Hwy 99.

Transit Fares

Here in Vancouver, I’m frequently bombarded by negative conversation surrounding the (seemingly) high cost of public transit fares. It wasn’t too long ago that a friend of mine shared this info-graphic with me. It’s really an eye opener that compares fare cost with distance travelled. I’d say fares here in Vancouver are well worth it. IMO Metro Vancouver’s transit authority, TransLink is really doing a great job at being competitive when compared to other transit authorities across the country in other major cities. If TransLink could just generate more revenue and close the spending gap…

Link to Infographic

Rapid Transit for Suburban Areas

There is a huge demographic in suburban areas that demand access to transit.

Light rail needs to be considered and transit plans need to be extended beyond Richmond.

In a perfect world, instead of a bus that runs every 30 minutes, it would make sense to take transit to town. The obvious solution to this issue would be rapid light rail. After all, if rail reaches south of the Fraser River, it would have to get to the ferry terminal which is the gateway to British Columbia’s Capital City and Legislature.

The image attached to this post is my wild imagination proposing an additional rail line that extends to South Surrey and South Delta. It could also be further developed and linked with the proposed Surrey Line.

Evergreen Line


The Evergreen line is a rapid-transit line in Metro Vancouver that, once completed in 2016, will service Coquitlam via Burnaby and Port Moody. The fully-electric rapid transit line will join the SkyTrain network. Originally decided in 2004, the $1.4B project is a result of an outcry for relieving congestion and a rapid transit link to Downtown Vancouver. It will replace the #97 B-Line rapid bus service that was implemented in 2002.