Sunday, April 5, 2015

Transit Referendum Vote

I received my Transit Referendum ballot in the mail from Elections BC a few weeks ago and didn't waste any time filling it out by voting, "Yes".

Now don't get me wrong.  If anybody reads my posts on TransLink, they would know that I am a harsh critic of the ineptitude that TransLink executives have shown over the years.  But back to the point;

Here are the reasons I voted, "Yes";

Delays in transit expansion will cost us more later than now

If the TransLink P.S.T. hike is voted down and creates further delays (by years), the amount of money that TransLink currently wastes will be a drop in the bucket compared to how much more the cost of the planned projects will increase due to inflation.

The cost of expanding the transit system 10-20 years from now will be much greater than the cost would be right now.  The longer we delay it now, the more we will pay later.

How would we pay more the future?

Increased cost of burning more gas in gridlock.

Increased cost of your time commuting to and from work due to gridlock.

  • If you earn $20/hour and spend 1 hour driving each way to and from work, your $20/hour   wage is really $16/hour when you add the extra 2 hours of suffering in gridlock to your 8  hour day. 

Increased health costs (human and monetary) due to more ailments caused by increased air pollution. The costs will increase even if you are an air pollution denier.
  • More of our tax dollars will be spent on health care costs than the amount we would be  paying in the form of a 0.5 %P.S.T. hike.

Increased number of cars with a projected 1 million new residents over the next 30 years.

  • The current number of cars on the road is already a problem. What do we expect will happen when we have more cars than we currently already have?

Significantly increased cost of expanding transit every year that we wait with our heads buried 
in the sand.

  • The monetary costs of voting "No" are going to increase exponentially.

Here are some articles that support the "Yes" side with valid, well-reasoned arguments.

Vancouver Courier article below

Soapbox: Voting No a historic mistake

Stewart Prest / Vancouver Courier
March 18, 2015 10:23 AM

Let me begin by saying I love this city. I moved here several years ago to begin graduate studies at the University of British Columbia. Prior to my arrival, I’d lived in four other provinces and on two other continents. In all those moves, I can honestly say I’ve never been anywhere I’d rather live.
What’s more, Vancouverites seem to get how good they have it here. Many will talk your ear off about just how lovely the city is, given half a chance to do so. That civic pride is for the most part well justified, too. Every city has its problems, and Vancouver is certainly no exception — issues like homelessness and affordability constitute significant and ongoing challenges — but this city gets a lot of things right.
On the subject of transportation however, the region teeters on the verge of a historic mistake, one that will haunt the region for years, and possibly decades, to come.
Polls now suggest a majority in the region is planning to vote No in the transit plebiscite currently underway. Some appear to be acting out of frustration with perceived administrative shortcomings of TransLink, the provincial government-created local transit monopoly. Others argue that the funding mechanism of a 0.5 per cent sales tax is less than ideal.
Such thinking and argumentation is astonishingly short-sighted for a moment of such importance to the future of the region. “Take that, nose!” people seem to be saying. “I bet the face never saw it coming! Hahaha! Ow.”
Cities are defined in part by how, and how well, they move people. A growing city of any size, let alone one with global aspirations, must work tireless to meet transportation challenges. Once a city falls behind on infrastructure expansion, it can be very difficult to catch up. In some cases it may prove impossible.
Vancouver, with its overloaded buses and rage-inducing traffic jams, needs such improvements more than most places. Indeed, in many ways this city succeeds despite its transportation system, rather than because of it. One 2013 study ranked it as having the worst traffic in North America. Another in 2014 placed Vancouver fifth worst in the entire Americas. “World leaders in gridlock” is a civic slogan that leaves much to be desired.
Transit suffers by other measures as well. A 2014 study by the Pembina Institute found that, despite laying more new rapid transit track in the last 20 years than the other four major Canadian cities surveyed, Vancouver still ranked last in terms of certain measures of access. Less than one in five residents live within a kilometre of existing rapid transit for instance, behind even sprawling Calgary.
A Yes vote opens the door to a greener, more liveable city and region. It even stands to be a slightly more affordable one. The Mayors’ Council recently released a study showing that, in the long run, the average Vancouver family will end up saving money thanks to reductions in fuel use, fare prices, and so on. That’s even after the new sales tax is taken into account. Quite simply, a Yes vote will lead to a cleaner, more prosperous, and more efficient Vancouver.
Conversely, a No vote rejects the best chance the region has to address one of its biggest problems. It is a vote for more traffic, more pollution, and continuing uncertainty around transportation in the city for the foreseeable future.  It will not force TransLink to fix things itself. It won’t result in another referendum right away on the same proposal using a different funding mechanism. There’s no way to know how long it will take for a new proposal to emerge should this one be defeated, and until it does the problem will simply worsen as the region’s population continues to grow.
None of this is to say that TransLink itself is above reproach. On the contrary, it’s clear that the corporation is in need of significant reform. Another report commissioned by the Mayors’ Council — the same council behind the transit proposal — found that transit governance in the Vancouver region suffers from “deficiencies in accountability, effectiveness and efficiency in decision-making” not found in other comparable regions. Vancouverites can and should take that up such problems with TransLink’s board and with the provincial government.
That’s a separate issue from investments in infrastructure however, and ought to be treated that way. The question of the referendum is exactly what it appears to be: are Vancouverites willing to pay for badly needed improvements to the city’s transportation system, or not?
I like living in a world-class city. I think my fellow Vancouverites do, too. Let’s hope they vote with a view to keep it that way.
Stewart Prest is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of British Columbia. He’s originally from Alberta, but took the scenic route to get to Vancouver.

24 Hours (Vancouver) article

Premier posts ‘kick me’ sign on TransLink

By Steve Burgess
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 7:09:01 PDT AM

Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Happy families are all alike - each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Reminds me of the transit plebiscite. People who support the .5% sales tax increase do so for one reason - they want Vancouver’s future growth to be accompanied by proper and well-funded transit.
People who oppose the plan? They all seem to have their own reasons, and their own reasoning. The most common reason is, “No more money to TransLink fat cats,” but there are a wide range of others. “The fact that the Suzuki Foundation is for the ‘Yes’ side would be enough for me to consider to vote ‘No,’” commented “A Taxpayer” on journalist Frances Bula’s blog.
Perhaps my favourite Facebook comment so far was aimed at Jimmy Pattison, the famed car salesman who will head the panel overseeing TransLink spending if the “Yes” side wins. “He just wants better transit so he can sell more cars,” one commenter offered.
Makes you wonder what his motivation for voting “No” would be. But never mind — the logic isn’t important. Factual arguments tend to do nothing more than harden existing positions.
The nasty truth is that these public debates are less about the issue than they are about identity. Who you want to align yourself with? Do you hate those people who keep telling you they know what’s best for you? Hate the mayor? Hate the premier? Hate that smug Suzuki? Great — stick it to ‘em with a “No” vote.
Although Premier Christy Clark claims to support a “Yes” vote, it’s hard to believe. Rather than support transit funding, she threw it to a plebiscite, and after the HST debacle Clark knows better than anyone how tax referendums usually turn out. Holding a plebiscite is the equivalent of taping a “kick me” sign to your back. It’s open season for the disgruntled.
Consider the recent history of the new Port Mann Bridge. Soon after it opened ice missiles were plummeting from the overhead cables through car windshields. Toll avoidance has shifted traffic to the overused Pattullo Bridge and disrupted Surrey traffic patterns. Now imagine a referendum on the Port Mann or any other bridge, and the arguments that could be mustered: “More money for the incompetent fat cats who created the Ice Bomb Expressway? I don’t think so.”
But there was no referendum on the Port Mann. It was something that needed doing, so it was done. Problems will be dealt with. That’s government. A shame Clark didn’t follow that principle with transit funding.
Steve Burgess is a Vancouver-based writer and author of the novel Who Killed Mom? 

24 Hours (Vancouver) article

Numbers don't back up TransLink critic

By Steve Burgess

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 7:04:44 PDT AM

Here's an idea: How about holding a referendum on the Canadian Taxpayers Federation? Behind head cheerleader Jordan Bateman, the CTF is leading the charge to cripple the future of Vancouver area transit.

Considering the effect they are set to have on Vancouver transit policy, I'd like to have some say in their finances.

Here's another idea: If the referendum fails, as current polls predict, let's all catch a ride to work with Bateman. It's the least he can do.

Or perhaps you think it's unfair to target the CTF spokesman personally? My apologies. I learned the technique from a master — Jordan Bateman. To be fair, Bateman hasn't been smearing a single person. Instead, he has created a caricature, the TransLink “elite” — a trough of snuffling pigs living high on our transit coins.

Bateman can point to high-profile screwups like the trouble-plagued Compass Card program, the unused Surrey parking lot, and TransLink executive car allowances (which I wrote about here myself). But the CTF's description of TransLink as a gold-plated pigsty doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Independent transportation analyst Todd Litman has compared TransLink's efficiency to other North American transit systems and describes TransLink as comparatively “outstanding.”
Meanwhile, blogger Brad Cavanagh crunched the numbers and found that TransLink waste amounted to roughly one-tenth of 1% of the total budget.
Meanwhile, despite some highly publicized SkyTrain malfunctions, TransLink's on-time rating sits at a respectable 95%. But then you don't see many headlines reading, “SkyTrain On Time Again.”
In view of the actual numbers, Bateman's charges are not much different from the guy in the bar who bellows, “They're all a buncha crooks!” It's an easy attack — easier than funding a secure future for local transit.
Many Vancouver area residents do not want to pay more taxes. I get that. That's fair. Let's just drop the CTF bull about how a “No” vote is some sort of people's revolution against TransLink fat cats.
Bateman draws his own salary by opposing taxation in any form. And he's doing a great job. As he recently told Tyee writer Doug Ward, “After this campaign I may want to renegotiate my contract.”
Nice to see somebody's getting fat off this vote. If you'll excuse the personal attack.
Steve Burgess is a Vancouver-based writer and author of the novel Who Killed Mom? 

Delta Optimist letter to the editor
Don't let planned improvements slip away

Delta Optimist
March 20, 2015 12:00 AM


I will be voting in favour of the mayors' plan for a 0.5 per cent raise in provincial sales tax for improvement of transportation and transit in Metro Vancouver.

Despite controversy surrounding the issue of TransLink and provincial responsibility, it is my opinion this referendum is an important opportunity to improve greatly needed active transportation of transit, cycling and pedestrian access for the ecological and economic health of the region.

The more transit, cycling and pedestrian access that is available, the more people will get out of their cars, which will result in less gridlock for drivers.

The result will be less air pollution and significant health benefits for active transportation participants as well improved public safety on the roads.

Economic benefits are also significant. Gridlock costs money in lost productivity and is the blocked arteries of a dysfunctional transportation system. What is needed is healthy transportation for a healthy, vibrant and growing community.
Urgent need for greater transportation connectivity for a growing Metro Vancouver is clear.
The means before us may not be perfect but it is a plan to take us towards the goal of improved transportation.
Let's vote for the continuing update of transportation options and connections to benefit Delta and its residents as partners of Metro Vancouver.
Carol Vignale
© 2015 Delta Optimist

Why aren’t road improvements being put to plebiscite while transit is?

This comes after the province’s $2.5 billion announcement yesterday
Jill Drews

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) The fact that the BC government has $2.5-billion to spend on roads while it is forcing Metro Vancouver to approve an increase in sales tax to fund transit hasn’t gone unnoticed. People online are wondering why road improvements aren’t being put to a referendum while transit improvements are.

Transportation planner Gordon Price understands the confusion. “The government has never adequately explained why there has to be a vote on transit but not on, often greater numbers in terms of dollars, money being spent on roads and bridges.”

Price says it’s politically popular to lay asphalt and cut ribbons on bridges, while transit has often been seen as a social service that’s a local responsibility.

Todd Litman with the Victoria Transport Policy Institute doesn’t understand why the province is prioritizing road projects. “This is very unfortunate because throughout North America, automobile travel is peaking. The amount of driving is not growing and so there’s less of a need to expand roads while demand for walking, cycling and public transit is growing. More people want to rely on walking, bicycling and public transit if those are high quality. And so it really does make sense for all levels of government to be shifting resources from expanding roads to improving walking, cycling and public transit and the provincial government is making that difficult.”
The BC government’s 10-year transportation plan includes $18-million for cycling improvements, but that’s ten times less than what’s proposed in the plebiscite plan. The latest Angus Reid poll shows about two thirds of respondents plan to vote “no.” Transportation Minister Todd Stone was asked about the optics, but he never really answered the question, saying the government hopes Metro Vancouver votes “yes.”

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