We asked the Saanich mayor and council candidates to provide their thoughts and strategies on light-rail transit along the Douglas Street corridor.
David Cubberley, mayoral candidate:
The Douglas/TCH corridor has been identified in the RGS and Travel Choices strategy for rapid transit in the CRD. This reflects it being the most heavily used in the region, linking the largest populations to the most jobs (due to office concentrations in downtown). BC Transit has undertaken a business case analysis of two options, BRT and LRT, and recommended the latter for provincial funding. The proposal comes with high costs and much uncertainty about contributions from senior governments. I support independent review of business case assumptions (ridership, costs, land-use value gains), and ongoing discussions with the province about funding sources. Cost is an issue, and property tax is not an option for the local share of costs.
Frank Leonard, mayoral candidate:
Saanich Council has endorsed Douglas Street as the right of way and LRT as the preferred technology. Much more work needs to be done on the feasibility analysis and ultimately requires an independent review. To ensure respect for our taxpayers – no matter what kind of tax is proposed – I have also suggested the project obtain taxpayer approval through a referendum. However, I also believe that to truly make progress on transit issues, we need local control of BC Transit.
Susan Brice, council candidate:
I am on record at Saanich Council, at the Transit Commission and at the CRD in favoring a rail based rapid transit technology. Douglas Street was identified as a part of the preferred corridor and I support that .No funding decisions have been made yet as this plan could not be implemented without major funding commitments from the federal and provincial governments. A business case has to be made that ridership numbers will support such a system, that operating costs are factored in and that this is a plan that will work for our region for many decades to come. There is much work to do to collect all the facts and there will be more public in-put . After all the information and costs have been determined and the level of senior government funding that can be expected has been announced, we will need to determine what the best tool is to get public support. There are a number of ways to do this including surveys, interviews, straw polls or referendum. With the expectation that the CRD will be the governance body for transit, the directors on that Board will need to determine which course of action is best.
Judy Brownoff, council candidate:
LRT on Douglas Street corridor has been identified as the spine to our transit system. American Public Transportation Association findings show possible economic opportunities:
• For every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 in economic returns is generated.
• Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates 36,000 jobs. • Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
• Every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales
Regionally, we are currently looking at funding options that we could use to fund our local share. A report will come to CRD Board early in 2012.
Vic Derman, council candidate:
The Douglas Corridor presents a huge opportunity. It’s the best place in the entire region for redevelopment and creation of attractive, livable density. Light rail transit could be the spark that “kick starts” redevelopment by providing necessary infrastructure and signaling to developers that we are committed to change. For current businesses and property owners, it would be a boon. In Portland, when the Max line was built, property values went up in the range of 500%. We could capture some of that value to help pay for the line. In addition, Saanich would see a huge influx of tax revenue with redevelopment.
Paul Gerrard, council candidate:
At a recent Saanich Council meeting, BC Transit presented options for transportation along the Douglas Street corridor. Councillors were concerned that the main emphasis was on a bus – based system, and a motion was passed that a rail – based option for LRT was preferred. However, I believe that a business case needs to be established before such a major project can be justified, and that senior government funding is in place before we commit to such a major expenditure. I believe that an LRT Rail system will one day be built in the CRD, but not at any cost.
Ingrid Ip, council candidate:
I support anything that will improve the situation on Douglas St as long as it is a shared cost. I am not convinced that we have the population base to support the cost of light rail transit. Two dedicated bus lanes may be preferable. I did not agree with the argument from businesses on Douglas that felt that they would lose business if drivers had fewer options to turn left on Douglas St. I feel that most businesses on Douglas are destinations and drivers would just plan their route accordingly.
Dean Murdock, council candidate:
The proposed light rail plan was unanimously supported by Mayor and Council because of its economic, social, and environmental benefits. I support the plan and want to see an evaluation of its design, cost, and benefits. I’m confident that we can achieve the benefits of the proposed LRT at a lower cost to taxpayers. We’ve got traffic in every direction and need to try something new on Douglas and our major corridors. LRT should be part of an upgraded public transit network that attracts more riders by getting people to where they need to go more quickly and efficiently.
Vicki Sanders, council candidate:
While I support the LRT concept, transit along the corridor is not the problem. We need more transit connecting across the grid. And this should be done at the regional level, so that seniors, students and workers can reach their destination no matter where they live.
Nichola Wade, council candidate:
Saanich has endorsed a motion supporting light Rail Transit on the Douglas corridor as the preferred transportation choice. The key to making any transportation corridor work is real densification. The community cannot afford to make infrastructure investments without the partnerships of residents and the development community. This will mean true densification and thus, single family homes along these corridors simply cannot be supported. Council will have to show strength of will to ensure the correct densification takes place or transit corridors will not be financially viable.
Leif Wergeland, council candidate:
I do strongly support a rapid transit system in the region however before we decide on which technology we will use we need to wait for a ‘complete’ business plan on costs and ridership needs to be completed. In these studies we also need to look at an integrated transportation plan that would include cycling, walking, transit bus, LRT, and auto. Engaging the public and giving them a say in the final decision is a must. Light rail will come at a huge cost, so securing funding and grants from senior levels of government is imperative.
Rob Wickson, council candidate:
We have an opportunity to provide a clean, efficient transportation system that will have enormous benefits for our community. Saanich needs a holistic approach to transportation planning and land use —one that includes light rail transit and consultation with landowners on a long-term plan for the Douglas corridor. I am prepared to lead a process to examine land use benefits for such an investment and I have the qualifications to do so. In Addition, we must be careful about advocating for transit planning changes. A transit authority would only have a narrow mandate to provide public transportation options. Instead, let’s create a transportation authority for Metro Victoria with the power to centralize revenue and investments that will be able to link all the various transportation issues.
Harald Wolf, council candidate:
All studies seem to indicate that we need a mass transit backbone for our bus system, and I fundamentally concur. However, we must not succumb to the agenda that the Western Communities need this to sustain their growth, and that Saanich should be on the hook to fund the transit problems they have created by moving to an area with cheaper taxes. Any transit plan acceptable to me would need to be a major step toward improving transit throughout the Region, including the critical destination around UVic, and the ferries at the end of the Peninsula. Light rail holds the best promise for increasing ridership and reducing our carbon emissions.