Saanich council Monday signalled its support for the creation of a regional transportation service under the auspice of the Capital Regional District — a service that could eventually see the tax bills of Saanich residents go up.
“This thing just makes sense and I’m curious how this thing rolls out,” said Mayor Richard Atwell as council unanimously endorsed a motion tabled by Coun. Susan Brice, who also chairs the CRD Transportation Committee.
This service would provide the CRD with a mandate to address regional transportation needs, as described in its regional transportation plan, said Brice.
“At a visceral level, people understand that it should have some kind of co-ordination through the region, as people move here, as congestion has become more prevalent, and as we recognize the multi-modal [nature of travel],” she said.
Specifically, the new service would allow CRD municipalities to collect and analyze regional multi-modal transportation data; integrate regional trails with local walking and cycling routes, identify regional transportation priorities; and join in lobbying senior government for funding, said Brice.
The service, if approved, would come into existence across three phases.
Robert Lapham, chief administrative officer for the CRD, told council Monday that the first phase would integrate at no additional cost transportation work that currently happens in the CRD’s planning department and the part of the parks department unit responsible for running the regional trail system.
However, the second phase – if approved as presented Monday – would create financial obligations to help pay for additional services.
The owner of a Saanich home valued at $500,000 could pay up to $60 annually to help fund transportation infrastructure, funding applications and partnerships, according to documents presented Monday.
“The idea of [Phase 2] is very desirable, but the mechanisms to make sure that our taxpayers are taken care of will require a lot of fine-tooth combing,” said Coun. Colin Plant.
Coun. Judy Brownoff echoed Plant’s support for the integration of existing transportation under Phase 1 of the proposed service and agreed much of the heavy lifting remain ahead.
“Phase 2 will definitely have a lot of debate around the dollar amount,” she said.
Other issues looming in the distant background include the yet-to-be determined governance structure of the service and the role of B.C. Transit, which remains under provincial authority.
Brice, who is currently canvassing CRD municipalities for support of the service, said official responses coming back have been relatively slow.
“A lot councils have on it the table this week,” said Brice.
“I know Victoria and View Royal have passed this. I have every expectation that there will be some concerns from some communities.”
Once all CRD members have delivered their responses, the CRD board will receive a report, she said.
“The board then can make a decision to go further if there is overwhelming support,” she said. The board, alternatively, can pursue other options, if some members do not participate, she added.
“For the transportation service to be truly effective, it needs full regional participation,” a background document reads.