Taking charge of our transit planning

Planning for the future of transportation will involve a variety of changes, but how should transit change to be accessible to more people?

Last week’s announcement from the province ordering B.C. Transit to undergo a third-party review of its operations, performance and governance is a huge step in the right direction to tackling the region’s transportation woes, Saanich’s mayoral candidates say.

Frank Leonard and David Cubberley both want to see transportation planning moved to a more regional level, so municipal governments can work in tandem to ensure needs are met.

“We need to be directly in control of our transit future much more than we are today. Having a transportation planning authority would allow us to look at the whole transportation system, all modes, and set up a list of priority projects,” Cubberley said.

Leonard, Saanich’s incumbent mayor, was among a group of municipal politicians who pressed the minister of transportation and infrastructure to look at changing transit governance.

“If we can achieve local control, the benefit will be that money is spent on what we want it to be spent on,” Leonard said. “There’s been millions of dollars spent on capital (projects) that haven’t delivered more service – the McTavish interchange, a transit yard in Royal Oak that we don’t need. The budget needs more scrutiny and we need to make sure that capital and operating money is benefitting the users and the service.”

Cubberley said improvements need to be made to the existing system, namely along Douglas Street and the Trans-Canada Highway, by implementing queue-jumping lanes for buses and high-occupancy vehicles. That needs to come before a light-rail transit system – or any major transit project – is built.

“Once we have established a plan at a regional level, then we can approach the province with one unified voice. Today we have no voice,” he said. “There are very few solutions that only involve Saanich.”

Leonard says the current billion-dollar business case that B.C. Transit is presenting to the province with regards to light-rail isn’t sufficient. “There needs to be a third-party review of the expenditure and then it may need a referendum,” he said.

Incumbent councillors Susan Brice, Vic Derman, Dean Murdock, Vicki Sanders and Leif Wergeland, as well as candidates Rob Wickson and Harald Wolf all agree the top long-term transportation priority is to create a thorough regional plan.

“You can’t look at transit by itself – you have to figure out how it links to all the other choices in the community,” Wickson said.

“Transit needs to think about connecting across the grid, look at it at a regional level, so everybody in the neighbourhood can easily access transit,” Sanders said.

Nichola Wade suggests working with demand centres like the University of Victoria to see if peak demand can be smoothed out.

Incumbent Judy Brownoff says if transit is going to be seen as the “preferred choice” for moving people around Greater Victoria, “we need to get transit out of that congestion or ahead of the congestion.”

She and Wade said a dedicated bus lane during rush hour along the Trans-Canada Highway would achieve that.

Paul Gerrard, also an incumbent, says the entire transit system needs an overhaul, suggesting an increase in community-based transit.

“Even with LRT, we’re still going to need regular and good bus service,” he said. “We’ll need an expansion of service as an offshoot of the main arterial routes.”

Ingrid Ip says an interchange at McKenzie Avenue and the Trans-Canada would help. “Things need to happen step by step. You’ve got to deal with the most critical areas first, which is the Trans-Canada. That’s having the biggest impact on traffic everywhere else (in Saanich) right now.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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Get more from your candidates

We asked all the candidates how they would tackle long-term transportation planning. Check out their full comments here.

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