RELEASE: Better Transit and Transportation Coalition warns that major Metro Vancouver transit improvement could be put at risk if significant changes to planned Surrey LRT are attempted long after funding secured at all three levels of government

VANCOUVER – The Better Transit and Transportation Coalition is warning that major Metro Vancouver’s transit improvements could be put at risk if significant changes to the planned Surrey LRT are attempted long after funding has already been secured at all three levels of government and planning is well underway.

Coalition Chair Peter Ladner says that the Mayors’ Council’s 10-year plan to dramatically improve transit and transportation and reduce traffic congestion is the result of years of negotiations between Metro Vancouver municipalities and the provincial and federal governments.

With some calls in Surrey to stop Light Rail Transit line planning and consider switching to SkyTrain technology, Ladner said the fine balance of municipal transit needs could be completely thrown out the window.

“Current and past mayors and councils worked extremely hard to reach this transit plan agreement – to now say one municipality can just change things around without any negative consequences for Surrey or Metro Vancouver or transit users is wrong,” says Ladner. “This isn’t at the last hour, it’s years too late to make significant changes to an unanimously accepted regional transit plan – without causing enormous delays in transit improvements, especially in Surrey.”

Ladner said the Coalition is not taking sides in the election in Surrey or any other municipality, but as a strong community supporter of the Mayors’ Council 10-year transit and transportation plan, it cannot stand by when the entire plan could be put at risk.

“We have over 135 organizations from a wide variety of sectors that are all committed to improved transit and transportation,” said Ladner. “They all agreed that the 10-year plan is critical to Metro Vancouver’s economy, our environment and improving quality of life by reducing traffic gridlock and getting more people out of their vehicles and onto public transit.”

“So we have to ring an alarm bell and say that there are serious problems if one municipality tries to change major components of the transit plan after funding has been secured and significant planning has already taken place to build a much-needed LRT line in Surrey as soon as possible,” Ladner said.

Ladner warns that the consequences of Surrey calling for a change in transit systems could mean the federal funding is redirected elsewhere – and that even if a change to SkyTrain were accepted, it would delay any construction by years.

“Surrey residents need more transit options as soon as possible – and changing plans now would mean they wouldn’t get any improvements for years,” he said.

The Better Transit and Transportation Coalition is comprised of more than 135 organizations from a wide variety of sectors, including labour, business, environmental, public health, anti-poverty, student associations, professional groups and more – who support the Mayors Council transit and transportation plan.

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For more information:

Peter Ladner, Coalition Chair
cell 604-760-1445

Bruce Rozenhart, Coalition Co-Executive Director
cell 778-888-7868

Bill Tieleman Coalition Co-Executive Director
cell 778-896-0964

Website: http://www.bettertransit.info

RELEASE: It’s time to start finding fair solutions to traffic gridlock

Better Transit and Transportation Coalition says it’s time for a healthy debate – but not an argument – about cutting traffic gridlock in Metro Vancouver; Coalition welcomes Mobility Pricing Independent Commission report as way to start finding fair solutions

VANCOUVER – It’s time for a healthy debate – but not an argument – about how to cut traffic gridlock and health-damaging air pollution and improve our economy in Metro Vancouver – and mobility pricing is a proven and fair way forward, says the region’s transit and transportation coalition.

The Better Transit and Transportation Coalition welcomed today’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission final report presented to the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council, saying the region must learn from other cities how to reduce commute times and the traffic gridlock that leaves tens of thousands of drivers and transit riders fuming.

“We need a healthy debate – but not an argument – about finding solutions that work fairly to make transit and transportation in Metro Vancouver work better for all of us,” says Coalition Chair Peter Ladner.

“The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission has started that conversation and we need to have the political courage to explore the next steps toward changing the way we pay for transportation to improve mobility in an equitable way.”

“Different methods of paying can reduce gridlock and commute times while increasing our ability to move goods and workers efficiently so both our economy and our residents benefit,” he said.

The Coalition is comprised of more than 140 organizations from a wide variety of sectors, including labour, business, environmental, public health, anti-poverty, student associations, professional groups and more – all committed to improved transit and transportation.

Ladner says that the most important thing about today’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission final report is that it shows us a way forward and gives the region an opportunity to explore different costs and benefits – with an underlying commitment to fairness for everyone.

“The fairness dimensions identified by the Commission – equity, distance, income levels, purpose of travel and other factors – are critical and must be properly addressed if mobility pricing is going to provide the solutions we need,” Ladner says.

But Ladner adds that headlines about possible costs are misleading because the existing costs are not transparent to the public.

“It’s important not to overreact to the potential costs of reducing gridlock,” says Ladner. “We are all paying for gridlock now.”

“This report opens up a discussion on some more effective ways to keep our roads moving, even with massive population growth.  We all want more time for our families, friends and ourselves – time that is wasted sitting in stalled traffic or waiting for delayed buses, whether in Surrey or Vancouver or Maple Ridge,” he said.

“And anyone who drives somewhere at rush hour and compares that trip to a drive back home late at night already understands what ‘traffic decongestion’ actually means – and how it saves valuable time.”

Ladner said the benefits of reducing traffic congestion are enormous.

“We can improve our health – not only by cutting deadly air pollution – but simply by spending less time sitting in vehicles; we can improve our economy by getting the goods we export from B.C. faster to market; we can improve our quality of life by spending less time on the road,” said Ladner, also Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation.

“And it all starts with figuring out together how we can fairly change the way we pay for transportation to improve mobility – and this report is an excellent start,” he said.

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RELEASE: Coalition worried Metro Vancouver’s plan may end up in funding gridlock

Better Transit and Transportation Coalition worried Metro Vancouver’s plan to reduce traffic gridlock may itself end up in governmental gridlock over funding as Mayors’ Council meets Thursday to discuss negotiations with province

VANCOUVER – Could Metro Vancouver’s plan to reduce traffic gridlock, reduce air pollution and improve transit and transportation end up itself stalled in government gridlock over funding issues?

The Better Transit and Transportation Coalition is concerned it might as Metro Vancouver’s Mayors’ Council is slated to meet Thursday to discuss ongoing negotiations on the multi-billion dollar 10-year plan with the provincial and federal governments.

The Coalition is comprised of more than 140 organizations from a wide variety of sectors, including labour, business, environmental, public health, anti-poverty, student associations, professional groups and more – all committed to improved transit and transportation.

And Coalition Chair Peter Ladner is worried.

“There is no status quo with traffic gridlock in Metro Vancouver – it will only get worse if it is not addressed and the region is at a turning point,” Ladner, a former Vancouver city councillor says. “The Mayors’ Council’s 10-year plan requires the full cooperation of all levels of government – we simply can’t let this critical work get stalled over funding disputes when we are so close to an agreement.”

Ladner says both the Mayors’ Council and BC government should take notice that when it comes to transit and transportation, there is wide agreement on the need for major improvements.

“From business to labour to environmental to health to student groups and more – everybody wants to see the Mayors’ Council plan fully implemented – this is an unprecedented consensus that should not be ignored,” Ladner said. “It’s time to fix transit and transportation for the next generation.”

Unifor BC Director Gavin McGarrigle, a Coalition director, says time is running out on an agreement between the three levels of government.

“We know the federal government’s infrastructure program can provide the funding needed for LRT in Surrey and Langley and the Broadway subway extension and a 25% increase in bus service – but without a provincial and municipal funding agreement those trains and buses won’t leave the station,” says McGarrigle. “And if we can’t get an agreement, the federal money will go to other projects in other Canadian cities.”

David Crawford, Vice President of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and a Coalition director, says the importance of transit to business are sometimes overlooked.

“The number of workers who take transit to work in Metro Vancouver jumped by 43% over the past 10 years, more than anywhere else in Canada,” Crawford said. “Metro Vancouver per capita annual transit trips rank fourth of all the cities in North America, behind only New York, Montreal and Toronto.”

Ladner says the Coalition is encouraging the Mayors’ Council and provincial government to ensure this unique opportunity to make the most significant transit and transportation improvements in the province’s history are not lost due to minor disagreements.

“We have negotiated and pleaded for federal and provincial money for decades. Now it’s there, waiting for us to make a simple decision on how to close a very small funding gap for the next phase – about $80 million a year,” says Ladner, also Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation.

“For our economy, our mobility, our health and environment we simply have to get this deal done and get moving. The time is now.”

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