Comment: Mayors want action on regional transportation issues

A commentary by the mayors of Esquimalt, Saanich, Victoria, Colwood, Sidney, North Saanich, View Royal and Sooke.

A commentary by the mayors of Esquimalt, Saanich, Victoria, Colwood, Sidney, North Saanich, View Royal and Sooke.

As mayors of the capital region, we’ve come together in this election campaign to advocate for the challenges facing our region. These challenges were here before COVID-19, but the pandemic has deepened them.

We’ve asked all the parties and candidates in our region to outline their plans for addressing childcare, mental health, addictions and treatment, and transportation. We’re satisfied with all the answers but one.

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It’s transportation where we think that most parties are, well, missing the boat.

Transportation issues on southern Vancouver Island have been largely ignored by successive governments for many years.

We acknowledge that a lot of time and effort went into the South Island Transportation Strategy.

But we’re concerned that the strategy, and many of the answers to our specific questions to candidates and parties, don’t adequately address the vision expressed by local residents or elected officials for the future of transportation in our region.

We asked candidates and parties to address how or if their party will:

• Take action to invest in transportation and transportation related issues on southern Vancouver Island.

• Ensure a type of regional governance body for transportation matters would be established through working with local government.

• Acknowledge that transportation issues and governance on southern Vancouver Island must be addressed.

Collectively we see reforming regional transportation as an opportunity to tackle congestion and climate change at the same time, and to provide healthier, safer travel options for our residents.

We know that having reliable, efficient and low-carbon transportation options is necessary for our region’s economic recovery.

It’s also necessary to accommodate rapid population growth. Recently people have been increasingly choosing Vancouver Island as home because of the low COVID-19 case count. Sidney, Langford and Colwood are leading the region in housing starts.

The population of Vancouver Island is rapidly nearing one million people.

We must lay the groundwork now for the future. And we need a new governance structure to do so. Transportation decisions have been made in an ad hoc fashion for far too long.

A regional governance body is necessary. Local government can only do so much without provincial support.

Most of the responses to our questions involved being “willing to sit down with us after the election to discuss governance options.” We’ve had these same “sit downs” with the last two governments.

If we don’t take action now, our residents will be stuck in traffic for the foreseeable future. The South Island Transportation study notes, for example, that a typical vehicle trip in 2019 from Mill Bay to Victoria takes about 43 minutes during the morning peak and as long as 66 minutes on some days.

With expected population growth, by 2038, this same trip would take up to 87 minutes on a typical day and up to 144 minutes with variability of conditions. No one wants to spend that much time each day in a car. It’s bad for productivity. It’s bad for family life. And it’s bad for the climate.

We’re not advocating for a particular approach – buses, ferries, trains and bike lanes all work; the South Island needs a multimodal network.

What we do want is the next government to work with us, as partners, to deliver a transportation system and transportation governance fitting of a capital region in the 21st century.

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