Tag Archives: congestion

LRT recommended for CRD

Public deserves say on $1 billion light rail plan, Saanich mayor says
Erin McCracken, Victoria News

Reaction to bring B.C. Transit’s recommendation to bring a $950-million electric light-rail transit system to the region was swift – and mixed.

“The issue right now is do our taxpayers have an opportunity to comment between now and when they want a decision on May 17?” asked Saanich Mayor Frank Loenard. “That’s a pretty tight timeline on a $1-billion decision for taxpayers.”

Transit is currently paid for by fares, the province, property and fuel taxes and some advertising. For light rail, Greater Victoria residential property owners would have to pay an additional $130 to $265 in transit taxes a year, depending on how much money from senior government can be secured.

Starting May 15, they currently will already be paying $120.50 for transit in 2011. Business owners, who will pay $386 a year in transit taxes, would see that climb to between $1,300 and $2,650.

“This needs to be a partnership from all three levels of government and we need to determine what that might look like, even find out how long it would take to get an answer from the provincial and federal governments,” Leonard said. “Big picture, it’s where we need to go. But there’s some questions that need to be addressed from here to there.”

Construction on major exchanges could begin at least two years after project approval, and it would be at least four or five years before a full system is operational.

A partial build-out of the line may help, said Saanich Coun Dean Murdock, who favours it going out to the 6 Mile/Colwood interchange for $770 million.

“What’s clear here is there is no option to do nothing. There is no cheap way out of this,” he said.

“If we don’t take it all the way out to the Langford exchange at Station Avenue, we start to erode the attraction for people to get on the LRT.”

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is reserving judgement until it can go over the plan with a fine-tooth comb.

“It’s a complex solution. It’s a lot of money,” said chamber CEO Bruce Carter, adding that future costs of a regional sewage system must also be considered. “That strain on taxpayers is significant.”

The chosen route from downtown Victoria to Saanich, View Royal, Colwood and Langford leaves Esquimalt out of the light-rail loop.

With 6,000 CFB Esquimalt employees, most of whom live on the West Shore, it makes more sense to prioritize inter-city rail along the E&N line, said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

“The alignment they have chosen is not going to serve the region best,” she said.

Light rail is being touted as the most effective remedy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve transit ridership, reduce roadway congestion, increase property values, generate jobs and provide more cost-savings over the long run.

Also driving the project is a forecasted boom in the West Shore’s population, which is expected to climb to 122,000 by 2038.

B.C. Transit’s recommendation will go before its board of directors and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission in May, before it is submitted to the province in June.

LRT: Getting our fair share of the Provincial Transit Plan

This week, BC Transit recommended a Light Rail Transit system from Victoria to the West Shore. The total project cost (downtown Victoria through a hub at Saanich’s Uptown to Station Avenue, Langford) is estimated at $950 million. Ending the rail line at Six Mile (the junction with the E&N) would be $770million. In my view, the critical passenger mass – where the train would collect the largest number of passengers – is at Six Mile. The track from Six Mile to Station Avenue can considered for a future phase.

Transit also revealed this week that just maintaining its current, bus-based service would cost $250million. A rapid bus service would cost about $550million, but would need to be converted to LRT within 10 – 15 years. That’s twice the cost for the same outcome.

For all the discussion this week about the plan and its price tag, the provincial government offered little more than platitudes when it comes to pitching in funds. Interestingly, when the Evergreen Line (Coquitlam to Vancouver) was announced, senior governments pledged over $800 million toward the $1.3billion project.

The long-ago announced $14billion Provincial Transit Plan ear-marked close to $1billion for the Capital Region. An LRT system that will cut emissions and double ridership is a perfect candidate for the provincial fund.

The federal government can be forgiven for its silence, as it’s in the midst of an election campaign. However, its willingness to chip in for the Canada Line and Evergreen Line on the Lower Mainland should extend to LRT in the CRD.

The two-thirds funding from senior governments brings the local share of Victoria to Six Mile LRT to $257 million. That’s equal to the cost of doing nothing – a cost that property taxpayers would bear alone.

It’s time for the provincial government to step up and deliver on its promised Transit Plan funding. Let’s get our federal partner at the table as well. Their combined support for transit helped Lower Mainland commuters out of traffic congestion and home to their families sooner. Surely Capital Region residents deserve the same.

Cutting congestion and emissions

Saanich looks at installing new intersection cameras to improve vehicle flow, reduce idling
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

A new traffic flow concept being tested at Saanich Road and Oak Street could soon be the norm throughout the municipality.

“The idea is that we will have all our major signals interconnected wirelessly … and that’ll allow us to monitor and alter the timing of signals in real time,” said Colin Doyle, director of engineering.

Currently, light changes are detected by a magnetic loop, completed when a vehicle stops on top of sensors in the road. But they can be problematic.

There can be sensitivity issues, asphalt issues and damage done to the sensors, Doyle said. An estimated five per cent of the underground sensors fail and need replacing each year.

The $1.5-million project, currently an option the municipality is looking to have funded through the Federal Gas Tax Agreement, would switch virtually all signalized intersections in Saanich to the new technology.

“With these new detection systems, a camera takes pictures of the intersection every couple seconds and a computer figures out where things have changed,” Doyle said. “We program in the area and visual field to look for those changes – so we program in where it will look for changes should a car or a bike approach a light.”

Consequently, this technology has huge potential in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report to council stated that wireless traffic signals have helped remove 3,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually in similar size communities.

“Transportation represents 62 per cent of Saanich’s greenhouse gas emissions, so any changes we can make that will bring down our overall emissions is excellent,” Coun. Dean Murdock said.

The other benefit, Doyle said, is there’s potential with this technology to improve transit service by making the intersection “aware” that a bus is approaching.

Murdock says this would be a huge step forward in making the bus system more efficient on east-west streets – such as McKenzie Avenue – that aren’t a priority in discussions about the Douglas Corridor.

“(McKenzie Avenue) is a corridor we have a lot of interest in, a corridor where we want to build in some rapidity … This is the technology that will allow us to give some priority to buses or any kind of rapid transit,” he said. “The greatest benefit is for the person caught in congestion – this’ll hopefully speed the process up and you’ll get to where you’re going a little faster.”

Even if the gas tax fund request is rejected, Doyle anticipates wireless cameras will be rolled out to Saanich intersections in the coming years.

E&N integral to our transporation future

For many years, our region has suffered from double vision when it comes to our transportation future. One vision is an image of commuter rail on the E&N line, while the other is rapid transit on the Douglas corridor.

These two images came into a single, sharp focus this week with two important decisions. The first decision is a partnership between BC Transit and the Island Corridor Foundation to develop an intra-city transit system business case. This will see the development of a functional plan to bring commuters from as far away as Courtney into downtown Victoria, where they will link into the region’s transit system.

The second decision is the CRD Board directing the Transportation Committee to look into development of a bylaw for a $5.5 million contribution to a rail crossing on the Johnson Street Bridge. When the bylaw is approved, it will secure rail service from Courtney into downtown Victoria.

Commuter rail on the E&N line only works if commuters are connected to the regional transportation network. It’s a network that carries riders from downtown to the west shore and back on a rapid line, and across the lower island to and from UVic and the peninsula. Our transportation future depends on these two integral and integrated systems working in tandem.

Residents deserve a transportation network with frequent and dependable service to get to work, to shop, to schools, and for social purposes. It will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that we avoid the environmental, social, and economic costs of traffic congestion that plagues so many other urban centres.

This week’s two important decisions are major steps forward in securing that transportation future.

Mobility Action Plan: Freedom to Move

Traffic in our region is a problem. And, without a thoughtful action plan, it’s only going to get worse. During peak travel times, our major corridors are heavily congested. As we continue to grow, traffic is going to get worse – a lot worse. According to CRD forecasting, congestion will increase by 300 percent in the next 20 years. We must take action now to avoid a traffic nightmare that reduces everyone’s mobility.

Saanich’s official community plan (OCP) identifies five major centres where we will concentrate future residential density and commercial services. This is our blueprint for locating future growth. It also allows us to plan for improved mobility between the centres to avoid further traffic congestion. What we’re missing is an action plan.

Creating a Mobility Action Plan would be logical and easy. Based on our centres and on our major transportation routes we have an ideal framework. The Mobility Action Plan would put our future land uses together with designs for rapid transit, pedestrian, and cyclist corridors to connect the five centres and downtown.

The OCP also identifies neighbourhood centres, villages, and a rural village. The Mobility Action Plan would connect these areas with dependable transit service and pedestrian and cycling corridors.

A Mobility Action Plan offers many benefits for residents and the environment. Enhancing our transportation system with rapid transit, dedicated transit corridors, frequent and dependable service, and connected pedestrian and cyclist corridors will provide everyone with the transportation alternatives that are so desperately needed for journeys to work, to shop, to schools, and for social purposes. It will also move us toward our greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 33 per cent by 2020 and ensure that we avoid the environmental, social, and economic costs of traffic congestion that plagues so many other urban centres.

No one wants to wait in traffic on their daily travel, or to have their mobility restricted by a lack of alternatives that meet their needs. Let’s seize the opportunity and create a Mobility Action Plan and transportation network that will enhance Saanich residents’ lifestyles and serve our region with quality transportation alternatives for decades to come.