The Summer Festival season is upon us. We don’t have “Car Free Days” per se in New Westminster, but there are a few days when we close roads and let people gather on the streets. It is always a great way to meet your neighbours, re-connect with people you haven’t seen in a while, and remind yourself how we are a small community within a large City.
This year, we are talking transportation. The reasons should be obvious to anyone who has been reading this blog (hi mom!). With the UBE dead, with the future of the NFPR in doubt, with questions about the future of the Pattullo Bridge, and with the City starting its Master Transportation Plan process, now is the time to talk about transportation issues in the City.
So the NWEP will be there sharing our perspective. Our Transportation Group has established a set of ideas and principles that the group can support, based on our vision for the City and our research and consultation with regional transportation experts.
However, these community events aren’t about us preaching to an audience, they are about exchanging ideas. The main point of our booth is to listen to what the community thinks, and where the community is going on this issue. We hope that our ideas will be the starting point of conversations and will raise the topic so that more people get engaged in the public consultation around the Master Transportation Plan.
As such, we will be asking lots of questions about what you want to see in the City’s Master Transportation Plan. These are the “big ideas”: do we want to build more roads to move more traffic? Do we want to make the streets safer for bicycles and pedestrians? Can we take better advantage of our Transit opportunities? Can kids safely walk to school in New West? Can people with disabilities safely cross a street?
We will also be going smaller-scale. We hope to have a map where you can attach your ideas, where you can point out the “good, bad, and ugly” of New Wesmtinster’s transportation system. That intersection that just doesn’t seem safe, the area under-serviced by transit, the traffic light that doesn’t make sense or the crosswalk no-one seems to stop at.
So I hope to see you there Sunday. Make sure you show up in time for the Pennyfarthing Races, it is a highlight of Sapperton Day for me.
Just for fun, and to start a discussion, here is a collection of Myths about transportation I prepared for our booth (these are my opinions, and not neccessarily the NWEP position on these points). These are common conversation points that come up when we start talking about sustainable transportation to an audience that sees the world through a windshield. Don’t agree? Come down on Sunday and give me a hard time. I’m the guy with the 4th Round playoff beard.
Myth: The best way to fix traffic problems is to build more or better roads.
Evidence clearly indicates the opposite is true. No-where in the world has road building acted as anything more than a temporary solution to traffic congestion. Many large cities around the world (New York, London, San Francisco, Seoul, etc. etc.) have solved intractable traffic problems by reducing road space and investing in more rational alternatives. Others (Los Angeles, Seattle, Shanghai, Tokyo) have continued to build and expand roads, only to find them soon swollen with cars.
Myth: “Sustainable Transportation” means we will all be forced to ride around on bikes! You can’t move products to stores on bikes!
Sustainable transportation needs to include multiple choices for transportation of people and goods, and the most carbon-and space-efficient should be made the most cost-efficient. By moving people towards mass transit or “active transportation” like walking or cycling, and long- and medium-haul freight movement towards rails and ships, we make better use of existing roads to move goods to the stores more efficiently!
Myth: The traffic is going to come whether we build for it or not!
Traffic expands to fill space available. This is incontrovertible, and has been demonstrated around the world. “Rush Hour” traffic is caused by landuse planning built around the automobile. We need to start building to encourage more efficient transportation. The only demonstrably effective way to reduce the noise, pollution, and loss of liveability related to traffic is to reduce the space that traffic can take up. If you build it, they will come.
Myth: Trucks caught in traffic are limiting our economic growth!
No-one has clearly demonstrated how our economic growth is slowed by traffic. Clearly, the movement of bulk and container goods by truck is still competitive compared to the alternatives (such as rails or short-sea shipping) or companies would not rely so heavily on them. However, the trucking industry (much like the private automobile) is heavily subsidized by all levels of government, while rails and ship operators are mostly on their own for all their infrastructure costs. Economic growth comes from a level playing field and robust competition between competitors, not by favouring the least carbon-and energy-efficient mode of transportation by externalizing many of the infrastructure costs to the taxpayer.
Myth: Roads are cheap, building alternative transportation is expensive!
This should be an easy one in a Province where we are spending $3 billion in road bridge and highway expansion, and cannot find $400 Million to “fill the gap” on the Evergreen line. But when you add up the amount of your taxes the government spends on roads, on traffic lights, on traffic cops, and factor in the “externalized” costs related to healthcare, oil company subsidies, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, environmental degradation resulting from road runoff into our rivers and loss of developable land to parking lots and road lanes, the amount you pay for insurance, car repair, and gas seems miniscule. Once transit systems are built, once urban development encourages active transportation, their maintenance and operation costs become very small fractions of the costs of roads. One reason transit so great in most European cities is that they didn’t waste their money on roads!
Myth: Cyclists don’t pay taxes for the roads they use, drivers do!
No tax exists in BC that specifically charges drivers for road use. Gas taxes and carbon taxes go into general revenue to pay for roads, hospitals, fighter jets, Stephen Harper’s Stanley Cup roadtrips, and gazebos in Tony Clement’s riding, not specifically towards road building (although a portion of the TransLink gas levy does go to road building). Your roads are built mostly by the municipality and the province, using a combination of property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes. People who ride bicycles pay the same taxes as people who drive cars, yet use 5% of the road space. Pedestrians and transit users also pay all these taxes, and use less than 5% of the road space that drivers do. People using alternative transportation are in fact subsidizing the private automobile user, and most would strongly support a road tax that fairly charged drivers for their road use