Despite vastly different needs between rural and urban jurisdictions, the Capital Regional District is taking a shot at determining a list of regional transportation priorities, this time with climate targets in mind.
At its Dec. 9 meeting the CRD board directed staff to work with partner jurisdictions – municipalities and the province – and BC Transit to create a priority list that best serves community needs and includes low-carbon options. The board also approved the formation of a transportation standing committee while asking staff to research options for a transportation governance model that will “provide long-term advocacy and action.”
“The board has identified transportation as a strategic priority and we want to work collaboratively as a region to begin improving congestion and moving towards a lower-carbon, multi-modal transportation system,” said board chair Colin Plant in a release.
CRD directors discussed a staff report outlining existing gaps in transportation planning and implementation, created mostly by the lack of regional cohesion on projects, advocacy, funding and decision making.
The report stated that since 2011, 15 plans and studies have attempted to define and identify solutions to two ongoing problems: morning and afternoon traffic congestion that increases travel time and decreases quality of life; and the inability to build new road infrastructure to meet increased demand, a scenario that creates a focus on encouraging residents to shift their transportation modes.
Among those was the 119-page regional transportation plan completed in July 2014 that outlined themes, called for revised governance and funding arrangements, and detailed outcomes and actions.
View Royal Mayor David Screech, following up similar comments by Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeill-Smith, said this plan contained everything the region needs to move forward.
“The plans are in place, it’s time to take action as we’ve gone ‘round and ‘round on this,” Screech said, adding he would support a regional referendum on a new governance model.
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Longtime Langford councillor and CRD director Denise Blackwell said her fast-growing municipality has always believed in the need for a regional transportation authority. She voiced a long-held frustration that despite being the third-largest municipality in the region, Langford has no representation on the Victoria regional transit commission, which oversees bus service.
Directors from outlying municipalities did their best to remind those from the core about their communities’ differing needs.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait supported a regional approach and a unified voice on transportation issues, but stressed that “it comes down to the trust that smaller communities will not be left behind.” Sooke is a growing community that is attracting new residents not only for its relative affordability, but because they are choosing to live there, she said. Tait said conversations around regional transportation issues need to factor in the CRD’s regional growth strategy.
“This is essentially an urban problem, I don’t want to see urban decisions compromising the way rural communities operate,” said Metchosin Mayor John Ranns.
The differences in transportation needs across the region are not as great as some directors articulated around the table, stated Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
“Traffic congestion in peak periods is an economic problem, the [transportation] mode shift challenge is a climate problem,” she said.
CRD staff will report back to the board early in the new year once the list and the options for governance models are complete.
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