OneCity calls on Vancouver voters to 'hold their noses' and vote YES in the Transit Referendum

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Vote YES for a better transportation system: a clear and obvious answer – but what a MESS!

Metro Vancouver needs a better transportation system. We need the money to fund that system. "By voting yes, we play a part in addressing climate change, economic development, individual health and equality," says, RJ Aquino, former council candidate for OneCity.

A yes vote could ensure 70% of Metro Vancouver residents live within 5 minutes of a fast and frequent transit line. A yes vote could make it possible for drivers to save 15 – 20 minutes per day on the region’s most congested roads. A yes vote could maintain our current carbon footprint even with an additional 1 million people in the region. A yes vote could increase the movement of goods and services, creating jobs and expanding our economy. Finally, a yes vote could save about 400 lives and prevent about 8000 serious injuries.

So, we in OneCity will vote ‘Yes” on the referendum and we encourage our supporters and friends to do the same.

But what a mess.

First, why in the world is there a referendum at all?  When we built a new Port Mann Bridge we didn’t have a referendum.  When we replaced the roof at BC Place we didn’t hold a referendum.  Why a referendum for public transit?  Why a sales tax to pay for improvements when we know sales taxes are regressive?  They affect most those who can least afford to pay.  

Every level of government bears responsibility for the fiscal mess transit is in.  The Federal Conservatives have off-loaded and starved cities’ basic urban infrastructure, maintenance and improvements budgets. While Canadian cities are important economic engines and talent-laden creative crucibles, the federal government continues to de-invest in them.

The Provincial Liberals had a chance to take leadership on this issue. Knowing that better transportation is needed and that it will benefit everyone in the province, they could have funded transportation improvements avoiding a costly referendum. Instead, they chose to download their public policy responsibilities onto resource poor Metro Vancouver.

To make matters worse, the BC Liberals took a democratically accountable Translink governance structure and turned it into an undemocratic, opaque, financially bloated and wasteful organization. Instead of a clear vote for a better transportation system, voters are distracted by Translink’s lack of legitimacy and effectiveness.

Vision Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council are also to blame. They’ve failed to provide an appropriate and cost-effective transportation plan. Instead, they propose an expensive subway that’s more about developers’ plans for West Broadway than the desperate need for affordable and efficient public transit across the whole city.

Buses are at capacity and pass-ups are common. And transit accessibility is a critical issue for Vancouver residents. But the planned Broadway subway line does little to address this issue.

A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system would cost about $410 million. The $3 billion budgeted for the Broadway subway (and nobody believes it could possibly be built for that amount) would build 7 to 9 BRT lines, blanketing Vancouver with a network of efficient, fast and convenient rapid buses to service the whole city, not just the Broadway corridor.

Despite all of this, we’re going to vote ‘YES’, because to defeat the referendum is to go backward on public transit.  A ‘NO’ vote won’t make Translink more democratic or more efficient.  A ‘NO’ vote won’t increase transit service across the city.  A ‘NO’ vote won’t force the federal and provincial governments to fund transit.  A ‘NO’ vote won’t fix the flaws in the Mayors’ plan.

We’re going to hold our noses and vote yes – and then we in OneCity will work as hard as we can to make sure public transit is a priority, that it’s affordable and accessible and that it meets the needs of the people of Vancouver.

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