Why NO is not an option for Transportation Referendum

 

This Op-Ed by Judy Darcy, MLA appeared in the New Westminster Newsleader on Friday, February 2, 2015.

154 BusA week doesn’t go by without a constituent coming to my community office, sending me an email, or phoning in a complaint about the constant traffic congestion that brings our city to a standstill. It’s the number one concern for many residents and local businesses – one that’s crying out for practical solutions.

That’s why—despite serious concerns about Translink and about the BC Liberals handling of the transportation referendum—I will be speaking out at every opportunity for the “YES” side in the vote coming up this spring.

New Westminster is at the crossroads of the Lower Mainland’s transportation network. Our city is growing rapidly and will continue to do so. The population south of the Fraser is growing by leaps and bounds. Already, hundreds of thousands of vehicles pass through our community every day often paralyzing the streets of New Westminster. And the population of the region is expected to grow by a million residents over the next 30 years.

The transportation plan developed by the Mayor’s Council—which we will all be able to vote on beginning March 16—will provide funding for badly-needed transit infrastructure throughout the Lower Mainland that would significantly alleviate the congestion we see every day in New Westminster. A new four-lane Pattullo Bridge. Expanded bus service. Improved Handy-Dart Service. Rapid transit in Surrey. And more.

Approving this plan would be an enormous step forward in solving New Westminster’s traffic problems.

It is wonderful to see the leadership being shown by our Mayor and Council who have taken such a strong position supporting the “YES” side in the referendum. And it’s encouraging to see other key groups in the community take a stand: the Chamber of Commerce, people who work in the transportation sector, environmental groups.

I certainly understand—and share—the concerns about the lack accountability at Translink after the BC Liberals restructured it in 2007. The Premier can fix this—and she should—by changing the Translink structure to give power back to our elected representatives.

I also agree with those that say the referendum was a bad idea from the get-go. It was forced on us by this government. We shouldn’t have to vote on whether or not action is needed to improve transportation and transit. The BC Liberal government could have provided adequate funding over the past 12 years, and didn’t. But the Premier can fix that too. She should now clearly commit that if we vote yes to invest in transportation, the province will step up to the plate and do the same.

Residents of New Westminster should ask the government some hard questions about funding and fixing Translink.

But the reality is the referendum is fast approaching, and it’s critical that it succeed.

The Mayors’ Council Transportation and Transit Plan is more than a better commute to and from work. It’s the ability to get around our city, run errands, walk and bike safely, and pick up the kids from school. It affects the air we breathe and how we sleep at night. It’s about our environment and our health.

For these reasons—and more—I’m encouraging the people of New Westminster to say “NO” to congestion and vote “YES” in the upcoming referendum.