Open Letter to CRD Directors: Take Climate Emergency Seriously, Oppose Highway Expansion

2020 October 09, by Chapter Council

Dear Capital Regional District Board Members,
Re CRD response to South Island Transportation Strategy
Thank you! Your 2019 votes against a new ‘alternate route’ Malahat highway and for the CRD Climate Emergency declaration has resulted in the provincial government releasing a South Island Transportation Strategy (SITS) that is a significant step forward.
We would like you to take the next step, and request a re-prioritization of provincial and federal funding to be compatible with the aspirations of SITS, the CRD’s unanimous Climate Emergency declaration, and the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
Minister Claire Trevena’s introductory letter says the SITS aims for “fewer gas-powered and single-occupant vehicles on the road; more people walking and biking; an increased emphasis on public transportation. . . a bold and lasting change in mobility.”
The introduction to SITS states that the “Province recognizes a growing need to fundamentally shift how people move around South Vancouver Island. New approaches are essential.”
But a government’s true priorities are found in its budget. The SITS includes strong and clear language about continuing to fund expensive highway expansion projects, which make traffic and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution worse. However, most of the statements about improving transit, walking and cycling are vague and do not include funding commitments.
The CRD aspires to provide “a strong regional voice on regional transportation matters.” We urge you to consider the following in considering how to exercise that strong regional voice.
● The Union of BC Municipalities resolution B143 – Shifting Investment to Low-Emission Transportation passed at the 2019 convention “that local governments call on the Governments of Canada and British Columbia to fully implement their commitment in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, to shift investments ‘from higher to lower-emitting types of transportation.’”
● The BC Transit Victoria Transit Future Plan which opposes major expansions of “the road network to accommodate the private automobile.”
● The CRD’s Regional Transportation Plan which calls for bold actions to increase transit ridership and reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and asserts that the CRD should lead regional transportation priority setting.
● The letter sent to Premier John Horgan on February 6th 2019 by the 13 mayors of the CRD expressing support for the Island Corridor Foundation and for the rebuilding of the rail line.
● The need for frequent and affordable inter-regional public transit service to Nanaimo and other destinations.
● The CRD board’s 2019 unanimous vote to declare a Climate Emergency, and to rapidly reduce carbon pollution in the region over the next decade.
The SITS includes many items that we strongly support, including:
● “Supporting BC Transit’s Low Carbon Fleet Program to electrify its fleet”
● “Implementing bus lanes on highways and other inter-regional service corridors”
● “Transit stop improvements servicing Indigenous communities”
● “Pedestrian and cycling separations for regional trail networks”
● “Installation of bike lockers at mobility hubs”
● “Expanding funding for regional active transportation priorities”
A decisive shift in actual funding to improve public transit, walking and biking is the way to make transportation more affordable, improve public health and community livability, and rapidly reduce our carbon footprint.
We are in a climate emergency, and need a strong regional voice for climate action in the transportation sector. Will the CRD Board provide this clear voice in its response to the South Island Transportation Strategy and call for a re-allocation of provincial and federal funding from highway expansion to sustainable transportation in the CRD?
BC Sustainable Energy Association, Victoria Chapter
Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria
Cities for Everyone
Climate Justice Victoria
Council of Canadians, Victoria Chapter
Island Transformations Organization