BTA’s BC Budget 2022 submission

2022 BC Budget Submission – Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria

September 29, 2021

Dear members of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services,

The climate emergency is turning lives upside down in BC. This year hundreds of people died in a heatwave and towns burned. We are in a climate emergency, which translates to a budgetary emergency for governments and families.

According to BC government data, transportation is BC’s largest and fastest growing source of GHG pollution. As shown in the graph below, transport emissions increased by 31% from 2011 to 2018.[1]

This increase was largely caused by provincial budgetary decisions, particularly spending billions of dollars to increase the capacity of urban highways instead of using the same funds to improve public transit and active transportation.

We call on you to fully implement your commitment in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, to shift investments “from higher to lower-emitting types of transportation.”[2]

We are only one of over 200 groups, representing over one million British Columbians, calling for the BC Government to “reallocate infrastructure funds from highway expansion to transit and active transportation.”[3] Specifically, we call for an end to all highway expansion projects in and near urban areas. Increasing road capacity in urban areas leads to more traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, and toxic air pollution. It also makes life more expensive for families who are forced to own multiple automobiles by the lack of good quality public transit.

Infrastructure funds must go to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas pollution from transportation and creating healthy livable communities. We need to fund improved public transit with affordable fares and dedicated lanes, as well as safe facilities for walking, rolling and riding bicycles.

The whole province needs affordable highway bus service between communities, particularly indigenous communities.[4] Short haul flights are one of the most polluting forms of transportation, so highway bus and passenger rail connecting cities and rural communities must be improved instead of expanding airports.

Last year Greater Victoria municipalities were divided on transportation priorities. But in July the Capital Regional District unanimously approved the Transportation Priorities Implementation Strategies report.[5]

The CRD will be prioritizing projects based on “mode shift, climate action, congestion, safety and affordability.” The CRD’s approach to dealing with congestion favors improving public transit and active transportation rather than increasing highway capacity for cars with wider highways or new interchanges.[6] This policy puts Rapid Bus, general transit improvements and active transportation (walking, rolling and cycling) at the top of the regional priority list.

Greater Victoria desperately needs a new transit depo to accommodate an expanded bus fleet and charge electric buses, capital to create a great Rapid Bus network, and operating funds to run an expanded fleet. Highway capacity increases are not a regional priority. Public funds must not be used to stimulate more traffic and greenhouse gas pollution anywhere in BC, and especially not in the CRD.