Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

TransLink’s new direction

with 6 comments

TransLinks new direction

Unsurprisingly Kevin Falcon does not like the GVTA. After all it had been showing dangerous signs of independent thought. It questioned the Canada Line – and was less than enthusiastic about the “Gateway” – which proposes to widen the region’s major east west freeway and blow the regional strategy (which the GVTA is obliged by its legislation to support) to kingdom come.

The proposals that are discussed in the article are contained in a report from the “independent three member panel” dated January 26 and released along with a bunch of other stuff late on Friday, when the provincial government hopes that it can avoid too much attention. This is a fairly common and not very clever trick.

The panel (Marlene Grinnell (Chair), Dan Doyle and Wayne Duzita) were hardly likely to depart much from the party line that the GVTA needed to be reformed. Sadly, the so called reforms are not only a mess but will make the region much worse – if they are implemented. But I also suspect that Falcon is worried. Why so long between getting the report and releasing it? Why such a low key approach? Perhaps they expect the whole thing to go down in flames and be forgotten about – which is what it deserves.

The proposal to give the new authority the ability to both review municipal land use decisions and, at the same time, promote developments around stations shows that no-one here actually understands how things should work. Is the new body supposed to be part of the regional government – or is it a service delivery agency? A similar confusion is apparent in the two proposed boards – one of all the mayors to control strategy and another of tame provincial appointees to actually run the thing – as well as a Commissioner to make sure they both do as they are told. Expanding the size of the board guarantees more talking and less decision making. And adding communities outside of the GVRD waters down the influence of Vancouver (“we have a Charter, we’re bigger and more powerful”) and Burnaby (“we vote NDP”).

The report states

The TransLink Board should be comprised of seasoned individuals who bring
a range of appropriate management, financial and other functional expertise
(e.g., experience in accounting and finance, legal, transportation, marketing,
tourism, human resources and labour relations, community relations and First
Nations, and property development).

which sounds all right at first blush – although putting transportation third in the list is not encouraging – but the fear I have is that this is based on YVR, which runs as a business, and therefore seems immune to any other concerns than running the airport. This means it does not have to worry about mundane matters such as the environment or local opinion. The inclusion of expertise in First Nations is an interesting innovation. Is this just a bit of pc “nodding in the right direction” or an acknowledgment that in future they will be very significant players in land use decisions – as they have been a in Deltaport and the Richmond DoD lands?

I think what this all means is that the Liberals in Victoria have decided that the Livable Region as a concept is dead. They are determined that sprawl is going up the valley and the coast – because that is what the property developers want – and the hell with the consequences. As long as everyone is making money hand over fist everything must be ok. What is really sad is that the Livable Region was the pride and joy of the Chairman of the GVRD at the time – Gordon Campbell. It also means that the provincial government is determined that it – and no local politician – is going to determine what happens in the province’s largest metropolitan area. So the idea that local people and their elected representatives have an effective voice in the direction that the region takes is also cast aside.

I cannot see many local politicians liking this idea very much – even the ones that dislike the present GVTA might well prefer something they can actually effect rather than this odd amorphous thing that seems to be designed to be ineffective at policy making so the Ministry of Highways can continue in its long term strategy of covering as much of Beautiful BC in concrete as quickly as possible.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 10, 2007 at 2:09 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Article in this weekend’s Vancouver Sun that you may be interested in.

    The quote on page 4 of the article:

    “Downs said attempts to control future growth will require a regional government capable of over-riding the wishes of individual municipalities.”

    This quote made me think of Translink’s proposed power over zoning decisions near transit lines. Who knows how this would be implemented – maybe a “super” Board of Variance (or a body similar to Ontario’s hated Ontario Municipal Board). Given the GVRD’s lack of teeth in its ability to enforce the Livable Region Strategic Plan against its member municipalities (read: Richmond and Riverport housing; Surrey and Campbell Heights business park), wouldn’t it be interesting if such a board had GVRD representation?


    March 11, 2007 at 5:17 pm

  2. Downs is right – we need an effective regional government – but the province does not want this – and the new authority won’t be that. The NDP’s idea of a strengthened GVRD with Translink as a functional committee – just like sewers or waste disposal – is closer to the mark, but it is going to be Land Use that makes or breaks the region. And up to now there is precious little evidence that either the province or most of the municipalities accept that land use is a regional issue.

    Stephen Rees

    March 13, 2007 at 6:30 am

  3. The next question would be how to balance voter representation against the need to address regional issues.
    It may be cliche, but municipal voters tend to be more interested in their immediate vicinity and the direct impacts that projects (i.e. regional projects, whether housing, transit, roads, sewage, waste or water infrastructure) have on them. …. with vocal opposition.
    Does the involvement of municipal voters overly politicize the process, with the potential to override regional decisions that (supposedly) have been “made using legitimate planning principles”?
    There certainly needs to be a watchdog (planners can screw up too) but how do you avoid the compromised “dumbing down” of initiatives?


    March 13, 2007 at 10:52 pm

  4. I think that the voters should be selecting a regional board that has powers over both transportation and land use. The two should not be dealt with as though they are separate issues,as they are clearly intertwined. Local planning decisions that are counter to the regional growth strategy should be referred to the regional body for final decision. Transportation decisions should be made that support the regional growth strategy. If we could trust the province to be objective, then it might be a court of final appeal but the BC government (of whatever political stripe) has demonstrated over the last forty years that its own political preferences ride rough shod over sensible regional planning.

    Maybe the Friday release was designed to soften the inevitable blast from the only paper that allows for an opposition voice to be heard

    Stephen Rees

    March 15, 2007 at 4:17 pm

  5. “The best way to plan complex urban regions is to create a regional government responsible for both land use and transportation planning, said Downs. That was it. No silver bullet, just boring, effective government with plenty of local input and control”

    Stephen Rees

    March 15, 2007 at 6:26 pm

  6. There is now a GVRD report which provides some useful discussion of the Falcon’s proposal, written in the careful language of regional bureaucrats.

    Stephen Rees

    April 26, 2007 at 3:54 pm

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