Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for January 8th, 2018

Who will pay for the subway?

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This weekend Mike Smythe of the Province got a jump on the debate that will re-awaken this year.

“The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is studying a range of new taxes, fees, levies, surcharges and, yes, tolls as a way to pay for badly needed transportation improvements.”

And as usual for the mouthpiece of the far right, business is all important, lobby he put the question in the way the Republicans like to see things framed

 “it could mean you’ll have to do something nobody likes: paying more money to the government. “

Actually there are quite a few things I am vehemently in favour of: healthcare, education, contract enforcement

Did that last one surprise you? If you are trying to run a business, or if you want to pay a business to provide what you need, contract enforcement is a critical issue. If people can cheat you without fear of consequences, then we have anarchy. Government delivers a wide range of services – and some of them could be delivered by private enterprise, but you would not want to live in such a society. You simply cannot afford to pay for private healthcare or private education. Very few people can, which is why we should be looking very hard indeed at the record of the BC Liberals who did their best to hobble public services in favour of their private sector friends. There used to be a system that ensured that people who could not afford a lawyer still had access to the courts. That has been carefully removed in BC. But the courts are a public service and must not become a tool of the wealthy to oppress the poor. Justice and the rule of law are too important to be contracted out to Securicor or the Hell’s Angels.

In the case of where we live and how we get around simple geometry means that not everyone can drive to meet every need all the time. Cars do not work very well in a crowded city – but a crowded city is exactly what is needed to meet most human requirements. Until cars were mass produced, most people got around under their own power and mostly on their own two feet. It has only been relatively recently that walking became a crime.

You need to read this article in the New York Times Magazine to understand why good transit is essential to the success of a city – if it isn’t already apparent to you.

This why Derek Corrigan is wrong when he says that the Patullo Bridge replacement is more important than the Broadway subway and the Surrey LRT. And it is not about the war on the car or the battle between the city and the suburbs – both of which make for Good Copy for papers like the Province, but are both largely mythical. It is about the kind of place we want to live in, the kind of place that will attract the footloose industries like hi-tech and tourism, and the kind of future we face. It is the economy – and it is also the environment. It is also livability, sustainability and whatever the current buzzword is that says, ‘we have seen what urban sprawl looks like and works like and we don’t want that here’.


Written by Stephen Rees

January 8, 2018 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Transportation