BC Premier Gordon Campbell unveiled a $14-billion transit plan as part of the government's agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is expected to double Vancouver public transit ridership and significantly lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020.
Premier Campbell told a news conference on January 14, 2008 that the transit plan will cut 4.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gases by 2020 - the equivalent of parking all the cars and light trucks in Vancouver for a year. The plan is also expected to boost annual ridership by 200 million trips a year by 2020 - about double the current levels in just 12 years. Transit use is expected to climb to 17 per cent during weekdays by 2020 from 12 per cent today, which while less than what is currently the norm in parts of Europe and Asia, is nonetheless a significant change for Canadian transit systems.
'Our transit mission is nothing short of being a global leader in terms of public transit and transit usage,' Mr. Campbell said, '... to actually improve the quality of our environment and to leave our province in better shape for our children than we found it.'
One of the main components of the plan is to allocate $10.3 billion in funding to expand the Metro Vancouver rapid transit system. This invesent will go toward a new Evergreen Line to the Tri-Cities area, a new UBC Line and upgrades to the Expo Line and the Canada Line.
Another significant part of the plan includes $1.2 billion for Rapidbus services along seven major routes in Metro Vancouver, as well as one in both Kelowna and Victoria. Rapidbus service would dedicate special lanes to high-frequency, high-capacity buses on busy commuter routes.
The plan also contains $1.6-billion for 1,500 new, clean energy buses such as hybrids and fuel cell vehicles that would be used in communities throughout the province. Metro Vancouver would see its total bus fleet double as part of the plan.
The network of rapid buses and light rail spreading across the Lower Mainland is meant to reshape development, directing future growth into new high-density communities along transit corridors where living without a car is a viable option.
The province will encourage local governments to ensure new residential and commercial development is funnelled into compact, transit-friendly neighbourhoods.
'This plan will provide fast, reliable, green transit that acts as a catalyst to change the nature and form of all our communities - urban, suburban and rural. As more and more British Columbians live and work near transit, urban form will shift, which will lead to lower energy use, increasing energy efficiency and a lighter environmental footprint,' said Campbell. 'This is about increasing the transit choices for British Columbians, and allowing our communities to shape themselves the way they to want to be in the long-term.'
Funding for the project is still in question. The government is committing $4.75 billion and the remainder of the funding is expected to come from several partners, including the federal government, TransLink and local governments. Much of the money from the federal government is as yet unsecured, but Campbell has said the province's contribution will be assured as long as his government stays in power.
Officials have pointed to the province's achievements to date using the mechanism of public-private partnerships. 'If you look at the record of P3s (private-public partnerships) in the province, they are nothing short of stunning,' said BC Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon. 'We lead the country by a long shot.'
He noted the province has done at least 16 projects in the multiples of billions of dollars all of which have been delivered on schedule and on budget. These include a portion of the Canada Line SkyTrain extension to Vancouver International Airport and suburban Richmond, as well as recent upgrades to a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway in the Kicking Horse Canyon
Most Vancouver-area mayors were cautiously supportive of the $14-billion plan announced Monday, though some were left wondering how they would raise the $500 million municipalities are expected to chip in. Some believe that a provincial carbon tax may provide the source of funding for the project and although the provincial government has floated the idea of a carbon tax in next month's provincial budget, the Premier said it wasn't required to fund the transit plan.
'This plan is not contingent in any way on a carbon tax,' he said. '... I can't tell you how we will get all the dollars in 2015, but I can tell you we have the resources in place to set this plan in motion.'