The HandyDART service made 1.3 million trips last year. RICHARD LAM / PNG
Public transit could receive a boost in the next B.C. budget, if the provincial government heeds the advice of an all-party finance committee.
The select standing committee on finance and government, which conducted public consultations across B.C., released a report this week with more than 100 recommendations for the 2020 budget, including six for transit and transportation.
In the interest of making transit more accessible for people with disabilities, the committee said the province should increase funding to expand HandyDART, a door-to-door shared ride service.
“(The committee) acknowledged the importance of HandyDART for increasing accessibility and supporting inclusion,” the report said.
Beth McKellar, co-chair of the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, said the recommendation is important because the service is in high demand and desperately needs more funding, despite Metro Vancouver’s regional transit authority having added more service.
HandyDART’s ridership has been on the rise for the past five years, and delivered 1.3 million trips in 2018.
“We’re just a wee tiny blip on the radar, but I’m pleased this all came out and I’m hoping that they do the right thing. I always have that little bit of hope,” McKellar said.
The committee made a similar recommendation for the 2019 budget, calling for “increased and sustained” funding for HandyDART services.
Although funding was allocated in the last budget to B.C. Transit to expand bus and HandyDART services in four communities over three years, Metro Vancouver was left out, to the dismay of advocates and the region’s mayors.
“It was good that the Island got it, that B.C. Transit got it, but we need it a lot more over here,” said McKellar.
In recent years, TransLink’s Mayors’ Council has argued that the province should help pay for HandyDART because the majority of trips are related to health services, such as dialysis, and said there should be a long-term, sustainable funding model for the service.
The committee also recommended that the province work with local governments and transit authorities “to explore new pricing mechanisms to help make public transit more accessible for youth and low-income families.”
“We think this is an excellent recommendation and we urge the government to follow through on it,” said Viveca Ellis, a community organizer for #AllOnBoard.
#AllOnBoard has advocated for free transit for all children and youth up to and including 18 years old, and a sliding-scale monthly pass system based on income for all transit systems in B.C.
“We know that affordability is an important part of our current government’s mandate, and as communities and many, many community members have brought forward to us transit is not affordable for many British Columbians,”
The Mayors’ Council has also discussed free transit for youths, but believes the province needs to be involved on the funding side to offset fare revenue losses. Victoria will offer free transit to all youths who live in the city in a pilot project starting in September.
On the transit side the committee also recommended working with public and private operators to address gaps in regional transportation services — particularly in rural and remote areas — and prioritizing faster deployment of electric buses in cities, including expensive charging infrastructure.
In the area of active transportation, the committee said the province should invest in walking and biking infrastructure, education and promotion, as well as eliminate provincial sales tax on electric bicycles.
In a statement the Ministry of Finance said it is “in the process of reviewing the report in detail and considers all proposals, including recommendations brought forward by this committee, during the yearly budget process.”
Should some liquor-serving venues be allowed to limit entrance to only patrons over the age of 25?
What can the city do to promote family-friendly nighttime events for those under age 19?
And, crucially, what would it take for Vancouver to finally get late-night SkyTrain service?
Such questions, and many others, could come in for review if Vancouver council decides next week to proceed with what the city is calling a nighttime economy strategy.
“Despite the city’s support for many aspects of the nighttime economy, Vancouver has gained a reputation for being a ‘No Fun’ City in the minds of many,” states the motion on next week’s council agenda, put forward by NPA Coun. Lisa Dominato.
If approved, Dominato’s motion would direct city staff to work with the Vancouver Economic Commission to develop recommendations for a comprehensive citywide strategy, with the aim of “realizing the economic and other potentials of Vancouver’s nighttime economy.”
But Dominato wants the city to create a broad, more comprehensive look at promoting the city’s economic and cultural potential after dark, for tourists, locals young and old, and those who work night shifts.
“I think we have some untapped potential here … both in economic terms, with jobs and tax base, but also in terms of the vibrancy of the city, in terms of culture, arts, music, outdoor activations, retail, tourism,” Dominato said. “But if you really want to realize that potential, you have to have a strategy.”
This comes as a growing number of city governments around the world have started to take nightlife and nighttime economies more seriously. A City of Toronto report last month described nighttime as the “new competitive edge for post-industrial cities,” and asked: “What is the City of Toronto doing to advance the other 9 to 5?”
The City of Victoria is already looking for someone, seeking to conduct a “late night economy assessment.”
This month, council in Sydney, Australia, endorsed a plan for its nighttime economy, described by the city as “some of the biggest changes to city planning in a decade.”
Other global cities, including London and Paris, have appointed people to oversee nightlife, positions often colloquially called a “night mayor” or “night liaison.”
Amsterdam’s “night mayor” Mirik Milan visited Vancouver city hall last May. The nighttime economy has its own needs and requirements, he said, and his job is to make sure it isn’t merely an afterthought to what happens during the day. Amsterdam, for example, has allowed some businesses to operate any hours they want, including art galleries and live music venues as well as some nightclubs.
Following Milan’s appearance in Vancouver last May, council voted to support a series of nightlife actions, including directing staff to establish a “nightlife council” combining safety, transportation, economic development and “vibrant street life.”
Since then, the city has participated in a research report, conducted by masters of public policy students at Simon Fraser University, to assess the city’s nightlife economy, explore the city’s needs and help inform the work of a future “nightlife council,” said Lara Honrado, Vancouver’s assistant director of cultural services.
That city-commissioned report from the SFU grad students raises the possibility of a “nighttime liaison,” as someone who could “grasp the workings of nightlife spaces, identify trusted providers, and help provide information to the next generation of cultural operators.”
Among the SFU report’s ideas is spreading out closing times in the Granville Entertainment District to more gradually dissipate patrons by letting some businesses, with and without liquor service, to stay open later.
The loss of cultural spaces is a constant challenge for Vancouver’s nightlife scene, which is exacerbated by the pace of development, said Yousif Samarrai, one of five SFU grad students who co-authored the report.
Today, many of Vancouver’s “most culturally interesting” nightlife events are in underground, do-it-yourself venues, Samarrai said, “but the only way they actually set up places is in spaces that are set to be demolished.”
That means, of course, that those underground cultural spaces have a very limited lifespan.
Vancouver is more of a nightlife town today than it was a decade ago, said Nate Sabine, a director of the Hospitality Vancouver Association, which advocates for businesses in the Granville Entertainment District and Davie Village.
“I don’t believe the ‘No Fun City’ tag applies to us anymore. I feel like if you’re bored in this city, then you want to be bored, you’re not looking at all,” Sabine said. “But we need to do better, we need to do more.”
“Our belief is a strong culture drives a strong economy,” Sabine said, citing the Hospitality Vancouver Association’s recent report that the Granville Entertainment District 14 liquor-primary businesses alone generate $43 million in annual revenue and 900 jobs.
The SFU report highlights one particularly long-running complaint of Vancouver’s night owls: “The first and most common transportation barrier identified was a lack of public transit service during late hours.”
The absence of SkyTrain service after venues close was identified as “particularly problematic,” the report notes, especially considering the “unreliability” of local taxis, and Vancouver’s status as North America’s largest city without ride-hailing services.
TransLink has been conducting a feasibility study over the last year, looking at different late-night transit options, including SkyTrain service, said TransLink spokeswoman Jill Drew. That report is expected this summer.
Dominato also hopes to develop the nighttime economy beyond bars and nightclubs. She previously lived in France, where she regularly saw kids out in plazas and parks with their parents late at night. Similarly, she would like to see what else the city can do to promote family-friendly, all-ages nighttime events that aren’t centred around alcohol.
The motion, if approved as written, would direct staff to being work on the nighttime economic strategy in 2020, and present a draft to council by June 2021.
People who live in walkable neighbourhoods and have access to parks in Metro Vancouver save the health-care system tens of millions of dollars each year, and have lower rates of chronic illness than those who don’t, according to a new study.
The report, called Where Matters, used data from two existing studies — the My Health, My Community Survey, and the B.C. Generations Project — and clearly shows the correlation between health and neighbourhood design, said study lead Lawrence Frank.
“That’s unusual. Then, we monetized all those results and showed wildly reduced health-care costs, relatively speaking, across the continuum of place types — from the most sprawling, exurban, car-dependent to the most walkable urban. That’s never been shown before, no one’s ever had that,” said Frank, who is a professor in sustainable transport and the director of the Health and Community Design Lab at the University of B.C.
Direct health-care costs — such as medication and hospital visits — for diabetes are 52-per-cent less for those living in walkable areas than in car-dependent areas. The cost for hypertension is 47-per-cent less, and for heart disease is 31-per-cent less.
Walkability is a measure of the physical characteristics of neighbourhoods that support walking, such as a higher concentration of housing units, a mix of land uses and smaller block sizes.
The direct health-care costs for those living near parks are also significantly lower. The spending on diabetes is 75-per-cent lower for people who live near six or more parks than those who live near zero to one park. The costs are 69-per-cent lower for hypertension and heart disease.
Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, said at the report’s unveiling on Monday that containing costs is important in the health-care system, but it shouldn’t be the only reason to create healthy environments and improve the health of the population.
“We need to do this because our citizens value this. They value their good health, the good health of their family, their friends and their loved ones,” Daly said. “When municipal, provincial governments and other decision makers are thinking about what work needs to be done, they should be keeping this in mind.”
Daly said she hopes the report will give those decision makers good data to make healthy decisions.
The report also shows, unsurprisingly, that people who live in walkable areas and near parks get more exercise and are healthier.
Those living in a somewhat walkable area or a walkable area are 20- and 45-per-cent more likely, respectively, to walk for transportation than those living in car-dependent areas. They are also more likely to meet the weekly recommended level of physical activity.
People in walkable areas are 42-per-cent less likely to be obese and 39-per-cent less likely to have diabetes than car-dependent people. Those in moderately walkable areas are 17-per- cent less likely to have heart disease.
Living in a walkable area means people are 23-per-cent less likely to have stressful days. They are also 47-per-cent more likely to have a strong sense of community.
People living in an area with six or more parks are 20-per-cent more likely to walk for leisure or recreation, and 33-per-cent more likely to meet the weekly recommended level of physical activity than those living in an area with no parks.
They are 43-per-cent less likely to be obese, 37-per-cent less likely to have diabetes, 39-per-cent less likely to have heart disease and 19-per-cent less likely to have stressful days. Those living near six or more parks are also 23-per-cent more likely to have a strong sense of community belonging.
Frank said he hopes that the study will make those in power more comfortable acting on making investments in active transportation and developing policies around growth and development that support physical activity and active living.
Andrew Devlin, manager of policy development for TransLink, called the work “cutting edge” and said the onus will be on governments and agencies like TransLink to take the information and use it to create policy.
“I think what’s really unique to this piece of work, besides being a local data set for us to draw from to make decisions, is really the monetization element of it,” he said.
James Stiver, manager of growth management and transportation for Metro Vancouver, said the information will help with the future development of regional plans.
“This work is critically important to the work we do at Metro Vancouver and ties really nicely into the theme of the work we do connecting transportation to infrastructure to build complete communities,” said Stiver.
The project was a collaboration between Metro Vancouver, the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., the City of Vancouver, and TransLink, which contributed a total of $320,000 to the project, and the University of B.C.
“What makes it really cool is that all of these agencies are working together, and that’s what could make this region a better place,” said Frank.
Kevin Desmond is the CEO of Translink. Jason Payne / PNG
For the next four months, TransLink will be asking those who live and work in Metro Vancouver for their ideas for how the region’s transportation system should be developed over the next 30 years.
It will be the largest public engagement in the transit authority’s history.
“We want to hear from people across the region, of all ages and backgrounds,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond in a news release.
“Regardless of how you get around, we want to hear from drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. With Metro Vancouver experiencing rapid growth, the impacts of climate change, new technologies, and shifting demographics over the next 30 years, we want input from the broadest cross-section of people possible.”
The 30-year strategy, called Transport 2050, will lay out the region’s transportation vision, strategies and priorities. Previous regional strategies were adopted in 2013, 2008 and 1993.
The outreach campaign will involve soliciting feedback from those living in the 23 jurisdictions in Metro Vancouver and adjoining regions; meeting with First Nations, students, multicultural communities and new Canadians; and roundtables with elected officials, businesses, accessibility groups and the goods movement sector.
There will also be exhibits at public events and social media campaigns.
People will be asked about their values, concerns and priorities, ideas about the future of transportation, key issues affecting the region, and opinions on new modes of transportation.
“Transport 2050 is a great opportunity for people to have their say on decisions that will help shape communities and the Metro Vancouver region for many years to come,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson in a news release.
The public engagement will last until September, after which staff will evaluate the ideas and, in late 2020, create the final plan.
Two initiatives that could make transit Metro Vancouver more accessible and affordable were missing from Tuesday’s provincial budget.
The region’s mayors have been advocating for funding for HandyDART, the door-to-door shared-ride service for people with disabilities, and a break on transit fares for people with low incomes and youths.
“We would have liked to have seen those programs included in this year’s budget,” said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté, who chairs the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.
For the past couple of years, both the council and TransLink, the regional transportation authority, have argued that the provincial government should help pay for HandyDART.
However, Coté said the majority of HandyDART trips are related to health services, such as dialysis or specialist appointments, and seeing some investment from the Ministry of Health would make sense.
“We think there is an argument to be made that there should be better support through the provincial government, just like the provincial government mainly funds those services throughout other parts of the province,” he said.
“That’s been a longstanding issue that the Mayors’ Council and TransLink have advocated for better support there.”
The budget did include some extra money for transit — and HandyDART — improvements, but for communities outside Metro Vancouver. It adds $21 million over three years for B.C. Transit to expand bus services in 30 urban and rural communities and make improvements to help seniors and people with disabilities.
LISTEN: This week on the In The House podcast, Mike Smyth and Rob Shaw discuss the 2019 BC NDP government budget – was it a prudent NDP spending plan or a missed opportunity to get its agenda done?
We also discuss the CleanBC plan, BC Green leader Andrew Weaver’s budget response and the BC Liberals struggling to define themselves within the budget debate.
A spokesperson for the HandyDART Riders Alliance could not be reached for comment, but on social media shortly after the budget was released on Tuesday, the group called the lack of specific funding for HandyDART “disappointing.”
Coté said he hopes increasing demand for HandyDART service will prompt more serious conversations with the province about a long-term, sustainable funding model so that TransLink can continue to provide the service.
Providing discounted transit passes for people with low incomes and free transit for youths under the age of 18 has been discussed around the Mayors’ Council table, Coté said, and such initiatives have been adopted in other major cities.
“I think the Mayors’ Council is very interested in the idea, but it’s something we strongly feel would be most appropriately funded through a provincial poverty reduction strategy,” Coté said.
Such a strategy was outlined in the budget, but details about the specific programs therein were not released. It’s expected that the public will hear more in the coming weeks.
Viveca Ellis, campaign organizer for #AllOnBoard, has been lobbying for a regional plan and provincial funding for making transit affordable and accessible for all people in the region.
“In the budget documents and the information that we have right now, we didn’t see anything specifically related to transit affordability and accessibility to transit for low-income people in the TransLink service region or any other region,” Ellis said.
“We’re looking forward to the release of the poverty reduction plan and seeing what will be addressed there in terms of affordable transit.”
Coté said the Mayors’ Council will move forward by formalizing their position on reducing transit fees for low-income earners and youths this spring.
“We do expect continued discussions on that regard there and hopefully future inclusion in budgets in coming years,” he said.
The budget did follow through on promised funding for major transportation infrastructure projects, including the Broadway subway line, for which $1.12 billion has been allocated over the next three years. The total cost of that project is $2.83 billion.
Buses and riders at the UBC bus exchange on January 30 2019. Gerry Kahrmann / PNG
The TransLink Mayors’ Council has endorsed SkyTrain as the technology for the transit extension to the University of British Columbia.
At a meeting Friday morning, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation voted in favour of moving ahead with planning for SkyTrain, with only two mayors opposed. The decision was in line with a recommendation made by TransLink staff in late January.
Ahead of the decision, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said that in the interest of acting “collaboratively” on a regional decision, he would not be calling for a weighted vote.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum told the council he’d heard from UBC students and employees in his city who were looking forward to getting to campus by rapid transit.
“We’re certainly fully supportive of it,” he said.
Several mayors said they supported transit to UBC, but had concerns about the cost of the line and its priority over other transportation projects.
“It is not the only important transit project in the region,” said City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan, adding “we need to look at the long-term needs of the region.”
White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker worried the council seemed to be “rushing headlong into something several years out,” without really knowing what future growth of the region would look like.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart had questions about SNC-Lavalin and its involvement in future SkyTrain projects.
The report also noted other potentially lower-cost alternatives, including light rail transit (LRT), had been “thoroughly explored and eliminated because of capacity limitations and deliverability challenges.”
Ridership for a new rapid transit line from Arbutus to UBC is projected to exceed 118,000 in 2045, which is more than the current Millennium Line corridor.
During the meeting, the mayor’s council also heard from several people who work at UBC and supported the line. Some spoke about their difficulties getting to and from campus on existing transit.
A representative of UBC’s Alma Mater Society said the line would promote “accessibility and equity of education and employment.”
Engineering student Kevin Wong told the council he commutes for two to three hours each day, some days leaving home at 6 a.m. and not returning until 11 p.m.
“SkyTrain to UBC would cut my commute in half,” he said.
On my way this morning (on transit) to the TransLink Mayor’s council to vote “YES” for skytrain to #UBC. I hope the other mayors and council members agree! https://t.co/GLt2SEGSqy
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has been a strong advocate of extending rapid transit to UBC.
In late January, Vancouver city council voted nine-to-two to endorse a SkyTrain extension from Arbutus Street to UBC, and to direct staff to “advance the design development including public consultation to determine station locations, vertical and horizontal alignment.”
Procurement has begun for the Millennium Line extension from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus through a bored tunnel under Broadway. It’s estimated that the project will cost $2.83 billion and be completed in 2025.
The second phase of the 10-year transportation plan for the region set aside $3 million to develop concept designs and undertake pre-business-case work for the line to UBC. The last evaluation of options for the line was done in 2012, so last year TransLink hired a consultant to do a study to consider technology, operating assumptions, demand forecasts and costs.
Four options had been considered: optimized B-Line bus service, light rail from Arbutus to UBC, light rail from Main Street-Science World to UBC and SkyTrain from Arbutus to UBC.
The updated study found that by 2030 the B-Line and parallel corridors would be overcrowded. By 2045, both light-rail routes would be near or over-capacity, and parallel corridors would be crowded. SkyTrain would also be nearing capacity, however, it could be doubled with higher frequency and longer trains.
A preliminary cost estimate, in 2018 dollars, for a fully tunnelled SkyTrain extension would be $3.3 billion-$3.8 billion. However, the report notes inflation would push the cost to $4.1 billion-$4.8 billion if procurement begins in 2025 and the project is completed in 2030.
‘If we had an equitable fare structure, including free transit for children and youth and a sliding scale for adults, we would have accessibility built in for the lifespan of all community members,’ says Viveca Ellis, coordinator of the #AllOnBoard campaign for free transit for youths. ‘We would not have people in the position of having to steal a bus ride because they can’t afford it.’ Mike Bell / PNG
TransLink should immediately stop ticketing youths for fare evasion so they no longer accumulate the kind of debt that can affect their credit history for years, according to the #AllOnBoard campaign for free transit for youths.
What’s happening, said Viveca Ellis, coordinator for the campaign, is that young people end up with what’s known as “TransLink debt” that they can’t repay. That debt can follow them around for years and prevent them from getting a driver’s licence.
“We’re asking TransLink to immediately end the harm of ticketing,” she said.
“It’s the bad credit that really sets people up for lifelong poverty.”
Transit, she said, should be as funded in the same way as education and health care.
“If we had an equitable fare structure, including free transit for children and youth and a sliding scale for adults, we would have accessibility built in for the lifespan of all community members. We would not have people in the position of having to steal a bus ride because they can’t afford it.”
Ellis said the #AllOnBoard campaign has discovered thousands of low income youths with TransLink debt. Once the debt goes to a collection agency, a person may be prohibited from getting a driver’s licence and/or renewing their vehicle insurance.
Last year, TransLink said it wrote an estimated 16,000 fare evasion tickets at $173 each. Of that number, less than four per cent, or about 640, were written to minors. If a fare evasion ticket is unpaid after one year, it can increase by $100.
A TransLink official said earlier that the the cost of providing free access to riders up to age 18 “would be in the tens of millions a year.” But the official said TransLink couldn’t provide a more detailed answer until it studies the issue in more depth.
In a survey in November and December last year, #AllOnBoard asked 24 youths if they had fare evasion fines. Some said they had paid off their fines; others replied by saying “I have like 4,” “Over $500” and “800.”
Not being able to get a driver’s licence was identified as the main impact of their fare evasion debt.
“I couldn’t get my licence,” one youth said in the survey. “I owed so much from years ago and even being on the platform without my ticket validated when I had a book of tickets to use but the officer wouldn’t let me validate it when I was in a rush.”
Ellis said what the campaign has also found is that there are at least 11 different programs operated by charities and non-profits in Vancouver that pay off TransLink debt for at-risk youths. That means groups supported by city taxpayers end up paying the debt so the youths can access services.
That makes no sense to Vancouver Coun. Jean Swanson.
“It’s just a ridiculous, vicious circle,” Swanson said.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Swanson’s motion for the city to endorse the #AllOnBoard campaign was moved to Wednesday. Eighteen people have signed up to speak about the motion.
#AllOnBoard has already has the support of Port Moody and New Westminster.
Last year, Seattle city council voted to spend $7 million ($9.1 million Canadian) to provide free bus passes to 16,000 high school students.
Calgary Transit addresses poverty in its sliding-scale fares based on income. A low-income monthly pass ranges from $5.30 for a single person household earning $12,699 or less to $53 a month for a household of seven people earning $56,997 to $67,055.
Coun. Jean Swanson wants the City of Vancouver to support free transit for children and youths up to 18 years of age.
Council members will consider her motion Tuesday to draft a letter to regional officials in support of more equitable transit fares including a sliding scale for low-income residents.
Swanson said Monday that her No. 1 reason for supporting a campaign started by #AllOnBoard last year is to increase safety for youths and adults.
She said people can sometimes get stuck if they don’t have bus fare and have to walk home or take “rides with people they don’t know. That’s not safe.”
She also supports free transit to increase accessibility to the city’s amenities. She estimated it would cost a family of five in east Vancouver $20 bus fare to ride to beaches on the west side of the city.
“That’s ridiculous,” she said.
“It means a huge proportion of people in our city just can’t enjoy parts of the city that other people that have more money can enjoy.”
Swanson also believes that lower bus fares and improved transit service means fewer trips by car which will help reduce global warming.
Swanson said she’s had nothing but “positive feedback” about her motion.
She doesn’t have any estimate on costs, she said, because this is a first step in figuring out how to create a more equitable transit system.
“It is to ask the regional bodies in control of this to come up with a plan and source of funding,” she said.
“Some of the technical details still have to be worked out.”
Jill Drews, senior issues management advisor for TransLink, said the organization is working with government officials to explore what it might mean to bring in free fares for younger riders.
TransLink doesn’t know how many riders under 18 it has because it doesn’t track ridership by age, she said.
“What we have seen in other jurisdictions that have opened up fare free transit for youths, they’ve had a big increase in ridership,” Drews said.
Drews said the cost of introducing free fares for youths “would be in the tens of millions a year” but had no specific details on the amount.
“We’re doing some modelling and looking at how we can quantify that better,” she said.
Viveca Ellis, who is coordinating the #AllOnBoard campaign, said transit should have much more public funding so access is as equitable as health care and education.
“Given our provincial commitment to reducing poverty, we need the mayors’ council and Metro Vancouver to discover the impact of mobility and lack of affordability on all citizens,” said Ellis, leadership development coordinator for the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition.
“We’re expecting the provincial government to step up and provide the financial support to make it happen to implement these necessary measures.”
In Metro Vancouver, a maximum of four children under five can ride on TransLink for free when accompanied by a passenger with proof of payment; children aged five to 18 pay $1.90 concession or $1.85 with a Compass Card in one zone.
Last year, Seattle city council voted to spend $7 million ($9.1 million Cdn.) to provide free bus service to 16,000 high school students. Seattle is now the largest city in the U.S. to provide free, year-round transit for high school students.
In Toronto, students 12 and under ride for free.
Calgary Transit addresses poverty in its sliding-scale fares based on income. A low-income monthly pass ranges from $5.30 for a single person household earning $12,699 or less to $53 a month for a household of seven people earning $56,997 to $67,055.
Laura Mackenrot, the former vice-chair of the City of Vancouver’s persons with disabilities advisory committee, outside TransLink headquarters. The board approved a policy that will see washrooms added to stations along the transit system. Jennifer Saltman / PNG
TransLink customers looking for public restrooms on Metro Vancouver’s transit system could soon find relief.
The transit authority’s board of directors on Thursday approved a recommendation from management to increase the number of washrooms available for public use.
“This is a very big change from where we’ve been in the past, and I’m really pleased to see us moving in this direction,” said board member Larry Beasley.
Public washrooms have been a hot-button topic over the years, and TransLink did not previously have a policy. The new one was developed during 2018.
In the past, TransLink has cited the high cost of maintenance, and passenger safety and security as reasons to avoid adding washrooms on transit.
Currently, the only public washrooms are found at both SeaBus terminals and on West Coast Express trains, and they are required by federal transportation regulations.
A survey conducted as part of the review asked more than 2,000 people about washroom availability, and 72 per cent said that more washrooms would improve their transit experience. About 25 per cent said they would use transit more often if there were more washrooms.
“We do see this as an important ridership growth, ridership development objective,” said Andrew McCurran, TransLink’s director of strategic planning and policy.
Laura Mackenrot, the former vice-chair of the City of Vancouver’s persons with disabilities advisory committee, said four city committees had appealed to TransLink to add more washrooms to the transit system.
“How can you deny people the ability to do a basic human need every day?” Mackenrot asked the board. “This is not just a disability issue, it’s an accessibility issue that affects us all — all ages and all abilities.”
Mackenrot said she knows people who don’t use public transit because they have no access to washrooms, and urged TransLink to make sure any washrooms it adds are universally accessible and gender neutral.
According to a staff report, washrooms should be placed at major transfer or connection points for a high number of transit passengers, in places where there will be many passengers who have long journey times and evenly spaced on the system.
TransLink will look at existing spaces within stations, adding washrooms during upgrades or construction of new stations or partnering with developers, municipalities or private businesses.
An implementation strategy will be brought to the board for consideration next year, which will include potential washroom locations, costs and a timeline.
Mackenrot said after the meeting that she was very happy with the board’s decision.
“We worked really hard on this for the last couple of years and I think it’s a great first step in the right direction to be including washrooms in our stations,” she said.
One TransLink policy that won’t change is related to pets on transit.
Currently, TransLink allows pets — other than certified service animals — if they are in small, hand-held cages that fit on your lap. Transit operators can refuse a pet if there is a concern for safety or comfort of other passengers, or if there is standing room only.
It was anticipated that allowing more pets would negatively affect people travelling without pets, worsen safety and well being of passengers and staff, hurt system efficiency and increase administrative costs.
Management recommended that TransLink maintain its current policy, but continue to monitor industry trends and public sentiment to see if changes are needed in the future. The board endorsed that recommendation.
“Our current policy strikes a reasonable balance, providing an option for individuals who travel with pets without unreasonable, negative impacts to other transit riders,” said Andrew Devlin, manager of policy development.
Margaret Halsey has long advocated for allowing more dogs on transit. She said that if the board won’t consider changing the policy, then there should be a pilot project to see how it might work to have more pets on board.
“I’m certain that dogs that are allowed only at set times or on specific trains or buses would alleviate a considerable amount of challenges,” Halsey said.
Vancouver residents will choose a new mayor and council in the Oct. 20 election. To help voters choose among an unusually high number of candidates, city columnist Dan Fumano has compiled brief summaries on where they stand on key issues facing the city. The following responses were submitted by seven top mayoral candidates (presented in alphabetical order) and four parties running council candidates, and have been edited for clarity and length.
Hector Bremner (Yes Vancouver): Vancouver’s current plan is 91 years old and does not allow modern forms of housing in 75 per cent of the city. Vancouver is way behind comparable cities in terms of process and technology. Yes Vancouver wants to revolutionize the way housing is planned, zoned and approved in Vancouver.
David Chen (ProVancouver): Require 50 per cent rentals for all new builds, use rental-only zoning around transit corridors, build larger temporary modular housing units to accommodate families, switch co-ops to five-year automatic renewals after first 50 years, build more co-ops and social housing. Fix maximum social housing rents at 30 per cent of median area household pre-tax income.
Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st): Vancouver 1st is committed to building affordable rental housing on city-owned land that will be targeted at costing the tenants monthly rents of $400, $900 and $1,300, for a bachelor, one- and two-bedroom unit, respectively.
Ken Sim (NPA): We need solutions that will make an impact immediately to relieve pressure on limited supply. That’s why the NPA would immediately allow two secondary suites in every detached home — of which there are around 40,000 in Vancouver. The NPA would also build dedicated rental buildings on city-owned land, fast-track housing for those who need it most, and clean up the development approval process.
Kennedy Stewart (Independent): We need housing that’s affordable for everyone. My platform includes building 85,000 homes over the next 10 years, including 25,000 affordable, non-profit run rental units, 25,000 market rental units, and 35,000 new condominiums, coach houses, and townhouses. I’ll also streamline the development process for purpose-built rental, and create a new renters’ advocate office.
Shauna Sylvester (Independent): We can’t rest until we have a three per cent rental vacancy rate and the price per square foot for housing is a better match with typical wages. I will support more purpose-built housing to create thriving neighbourhoods for children, working professionals, seniors and businesses by using City resources, renewing leases on all co-ops, and encouraging purpose-built housing through faster permitting and fee waivers.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver): Coalition Vancouver will not sell one square inch of city land. To decrease pressure we will allow one additional rental unit per home. Longer term we will focus on purpose-built rental buildings and co-ops. Alongside rentals and co-ops, we have a plan to build entry-level homes intended to be within reach for millennials.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE): Over the past year Jean Swanson and COPE have been building a movement for a Rent Freeze, helping to reduce the 4.5 per cent rent increase for 2019. COPE will use all city powers to protect renters and small business tenants, and will tax mansions over $5 million to end homelessness in one year and build city-owned non-market rental housing in subsequent years.
Green Party of Vancouver: We will amend Vancouver’s Charter to recognize the right to housing, and redefine affordability in bylaws to be 30 per cent of income. We will set a goal of 50 per cent below-market-rate housing for new multi-residential developments and launch a city-funded, city-built housing program on city-owned land. We will change bylaws to enable affordable construction, encourage secondary suites and fast-track permits for affordable housing.
Vision Vancouver: Vision will speed up permits, zone to allow more housing options and deliver more city-built affordable housing, including co-ops, as part of a comprehensive plan for 88,000 new homes over 10 years. Vision’s school board candidates are working to pilot housing for teachers.
OneCity: OneCity believes housing is a human right. We are committed to renewing co-op leases and supporting more co-ops and co-housing. OneCity will utilize rental-only zoning and incentivize purpose-built rental housing across the city, attentive to the needs of urban Indigenous people, seniors, families, people with accessibility requirements, pet owners, and more. OneCity will strengthen tenant protections and build 25,000 truly affordable non-market housing units.
Hector Bremner (Yes Vancouver): While the tax is generating some revenue for social housing, the 25,000 homes that were apparently empty have not materialized and local residents are being trapped in complex and invasive audits. Yes Vancouver wants to review it and focus on building middle-class housing.
David Chen (ProVancouver): Modify the tax to have a laser focus on speculators. Increase the tax on a graduated scale, heavily increasing for properties over $5 million. Credits would be graduated, so that after 20 years of living in the home, the tax would be zero for residents who have lived in their community for close to a generation.
Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st): Vancouver 1st has pledged to remove the empty homes tax, saying it is ineffective and punishes those it was not intended to tax. Vancouver 1st has also pledged to file a lawsuit against the NDP government to fight and end the new school tax surcharge on properties valued at more than $3 million.
Ken Sim (NPA): The idea that we can tax our way out of this housing crisis is wishful thinking. A much better approach is to bring new units on to the market right away — which the NPA will do by allowing two secondary suites in every detached home – while working on further increasing supply in a way that does not destroy neighbourhoods.
Kennedy Stewart (Independent): I would triple the empty homes tax. We need to take tough measures to fight the speculation that is rampant in our city and protect our local housing market from global financial forces and speculators. Homes need to be used for housing people, not sitting empty as speculative investments.
Shauna Sylvester (Independent): I would triple it. Housing is more than an asset class, and we can’t afford to let desperately needed real estate sit there unused because someone wants to park their cash here without contributing to our community. Tripling the Empty Homes Tax will help ensure homes are used to house people, not to make a speculative investment.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver): This was a poorly designed tax and poorly implemented. It would be something we would address in office. Simply repealing it would be reckless at this delicate stage in the housing market cycle.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE): COPE was the first to propose the Empty Homes Property Tax in the 2014 civic elections. Other parties said it wasn’t possible, but now it’s common sense. COPE’s proposal included extending the tax to vacant commercial properties and empty lots. We support increasing the tax and targeting all revenues toward city-owned non-market housing.
Green Party of Vancouver: We will not remove the empty home tax, but will further clarify rules regarding exceptions. Pending a full report after the first year of implementation, we may consider increasing it. We will develop a strategy to expand the empty home tax to include commercial storefronts as a measure to reduce vacancies and prevent the hollowing out of commercial streets.
Vision Vancouver: Vision wants to triple the empty homes tax, from one per cent to three per cent, to get more people into vacant homes, to crack down on speculation that’s driving prices up, and to put more money into affordable housing initiatives in every neighbourhood.
OneCity: OneCity supports increasing the Empty Homes Tax, to ensure that homes in Vancouver are for living in, not just for investing in.
Hector Bremner (Yes Vancouver): Yes Vancouver appreciates the angst about the recent rezoning of single-family neighbourhoods to allow duplexes. Coun. Bremner voted for it as density was kept within the current limits for homes with basement suites and laneway houses, so this is not a big change. It allows for more affordable home ownership options in Vancouver beyond multi-million-dollar houses.
David Chen (ProVancouver): ProVancouver opposes the city’s recent rezoning of single-family neighbourhoods to allow duplexes. There was insufficient community consultation, and no community plan was done. Most of Vancouver’s sewer, water, electrical grid and street widths were based on single-family homes with low density. Increasing density without upgrading infrastructure and amenities first isn’t smart.
Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st): Density must be undertaken mindfully. Vancouver 1st is pledging to revoke Vision’s misguided mass rezoning policy to allow duplexes (in single-family neighbourhoods). Vancouver 1st has also committed to developing a comprehensive official city plan so that there is a clear and transparent plan with a new core of density to be established in South Vancouver.
Ken Sim (NPA): The NPA agrees in principle with adding more housing for the “missing middle.” But the move by a lame-duck administration to mass re-zone much of the city to allow duplexes in single-family neighbourhoods isn’t just bad for democracy, it’s bad policy. We need to have proper city-wide planning that respects individual neighbourhoods. And we need to be more transparent about decisions at City Hall.
Kennedy Stewart (Independent): Council’s recent decision to rezone single-family neighbourhoods to allow duplexes was of such magnitude that it should have been left for the next council. That said, building duplexes brings more affordable options for first-time homebuyers while retaining neighbourhood character. I would expand opportunities for ground-oriented housing in our least dense neighbourhoods.
Shauna Sylvester (Independent): While I support gentle densification, we need to make sure that any changes have the support of the people who live in that area. Homeowners who want to add affordable units should get faster permitting and fee waivers, and we need to complete neighbourhood plans for the 75 per cent of neighbourhoods that don’t have one so we can move quickly.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver): We are against the Making Room Policy passed by council (allowing duplexes in single-family neighbourhoods). We will repeal it. There is not a housing shortage, there is an affordable housing shortage. This policy perpetuates the problem. We will ensure every neighbourhood is consulted before reckless policies like this one are passed. We will focus on purpose-built rental housing and co-ops.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE): COPE opposed the rezoning (to allow duplexes in single-family neighbourhoods) because there’s no city protection for tenants in these areas, some of which include a majority of renters. The duplex zoning doesn’t provide housing for people earning under $50,000 a year, and will likely trigger speculation. COPE supports density in neighbourhoods that have not taken their fair share of rental and social housing.
Green Party of Vancouver: Green Coun. Adriane Carr voted against rezoning (to allow duplexes in single-family neighbourhoods) because of the lack of prior public consultation regarding this city-wide rezoning, plus the simplistic focus on one housing form that may escalate land prices, and the threat of tear-downs and loss of currently affordable housing, was unsupportable. Greens support a comprehensive city-wide plan, co-developed with residents.
Vision Vancouver: Vision supports duplexes in single-family areas. We are committed to implementing the Making Room initiative and creating even more affordable housing options, including opening low-density neighbourhoods for townhouses, low-rise apartments, and other forms of housing that support affordable options for renters and families looking for affordable ownership opportunities.
OneCity: We imagine a Vancouver with more balance in housing options, including apartments, social and supportive housing, multiplexes, and co-ops in all parts of the city. However, unrestrained development will not fix the housing crisis. That is why we will prioritize affordable housing options, because people of all income levels should have access to good schools, transit, jobs, and green spaces.
Hector Bremner (Yes Vancouver): We need to reinvest in the Four Pillars office at City Hall and Yes Vancouver will support programs that replace street drugs with safer alternatives so long as it moves people to care and long-term treatment. No-barrier housing is critical to this, therefore Yes Vancouver will ensure significant investment in this area.
David Chen (ProVancouver): Increase the amount of temporary modular housing and push to decriminalize drug use as in the Netherlands. ProVancouver would also employ other streams of therapy like Beauty Night Society’s long-standing method of building self-esteem through wellness, life skills and makeovers.
Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st): Vancouver 1st will focus on treatment and rehabilitation. We intend to build a state-of-the-art mental care facility on city property with more than enough beds for today and tomorrow, because so much of addiction and street living is caused by an inadequacy in mental health services. Vision and the NDP have failed these people.
Ken Sim (NPA): An NPA working group is seeking new ideas to tackle homelessness, the opioid crisis, and mental health. We also need to get needles off our streets and out of our parks. Three hundred dirty needles a month are picked up at Andy Livingstone Park, which is also a playground for Crosstown Elementary School.
Kennedy Stewart (Independent): I would form an emergency task force to work with the community to improve the health and quality of life of Downtown Eastside residents. The task force will focus on preventing more deaths from fentanyl, negotiating a new Vancouver Agreement to foster greater cooperation between all levels of government, supporting front-line workers and identifying substance substitution programs.
Shauna Sylvester (Independent): We have allowed the opioid poisoning crisis to get worse by inaction towards addressing addiction issues through a comprehensive public health approach. My strategy supports the proven Four Pillars approach, community support models, comprehensive care access, and collaboration with senior levels of government. We need to move beyond misinformation, discrimination, stigma, and fear and deliver empathetic and effective responses.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver): This is a heartbreaking issue and it affects many more families than most people understand. I lost a son to this very crisis. We have a plan, to be released soon, to approach this from a new perspective that has never been tried before.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE): COPE will advocate for senior governments to decriminalize drugs and to ensure access to safe, clean and free drugs so people who use drugs don’t have to die. The city can also put oxygen tanks in community centres to help revive people who overdose and can fund community groups who support harm reduction and ending stigma against drug users.
Green Party of Vancouver: We will call on the federal government to decriminalize drug possession in order to treat addiction as a health issue. This means displacing the poisoned drug supply with clean drugs to be administered under medical supervision as the first step to treatment. We will push for more treatment beds and a comprehensive strategy including long-term treatment and stable housing.
Vision Vancouver: Vision will build on the City’s integrated opioid response plan by championing new Overdose Prevention Sites in supportive housing, an Opioid Crisis Fund to support first responders, a renewed focus on mental health and addiction, the decriminalization of drug possession in small amounts while getting tougher on trafficking, de-stigmatization and prevention among kids, and clean, prescription options for people suffering from addiction.
OneCity: OneCity believes that the “war on drugs” has failed, resulting in disproportionately high incarceration rates in Indigenous and black communities and an epidemic of overdose deaths. We support evidence-based, public-health solutions that address the root causes of the overdose crisis, including decriminalizing all drugs, and taking a housing-first approach. We will strengthen supports for front line responders, expand city-wide needle collection and advocate for more provincial and federal supports.
Hector Bremner (Yes Vancouver): The plan must include housing and jobs along the line that can both ensure this major investment is capitalized on and funded. That includes looking to UBC and ensuring we have a plan to unlock equity in the surrounding area to help generate funds to complete the line.
David Chen (ProVancouver): If the money is there and the deal is done, it should go to UBC. Stopping at Arbutus is illogical. For a more affordable option, switching to hydrogen fuel cell electric buses will keep costs down, increase capacity without trolley wires, and empty buses won’t impede full buses. The hydrogen fuel cell can be swapped out faster than recharging times needed for battery-powered buses.
Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st): Vancouver 1st wants the subway to go all the way to UBC. The party wants a bored tunnel; not cut-and-cover. Because it’s going to be going to UBC, which will benefit greatly from it, it should pay in a suitable portion of the final bill.
Ken Sim (NPA): The NPA is 100 per cent in favour of the Broadway subway. It should go all the way to UBC. But we need a solid plan with UBC and TransLink to get us there. Too many billions are wasted because politicians make big promises before the details are ready.
Kennedy Stewart (Independent): I support SkyTrain along Broadway to UBC. We need to invest in our transit infrastructure, but we need partners to make this happen. I would work hard to secure federal, provincial, and UBC funding to extend SkyTrain along the Broadway corridor to the university.
Shauna Sylvester (Independent): I’m committed to working with all levels of government and partners to ensure we build the Broadway Subway all the way to UBC. We can’t create a choke hold at Arbutus. UBC represents a key economic centre and a major employer. Once we have started the digging process we need to complete the extension to UBC.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver): Coalition Vancouver is in favour of the subway extension all the way to UBC. We want to decrease the number of cars on the road, reduce pollution, and reduce congestion. Alongside what will be an extensive cut-and-cover building operation, we are also committed to helping businesses deal during the construction phase.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE): Vancouver needs a drastic expansion of rapid transit and buses, but transit must be affordable. COPE has a plan for a “U-Pass for the working class,” which includes free transit for kids and low-income transit users, and $41-a-month U-Pass for middle-income Vancouverites, taking 40,000 cars off the road. This program could be fully funded by Vancouver’s portion of B.C.’s recently announced carbon tax increase.
Green Party of Vancouver: The Greens would not seek to change the plan for the Broadway Subway to Arbutus, which is supported by regional mayors and significantly funded by senior governments — both of which are hard to get. Greens will push to protect businesses, heritage buildings and rental housing along the route, reduce the $500 million projected cost overrun and require studies to ensure the best transit options city-wide.
Vision Vancouver: Vision will fight to get the Broadway Subway built all the way to UBC, to improve commutes, reduce congestion, and make life better. We will make sure Vancouver seizes this once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our transportation infrastructure, boost our local economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
OneCity: OneCity supports more robust, affordable and accessible public transit in every part of Vancouver. We support the Broadway Subway plan, and will work with the Province and UBC to ensure it goes all the way to UBC. In addition, we support the #AllOnBoard campaign’s call for free transit for children and youth under 18, and a sliding scale monthly pass system based on income.
Hector Bremner (Yes Vancouver): The electoral system is fine, Yes Vancouver says, we just need to stop passing decision-making to only two core groups: left and right, or Vision and the NPA. We need fresh perspectives that come from outside the status quo political thinking.
David Chen (ProVancouver): Before tinkering with established electoral systems, we need to work on reconnecting city hall to the people. Committed to holding town hall meetings once a year in all 23 sub-districts of Vancouver as two-way, face-to-face communication between the residents and council.
Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st): Vancouver 1st wants more voices added to the debates.The province’s new election finance laws have stifled discourse by handcuffing candidates. Vancouver 1st wants more millennials out there participating, not just voting.
Ken Sim (NPA): The NPA says it is worried about the impact that secret money has had on this election. Labour groups paid for 100,000 flyers promoting Kennedy Stewart, and four full-time union staff are working to support Stewart and the rest of the labour council’s endorsed candidates, without being required to count it as part of his campaign expenses. We need to re-think the new electoral finance rules.
Kennedy Stewart (Independent): We need to end anonymous advertising. Candidates and third-parties need to disclose donations. Our current at-large system lacks community representation. I promise this election will be the last under this system. Voters need to have confidence that city staff and politicians don’t have conflicts of interest. I will prohibit elected officials and key staff from accepting government contracts or lobbying for 12 months after leaving.
Shauna Sylvester (Independent): My platform proposes a new Hybrid Ward system where five City Council members are elected to represent specific wards in the city, and five are elected to represent the city at-large to ensure that Council pays attention to local communities while still deciding on larger city-wide issues. I will also use my experience with facilitation to build a culture of collaboration and cooperation on council.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver): We have to get big money out of politics. Unions, developers and big business have been shaping policies for years and even this very election. This is wrong. With no ties to special interest groups, we will ensure that our electoral system is fair and operates in a way that benefits the very people we are meant to serve.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE): COPE has been fighting for a ward system for over 40 years because the current at-large voting system benefits parties with big money funding and makes it nearly impossible for neighbourhood activists to be elected. Wards can be introduced by a simple majority vote at city council. It may also be possible to introduce proportional representation in Vancouver, especially if the November referendum supports PR.
Green Party of Vancouver: We will require more transparency in budgeting and negotiations with developers, new guidelines for public engagement and more efficient permitting. We will increase access to Council with regular “open mic” sessions. We will push the province to amend local election financing legislation to close loopholes, cap donations and ban corporate and union donations all the time, not just in election years.
Vision Vancouver: Vision will take action to ensure residents are part of decision-making. We would call a Citizens Assembly on Local Election Reform to focus on these issues. In addition, Vision will improve inclusion by prioritizing engagement with people who are underrepresented in decision-making, including millennials, newcomers and urban Indigenous people.
OneCity: We support Vancouver’s 2017 Independent Election Task Force recommendation that the City convene a citizens assembly to make recommendations on switching to a proportional election system. Adopting a proportional election system would better reflect how Vancouverites cast their votes, and would create more diverse and representative city councils.
Hector Bremner (Yes Vancouver): The politics over the last 10 years have been very divisive as we were not allowed the housing forms we need to support active transportation, but good transportation and good planning are linked. We need a city plan that people feel engaged in to build a Vancouver that makes them less reliant on a car.
David Chen (ProVancouver): Bike lanes are needed, but not on arterial routes. Idling cars create worse exhaust than cars moving from start to destination. All future bike infrastructure would be part of the complete community plan that includes planning recommendations, community and user input.
Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st): Vancouver 1st believes cycling routes on the side streets should remain, and that all other cycling routes should be seasonal, with two exceptions: the West 10th Avenue cycling route in front of the hospital should be removed and the Adanac Overpass should be reopened to all traffic.
Ken Sim (NPA): Over the last 20 years our streets have gotten more congested, even though the number of cars hasn’t changed much. Bike lanes are important, and the NPA supports them, but there are some cases where bike lanes may be in the wrong places, such as near hospital entrances. The NPA will also review barriers to traffic flow, because we are all suffering from poor planning decisions.
Kennedy Stewart (Independent): Bike lanes are key to reducing road congestion. I support separated bike lanes as a way to encourage more people to cycle, and keep them safe. Ensuring people can afford to live close to where they work is the best way to encourage active transportation, and when we expand infrastructure we need to do it in a way that keeps all modes of transport moving.
Shauna Sylvester (Independent): I support the expansion of the City’s bicycle infrastructure. Having separated bike lanes is a safety issue. I support making cycling infrastructure safe for children, families, and seniors who might not otherwise feel comfortable using it. I commit to updating the Mayors’ Council Transportation 2040 Plan to increase the target for share of trips by bike from 12 per cent to 25 per cent.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver): No new separated bike lanes unless one is removed from some place else. That said, we love intelligent bike lanes, just not bike lanes intentionally placed to obstruct traffic. We will audit all bike lanes for use and effectiveness. Common sense solutions, and we will get Vancouver moving again.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE): The expansion of bike lanes increased dramatically starting in 1998 under the advocacy of COPE city councillor and climate scientist Fred Bass. COPE will continue to strongly support expansion of cycling and pedestrian safety infrastructure because these measures get people out of cars and are essential components in fighting climate change.
Green Party of Vancouver: We will aim to make Vancouver the most walkable city in North America. We support the expansion of Vancouver’s bicycle infrastructure, but would like to see improvements including connecting routes to increase efficiency; promoting safe cycling in public schools; a clear cost reckoning of city-subsidized bike share; and slower, safer residential streets with a mandated 30k speed limit.
Vision Vancouver: Vision supports protected bike lanes that keep people safe. Under Vision, Vancouver has seen tremendous growth in cycling in our city, especially among women and children. This is good for people’s health and the environment. Vision will continue to lead on active transportation by widening sidewalks and by expanding bike share in Vancouver.
OneCity: OneCity supports making the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and transit users a priority. We will also initiate a city-wide accessibility audit and increase the city budget for curb ramps. OneCity believes a city that works for eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds is a better place for all.
Hector Bremner (Yes Vancouver): We need to conduct a review to ensure we are spending taxpayer dollars wisely, implement a new city plan that unlocks new revenue streams, and split residential from commercial (small business) and non-profit property assessments. This would level out tax increases and get us back on to a healthy financial track.
David Chen (ProVancouver): Lowering taxes without lowering expenses leads to deficits, borrowing and increased liability on the tax payer. A complete audit of the finances, core review and private contracts review needs to be done along with a switch from in-kind development amenity transfers to cash-only to normalize finances, then lower taxes if possible.
Fred Harding (Vancouver 1st): Residential taxes for seniors will be frozen and reduced. An ombudsman for business will be set up to address on a case-by-case basis taxes paid by shopkeepers. Property taxes will be reviewed, and Vancouver 1st aims to significant cut property tax cuts as Vancouver’s fiscal situation is turned around.
Ken Sim (NPA): The NPA goal is to cap property tax increases to the rate of inflation. Right now, residents are seeing increases that are too high, without a corresponding increase in services. We will also do a much-needed full review of all the programs and policies at City Hall to find efficiencies. I think we’ll find a lot of room for improvement.
Kennedy Stewart (Independent): Tax policies would remain about the same if I were mayor. I have met with local business improvement associations and understand their concerns. I am committed to conducting a review of all city policies that impact small business, including taxation and permitting, to help support and grow our neighbourhood-based economy.
Shauna Sylvester (Independent): I will call for the appointment of a Small Business Ombudsperson. I also commit to delivering a financial report to the public on where tax revenue has been spent within 100 days as mayor to inform discussion about taxation. I’m also looking at working with B.C. Assessment and the provincial government to create a new assessment category for small businesses.
Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver): Immediately, city taxes and fees will be lowered. We will be ordering a full forensic review of the city’s books and be requesting that every department outside of sanitation find a five per cent reduction in costs.
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE): COPE believes in progressive property tax, with a higher rate on more expensive properties. The Mansion Tax is a progressive tax whose revenues will be targeted to build modular and non-market housing. COPE will protect small neighbourhood businesses by seeking to establish progressive tax brackets for small, medium and large businesses.
Green Party of Vancouver: Residents can expect taxes to stay relatively the same. They can also expect more transparency, with detailed line items on city budgets — so that taxpayers know their money is being well-spent. We would seek to lighten the tax load for business through split assessment and targeted property tax reductions for long-term independently owned neighbourhood small businesses.
Vision Vancouver: Under Vision, council invested in priorities and public services that matter to people while balancing budgets. This approach has served people well. One provincial tax change we do want fixed is how small businesses are assessed at the much higher rate of a potential condo development. This is unfair for businesses and needs to be fixed.
OneCity: OneCity is proposing a Land Value Tax to dampen speculation while ensuring that real increases in land value create benefits for everyone. Revenue raised will fund affordable housing and expanded public transit. We will also work to make arts and cultural spaces affordable through a targeted tax exemption, and will support local businesses by creating a new classification of tax rates that differentiate between local independent businesses and chain stores.
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