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Category "Transportation"

3Oct

Election 2019: Where the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens stand on 12 key issues for B.C.

by admin

A federal election 2019 platform primer: Brief summaries of where the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens stand on 12 major issues, and highlights of what they are promising Canadians.


Tens of thousands of people concerned about the state of the Earth’s climate converged on Vancouver City Hall on Sept. 27.

Jason Payne /

Postmedia News

Climate change/carbon tax/fossil fuels

Liberals

The Liberals commit to planting two billion trees in a $3 billion plan to conserve forests, agricultural lands, wetlands and coastal areas. They promise carbon neutrality — balancing emissions against carbon offsets —  by 2050 and to halve taxes for companies that develop or manufacture products with zero emissions. They propose interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to make homes more energy efficient and a grant for people who buy carbon neutral homes. They plan to send disadvantaged kids to camp so they’ll learn to love the outdoors.

Conservatives

The Conservatives promise to meet Canada’s Paris commitment to cut emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, but provide few specifics. They would scrap the carbon tax. They believe Canada would make little impact on climate change by reducing emissions at home, so would make Canadian oil and gas cleaner to replace dirtier products from other countries. The parliamentary budget office says the party’s green homes tax credit for energy-saving renovations would cost $1.8 billion over three years.

NDP

The NDP promises to help stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 C. It would continue carbon pricing and will clamp down on big polluters. It would move government vehicles to electric by 2025. It would retrofit all housing stock in Canada by 2050, giving low-interest loans to homeowners. It says all new buildings would have net-zero emissions by 2030. It would power Canada with net carbon-free electricity by 2030. To pay for these steps, it would redirect the billions spent on oil and gas subsidies.

Greens

The Greens pledge $3.2 billion over five years to help keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 C. They would go beyond the Paris targets, promising a 60 per cent cut in carbon emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, and to set emission limits and penalties for industries. By 2030, all of Canada’s electricity would come from renewable sources. The party would fund building retrofits and ensure new construction meets carbon neutral standards by 2030. It would reduce nitrogen fertilizers and support farmers to shift to regenerative farming.


Pipes destined for the Trans Mountain pipeline are moved by rail through Kamloops in June.

Gerry Kahrmann /

PNG

Trans Mountain pipeline

Liberals

Leader Justin Trudeau made a bargain on the environment and the economy: Cancel the Northern Gateway oil pipeline, approve the Trans Mountain expansion, create a national carbon tax and get concessions from Alberta, including phasing out coal energy and capping oilsands emissions. In 2018, Trudeau bought Trans Mountain for $4.5 billion. A second approval for pipeline expansion was given in June. Said Trudeau: “We need to create wealth today so we can invest in the future.”

Conservatives

Leader Andrew Scheer supports the Trans Mountain expansion. But more is needed to encourage oil and gas projects, say Conservatives. That includes repealing the carbon tax and Bill C-69, which overhauled federal environmental assessments of major construction projects, and ending the ban on shipping oil on the B.C. north coast. Scheer would use federal powers to declare a major project in the national interest. Criticizing the Liberal approach, Scheer said: “Not a single inch of new pipeline has been laid.”

NDP

Leader Jagmeet Singh wants the Trans Mountain expansion abandoned, saying it will undermine efforts to fight climate change. The NDP also worry about ocean spill risks. Approval of the project ignores violations of Indigenous rights, says the party. In criticizing Liberal approval of the project, Singh said: “While they’re great with symbolic gestures like voting for a climate change emergency, they do the opposite of helping the environment the very next day with the approval of this pipeline expansion.”

Greens

Green leader Elizabeth May was arrested in Burnaby in 2018 for protesting the Trans Mountain expansion. “The commitment to build a pipeline in 2018, when we are in climate crisis, is a crime against future generations and I will not be part of it,” said May. The Greens would cancel the project. The party would cut subsidies to fossil fuel industries of several billion dollars a year and would redirect the money toward a transition to renewable energy.


Redevelopment work at Heather Place, an affordable housing project in Vancouver, in September.

Gerry Kahrmann /

Postmedia News

Affordable housing 

Liberals

The Liberals promise to help people with annual incomes below $120,000 (and up to $150,000 in high-cost areas such as Vancouver) by taking up to 10 per cent off the price of a home with the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, budgeted at $1.25 billion over three years. This applies to homes up to $789,000 in expensive regions such as Vancouver. The party promises a national anti-speculation tax of one per cent on non-resident, foreign owners; it’s estimated to create revenue of $940 million over four years.

Conservatives

The party promises to change the Liberals’ mortgage stress test to ensure first-time homebuyers aren’t unnecessarily prevented from getting mortgages, and to work toward removing the stress test from mortgage renewals. It would increase amortization periods on insured mortgages to 30 years for first-time homebuyers to lower monthly payments, make surplus federal real estate available for development to increase the supply of housing, and hold a $20-million inquiry into money laundering in the real estate sector.

NDP

The NDP promises to create 500,000 units of affordable rental housing in the next 10 years, financed by $5 billion in the first 18 months of government, and also to create “fast-start funds” to help communities build co-ops, social, and non-profit housing. It would waive the federal GST on construction of new rentals; reintroduce 30-year terms to CMHC-insured mortgages on entry-level homes; double the homebuyer’s tax credit to $1,500; put a foreign buyer’s tax on sales to non-Canadians.

Greens

The Greens would make housing a fundamental human right, and work with provinces to build 25,000 new rental homes and 15,000 rehabilitated units annually for the next 10 years. They promise to: boost funding for new builds by $750 million and for rent assistance by $750 million to help 125,000 rental households; better support provincial and municipal housing projects; provide financing to non-profits to expand housing for seniors, people with special needs and low-income families; restore tax incentives for building rental housing.


Children at the Novaco Daycare in North Vancouver- Ma visit Novaco Daycare in North Vancouver in May.

Jason Payne /

Postmedia News

Child care 

Liberals

Liberals promise to improve the accessibility to and affordability of before- and after-school care for kids in elementary school. The party says it has created thousands of new preschool child care spaces and would create up to 250,000 more for kids ages five to 10. It would improve child care hours for people who work overtime or late shifts. It promises to reduce fees 10 per cent, which could save a family of four around $800 annually. The party has promised new funding of $535 million a year.

Conservatives

The party has not made any campaign announcements about child care. It has promised to make maternity benefits tax-free, which could save an average Canadian $4,000 a year. It would reintroduce a children’s fitness tax credit, allowing parents to claim up to $1,000 a child annually for sports, and a children’s arts and learning tax credit, allowing parents to claim up to $500. The budget office says this would cost $616 million in its first year, increasing annually.

NDP

The NDP would enshrine in law a commitment to high-quality public child care. The party notes provinces such as Quebec, B.C. and Alberta have made investments in child care and it promises to “build on that work” by investing $1 billion in 2020 and growing that investment annually, in conjunction with provinces and territories. It gave no specifics for the number of spaces planned, but said affordable child care helps the economy by allowing parents to work.

Greens

The Greens say universal child care is crucial for women’s equality and promise to increase funding to at least one per cent of GDP annually, adding an additional $1 billion each year until this level is reached. The party did not say the number of new spaces it would create. It would eliminate GST on construction of new child care spaces. The party plans to boost early educator jobs, locate new facilities along transit routes and strengthen parental leave benefits.


B.C. launched a review of money laundering controls at casinos in 2017.

Francis Georgian /

Postmedia News

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Money laundering

Liberals

In this year’s budget, the Liberals promised $70 million over five years to create a money-laundering task force and support financial intelligence gathering. Another $68.9 million over the next five years was earmarked to strengthen policing. The Liberals also amended the Criminal Code this year to make it easier to prove money laundering. “This is a real problem we are taking seriously,” Trudeau said following a B.C. report that estimated laundering at $46.7 billion in Canada.

Conservatives

Scheer announced that his party would launch a national money-laundering inquiry to “root out” corrupt practices that inflate housing prices. About $20 million would be budgeted for the two-year inquiry, meant to produce recommendations for regulatory and legislative changes and extra enforcement. The inquiry would be able to compel testimony and order disclosure. “We believe this will get to the bottom of the shadowy practices that are going on,” said Scheer.

NDP

The NDP announced it would launch a national inquiry to determine why there hasn’t been sufficient investigation into a criminal activity that is “so widespread.” The NDP would create an RCMP anti-money-laundering unit supported with $20 million a year, with $10 million of that earmarked for B.C. The NDP would work with provinces to create a registry to increase transparency about who owns properties. “This is a direct issue the federal government can play a massive role in flagging, identifying and in ending,” said Singh.

Greens

The Greens are calling for a public inquiry into what the RCMP and other agencies knew about money laundering in B.C. casinos and why they did not expose the corruption. In the House of Commons this year, May said: “What did the RCMP know, why did they turn a blind eye and are we looking into it?” The party says a crackdown is needed on financial crime, suggesting a special RCMP unit and more resources for investigations and prosecutions.


Pro-China protesters at a counter-rally outside the Chinese consulate in Vancouver in August during a protest against allegations of police brutality in Hong Kong.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG

Canada-China relations

Liberals

The Liberals recently named Dominic Barton, a businessman with extensive experience in Asia, as Canada’s ambassador to China. They hope he will reset a relationship that collapsed following Canada’s detaining last December of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S., the arrest of two Canadian citizens in China a few days later and China’s blocking of important Canadian exports. Organizers of an election debate on foreign policy in September cancelled the event after Trudeau dropped out.

Conservatives

In response to China blocking Canadian exports, the Conservatives pledge to pull $250 million in funding from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is headquartered in Beijing. Scheer said he is against using Canadian tax dollars to build infrastructure in countries that China influences. He said the focus of the relationship between Canada and China should be on the two Canadians detained there, and that a reset in that relationship begins with a prime minister who stands up to China.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh is calling for the focus of the Canada-China relationship to be on the Canadians detained in China. He said trade with China has focused on free trade that doesn’t benefit workers. He described the Chinese ban on canola, pork and beef exports as being “unfairly targeted by China despite a lack of scientific evidence” and said China is punishing Canadian producers over a diplomatic disagreement. He has called for the Liberals to protect Canadian workers.

Greens

May has been critical of the Canada-China Investment Treaty brought in by the Conservatives in 2014. She has said it allows discriminatory practices towards Canadian enterprises and allows for “secret” government-to-government wrangling “in which China’s larger economic weight is likely to lead to all manner of concessions by our government.” The relationship “is imperilled by some rather large forces that are outside of our control. Donald Trump is poking China with a stick and creating a trade war. We’re caught in the middle.”


A treatment room in the emergency department at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Health care

Liberals

The Liberals promise to spend $6 billion over four years to ensure every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health care team. They would also set national standards for access to mental health services, expand access to home care and “take the critical next steps” toward universal pharmacare to include prescription drug coverage. They would increase funding for pediatric cancer research by $30 million in 2020 and create a national Institute for women’s health research to tackle gaps in care.

Conservatives

The Conservatives would continue the health care transfer to provinces and maintain the funding increase of at least three per cent a year. The party would spend $1.5 billion on MRI and CT machines. It would reduce the number of hours required per week on therapy to qualify for the disability tax credit to 10 from 14. The Conservatives have not pledged to introduce universal pharmacare and Scheer has said he doesn’t trust the Liberals to implement it.

NDP

The NDP would create a universal pharmacare program starting in late 2020 at a cost of $10 billion. The party would expand public dental care coverage to households making under $70,000, starting in 2020, and copayments for households earning $70,000-$90,000, at a cost of $560 million in the first year, $1.9 billion in the second year and up to $850 million after that. The NDP would fight efforts to privatize health care.

Greens

The Greens would change the federal-provincial Health Accord to base health transfer payments on demographics and needs in each province, rather than on GDP growth. The party would Introduce universal pharmacare and free dental care for low-income Canadians and would reduce drug patent protection periods. It would expand mental health and rehabilitation services and access to safe abortion services. It would improve health care for Indigenous Peoples by implementing calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


Clients and workers at the Career Zone Youth Employment Centre in Vancouver in June.

Nick Procaylo /

Postmedia News

Jobs

Liberals

The Liberal’s platform on job creation focuses on supports to workers and supports for business. The promises to workers include guaranteed training for apprentices and $100 million in funding for skills upgrading, specifically for work in conducting energy audits, building retrofits and carbon-neutral home construction. To business, the party promises to cut in half corporate taxes for businesses in zero-emission industries, including renewable energy and zero-emission vehicles. It also plans to cut the cost of incorporating a small business.

Conservatives

The Conservatives’ platform includes creating a national energy corridor to carry oil, natural gas and electricity as a means to “create wealth, prosperity and opportunity” for Canadians. The party’s platform also plans support for small business by exempting spouses from new taxes on dividend payments from small businesses, reducing “red tape” in federal regulations by 25 per cent, and enforcing a rule to cut two old regulations for every new regulation introduced on business.

NDP

The NDP ties its goal to reduce carbon emissions to its promise to create jobs, estimating that clean energy, sustainable infrastructure and energy-efficient buildings will create 300,000 new jobs. Forestry is singled out, both for the role of forests in climate health and the source of jobs that support rural communities. The party promises to support innovation in value-added manufacturing of forest products and reforestation. It would allow workers to qualify for employment insurance after quitting work to return to school.

Greens

Acknowledging job losses in oil and gas production while phasing out fossil fuels, the Greens vow a “just transition” for workers from those sectors into renewable energy and in construction for energy-efficiency retrofits of buildings. The plan includes a fund to support training and a community benefit strategy to maximize local hiring and purchasing. May has also proposed a “robot tax” that employers would pay when they replace workers with artificial intelligence, with the revenue used to retrain workers.


Marchers in the Parade of Action on the Overdose Crisis in Vancouver in April.

Jason Payne /

PNG

Drug policy/opioid overdose epidemic

Liberals

The Liberals pledge $700 million in additional funding between 2020 and 2014 to expand access to drug treatment and to combat opioid and meth addictions. The party will help provinces expand community-based services, build more in-patient rehab beds, and “scale up the most effective programs” — such as extending hours for Vancouver’s Insite and other safe consumption sites. It will also make drug treatment court the default option for first-time non-violent offenders charged exclusively with simple possession, to help drug users get quick access to treatment.

Conservatives

A spokeswoman said the party has not yet released its policy, but will “in the coming weeks.” On the campaign trail, leader Andrew Scheer has criticized the Liberals for expanding supervised-injection sites without properly consulting communities. He has told reporters that a Conservative drug policy would focus on getting people off drugs, not “maintaining” a life of addiction. The former Conservative government tried unsuccessfully to have Vancouver’s Insite shut down.

NDP

The NDP promises to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency and to work with governments and experts to end “the criminalization and stigma of drug addiction” so people can get help without fear of arrest. The party supports overdose-prevention sites. It would expand access to treatment on demand, launch an investigation into the role of drug companies in opioid overdoses and seek financial compensation for the public costs of the crisis, and “get tough” on traffickers. The platform provides no cost estimates.

Greens

The Greens promise $100 million annually to respond to the opioid crisis, plus $1 billion annually for treatment that includes mental health and addictions. The party’s platform promises to declare a national health emergency, plus “Recognize that fentanyl contamination is why deaths are more accurately described as poisonings than overdoses. Drug possession should be decriminalized, ensuring people have access to a screened supply and the medical support they need. … Increase funding to community-based organizations to test drugs and make naloxone kits widely available.”


Renderings for the proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain extension.

Submitted /

Postmedia News

Transportation/infrastructure

Liberals

The Liberals say they will create a national infrastructure fund to support yet-to-be-determined “major nation-building projects.” They would make permanent the federal commitment to fund public transit, and put in an additional $3 billion a year in stable funding on top of gas tax transfers, and require that new federal investments in public transit are used to support zero-emission buses and rail starting in 2023. They would also support the transition to zero-emission fleets for school and transit buses, and encourage businesses to convert their fleets.

Conservatives

The Conservatives have committed to ensuring promised infrastructure projects will proceed, with top priority to infrastructure projects that shorten commute times, like the George Massey Tunnel replacement. They would scrap the $35-billion Canada Infrastructure Bank. They would reintroduce a transit tax credit similar to the one ended in 2017, which will apply to monthly and weekly passes, and some electronic fare cards. It’s estimated that over 10 years, the tax credit will cost the government $2.2 billion.

NDP

The NDP would introduce a permanent funding mechanism for public transit. It wants to electrify transit and municipal vehicles by 2030, expand rail service, work with provinces and municipalities toward “fare-free transit” and re-establish rural bus routes formerly covered by Greyhound and expand bus service in rural regions. It would use community benefit agreements for infrastructure projects. To encourage zero-emission vehicle adoption, it would extend federal incentives for vehicles and chargers, waive federal taxes on purchases and expand charging networks.

Greens

The Greens would develop a national transportation strategy with the goal of reaching zero-carbon public transportation — rail, light rail and electric buses — across Canada by 2040, and revamp the Canada Infrastructure Bank. They would ban the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2030, require all passenger ferries to convert to electric or hybrid by 2030, exempt new and used zero-emission vehicles from federal sales tax, expand charging stations, implement a passenger rail transportation policy, create a cycling and walking infrastructure fund, and develop “green freight transport program.”


Gas and auto insurance are among many living expenses on a steep rise in B.C.

Nick Procaylo /

Postmedia News

Related

Cost of living

Liberals

The Liberal plan is to reduce personal income taxes by raising the personal exemption to $15,000 from $12,069, saving the average Canadian $292 and the average middle-class family $585. The party takes aim at cellphone bills, promising that increased competition would reduce them 25 per cent and threatening regulation if that doesn’t happen. The party would increase student grants by $1,200, to reach $4,200 a year. The party’s promises to seniors include increasing old-age-security payments by 10 per cent.

Conservatives

The Conservatives’ tax plan aims straight at cutting the lowest-bracket tax rate to 13.75 per cent from 15 per cent, which the party bills as its “universal tax cut,” saying it will save as much as $440 for individuals or $850 for a two-income family. The party’s plan also includes increasing Registered Education Savings Plan grants to $750 a year from $500 and reviving tax credits for expenses on children’s arts and sports programs and commuter transit passes.

NDP

The NDP platform doesn’t include promises to cut taxes but it does seek to reduce cellphone and internet bills and to make post-secondary education more affordable. The party would require carriers to introduce basic internet and cellphone plans, and would order caps on phone and internet bills. The NDP would cap and reduce post-secondary tuition and would eliminate interest on student loans and increase access to student grants. It would work toward making post-secondary education part of the public system.

Greens

The Greens call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and a “guaranteed livable income” to replace supports such as disability and social assistance payments. The party’s affordability plan also promises universal access to post-secondary education. That means free tuition for Canadian students and forgiving existing student debts held by the federal government. For seniors, the party would increase the Canada Pension Plan’s target for income replacement to 50 per cent of pre-retirement income from 25 per cent.


Seven-year-old Kenji Kirby waves the flag as she attends a Canada Day citizenship ceremony with her mom and dad in Vancouver on July 1.

Arlen Redekop /

PNG

Immigration policy

Liberals

The Liberals would work with the U.S. to “modernize” the Safe Third Country Agreement. They would increase immigration to 350,000 a year by 2021 — up from 310,000 in 2018 — and would create a program to allow communities, chambers of commerce and labour councils to directly sponsor immigrants, with a minimum of 5,000 spaces. The party would make applying for Canadian citizenship free for permanent residents. 

Conservatives

The Conservatives would renegotiate the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires refugee claimants to request protection in the first safe country where they arrive. They would stop border crossings at unofficial points of entry. The Conservatives would improve language training and credential recognition so it is easier for immigrants to use their skills in Canada. The party would promote private sponsorships of refugees and prioritize “people facing true persecution.” They would set immigration levels “consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests.”

NDP

The NDP would suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement. It would work with provinces to address gaps in settlement services and improve foreign credentials recognition. The NDP would end the cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents, and address backlogs that delay reunification. The party would regulate immigration consultants, give status to caregivers brought to Canada and expedite their reuniting with families. They would set immigration levels to “meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognize people’s experiences, contributions and ties to Canada.”

Greens

The Greens would terminate the Safe Third Country Agreement. The party would include “environmental refugee” as a refugee category. It would create a system to evaluate immigrants’ education to help them get accreditation and jobs. It would also eliminate the temporary foreign workers program, increase immigration to address labour shortages, process the estimated 200,000 people in Canada who don’t have official status, and regulate immigration consultants. The Greens have not announced immigration levels but would “attract immigrants and establish a system that is fair.”

MORE: Federal election 2019

1Oct

Open letter outlines Metro Vancouver seniors’ transportation needs

by admin

Three women who are members of a seniors committee pose in front of a SkyTrain.


Brenda Felker (left), Anita Eriksen and Farideh Ghaffarzadeh are members of the seniors advisory committee Seniors on the Move, which released an open letter about transit and transportation on Tuesday, the International Day of the Older Person.


Jennifer Saltman / PNG

Brenda Felker is dreading the day when she won’t be able to use her car to connect with friends and family, and still get where she needs to go.

“That’s huge, losing your licence,” she said. “It scares me that I would lose my independence.”

That is why Felker joined an advisory committee of Seniors on the Move, which represents seniors who use different modes of transportation to get around Metro Vancouver.

On Tuesday, the International Day of the Older Person, the committee released an open letter signed by 225 people outlining changes to the transportation system that would make it more welcoming for seniors. The letter was the culmination of three years of work.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said transportation is arguably the most important concern for seniors, and was the focus of a report — which included 15 recommendations — that came out of her office in May 2018.

“Your efforts, I think, are starting to resonate,” Mackenzie told the committee. “I think that local governments, regional governments, provincial governments, federal governments are all understanding this need around transportation and this huge group of people that is growing who can’t drive their cars any longer, but they still need to get out and about.”

Mackenzie noted that at age 65 about 90 per cent of seniors have a driver’s licence in B.C., but that number drops to less than half by age 85.

The letter has suggestions in a number of key areas, including walking, mobility aids, public transit, HandyDART, taxis, transitioning drivers to other transportation modes and volunteer ride programs.

“We think these changes would be a great place to start. Our cities may not have been built for an aging population, but we can adapt them,” said Anita Eriksen, a committee member who gave up her car when she turned 65.

Transit users are looking for a long list of changes, many of which concern bus travel. In addition to real-time information at bus stops and covered bus stops with seating, seniors are looking for drivers who make courtesy announcements, get closer to the curb, and wait for seniors to sit or get stable before leaving a stop.

Accessibility alternatives when elevators and escalators are out of order, and more community shuttles with ramps and kneeling capability are also important.

HandyDART users want a payment system and pricing that integrates with the rest of TransLink, coordination and integration with the medical system and better education about the service.

Kathy Pereira, director of access transit service deliver for Coast Mountain Bus Company, said TransLink is looking to address a number of concerns outlined in the letter, and promised to bring the concerns back to the transit agency.

“We do the things that most people do that are obvious … but sometimes we don’t think far enough. So I think that’s one of the big messages I’ve heard here,” Pereira said. “We’re on the right track, but maybe we’re not going far enough.”

Walkers and those who use mobility aids are looking for better-maintained, wider sidewalks, more benches, better street lighting, functional curb cuts and more time to cross the street.

Drivers looking to leave their cars behind need more information on other ways to get around and resources to make the change, as well as medical services plan coverage for required medical exams.

Taxis need to be given incentives to pick up seniors and those with mobility issues, and seniors need more information about taxi savers.

The letters says there should be ways to assess the fitness of volunteer ride program drivers and the suitability of their vehicles, and there should be standardized training along with more drivers.

Beverley Pitman, the seniors planner at United Way of the Lower Mainland and self-identified “young senior,” called the list of suggestions comprehensive, visionary and highly practical.

“By stepping up and taking this on, in effect you’ve made visible a whole bunch of other seniors who haven’t had the opportunity or maybe are really socially isolated because they don’t have access to at transportation system that enables them to get out and about,” Pitman said.

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23Aug

City of suspect sidewalks: In Vancouver, danger is underfoot

by admin

Emrys Horton’s first instinct when he saw flames engulf a boat in a Yaletown marina was to run to help. He wasn’t thinking of the ground beneath him. But in his sprint to the boat, Horton rolled his ankle on a large lump in the sidewalk.

Horton, manager of the nearby Provence Marinaside restaurant, had reacted to the billowing smoke from flames that had engulfed a 10-metre pleasure vessel on Oct. 12, 2017. The blaze took eight fire trucks and a fireboat to put out.

No one was hurt in the fire — but Horton suffered more than just a sprain. He twisted his ankle so much that he tore the tendon off his bone, taking a piece of bone with it, in what’s known as an avulsion fracture.

“My ankle will literally never be the same as it was,” said Horton, 43.

He reported the sidewalk hazard, but didn’t report his injury. It never occurred to him.

“I suspect I probably should have, but I didn’t at the time,” Horton said about the idea of taking his case to a personal-injury lawyer. “I probably won’t now.”

Everyone walks on them. But not many people pay much attention to the city’s sidewalks, even though they are among the most ubiquitous pieces of city infrastructure.

Horton is one of many people to have injured themselves by tripping or falling because of sidewalk disrepair in the City of Vancouver. Their experiences highlight a public lack of knowledge about recourse when it comes to injuries caused by sidewalks. It also highlights what some advocates say is infrastructure sorely neglected by the city and a maintenance system that may not be adequately serving the public’s needs.


Emrys Horton in areas where sidewalks are broken or collapsing on Marinaside Crescent in Vancouver.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG

The sidewalk network

The City of Vancouver has about 2,200 kilometres of sidewalks. Put end to end, they would stretch from the city to Anchorage, Alaska. Everyone uses sidewalks at some point, whether walking is their primary mode of transportation or not: Drivers walk on them to and from their cars, transit riders travel on them to their stops and stations, cyclists lock up their bikes and walk to their destination on them.

City reports show that the city’s sidewalks are heavily used — and that getting even more people to use them is a priority. The City of Vancouver’s 2017 Walking and Cycling report card found that 25 per cent of all trips in Vancouver are completed by walking — meaning that it’s the dominant mode of transportation for a person’s trip. Meanwhile, the city’s Transportation 2040 Plan says that walking should be the “top transportation priority” for future growth.

The city’s 2019 budget includes $1.75 million for the construction of new sidewalks and $798,000 to rehabilitate roughly one kilometre of existing sidewalks. According to the budget, priority for sidewalk rehabilitation is given to areas that get a lot of pedestrian activity, such as commercial areas and transit routes. In addition, an uncertain amount of sidewalk is rebuilt each year as part of broader road-replacement work.

By comparison, the budget allocates $9 million for bikeways and greenways, and $8 million to repave major arterial streets.

Some feel that sidewalks are still an afterthought.

“I think it’s an overlooked form of infrastructure,” said Andy Yan, a director with the City Program at Simon Fraser University. “I mean, one hopes it’s seen as a form of central infrastructure.”

Yan defines sidewalks as formalized pathways that connect a city and facilitate movement across it by foot. But he says the pedestrian experience can quickly turn bad and even lead to injury and distress, when sidewalks fall into disrepair.

‘I have started walking a different route home’

A fall on an uneven sidewalk one dark and wet November night in 2018 left teacher Ellen Michelle with pain all over her body and so much anxiety that she permanently changed the route for her daily walk home from work.

Michelle, 26, was walking home along Cambie Street from the King Edward Canada Line station after a day of teaching when she fell.

“There was one part of the sidewalk that was raised, and it was right beside a tree,” Michelle said.

A tree root had pushed the sidewalk section up on the east side of Cambie Street between 26th and 27th avenues. The raised sidewalk caught Michelle unawares and sent her sprawling to the ground.

“I ended up flying forward a few feet, at least. Dropped everything I was holding, including a bag of student midterms that I was taking home to grade,” Michelle said.

Michelle ended up with a bloody, fat lip for three days and soreness in her entire body that lasted a week.

“It was very difficult to move the next day,” she said.

Injuries sustained from disrepaired or broken sidewalks can leave lasting marks. The most common injuries are broken ankles. The odds of injury increase during the rainy months of winter.

Michelle’s experience highlights how sidewalk accidents have more than physical consequences.

“One thing I’ll say is that since that fall, I have started walking a different route home to avoid that spot,” Michelle said.

Michelle wishes the city would “just fix the sidewalk when roots grow out of them,” so no one else has to sustain injuries, trivial or severe.


Pedestrians in areas where sidewalks are broken or collapsing on Marinaside Crescent in Vancouver.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG

Sidewalk monitoring

Tree roots pushing up from underneath are a common cause of damage to Vancouver’s sidewalks. Shifting ground also breaks sidewalks: As the ground moves, the sidewalk is not able to adjust.

In order to monitor the disrepair, Vancouver has a sidewalk maintenance policy that requires a team of city workers to visually examine every sidewalk in the city annually for such defects. According to the city, the inspection team of six or seven people examines the city’s sidewalks from about November or December to July or August and identifies any cracks or bumps that could present hazards. The policy states that any hazards that measure over one inch are scheduled to be repaired within seven days.

The city also relies on residents to report damaged sidewalks. But not many people know this.

Michelle, for example, didn’t report the sidewalk problem that caused her to fall. She says she was unaware she could.

It’s one reason why it’s difficult to determine the extent of the city’s liability for sidewalk injuries.

Cities can be held liable for injury if they have not met a minimum duty of care to ensure that sidewalks are safe for people to use.

This falls under the concept of “reasonableness,” according to personal-injury lawyer Mark Carter. That means that as long as the city has made an effort to maintain the sidewalk, it has fulfilled its duty of care.

Vancouver works to meet its duty of care through its annual inspection program. In addition, the city relies on people to report sidewalks in poor condition through the VanConnect app, the city website or calls to 311.

Yan said that such reporting methods give the public the opportunity to hold their city accountable in maintaining the standard they have set when it comes to sidewalks.

VanConnect appears to have led to an increase in the number of complaints. When the app went online in the middle of 2015, the number of sidewalk complaints from people increased more than 40 per cent, from an average of 1,250 to 1,760 a year.

Yan also said that just checking a sidewalk complaint isn’t enough. Action, in many cases, must happen as well.

“You can imagine that if something happened and it’s a part of a sidewalk that’s been complained about several times, it does present the city with a certain liability,” he said.

Is it enough?

This raises the question of whether the current system is good enough for those who live and work in the city.

Carter said the answer to this depends on three things:

• Whether a city policy exists.

• Whether that policy can be considered “reasonable.”

• Whether the policy was followed.

Carter says Vancouver is not meeting a “reasonable” standard.

“Let’s say they had a program, and they would check the sidewalks once per year to see if they’re safe or not. Well, that’s not very reasonable. They would have to check it several times a year,” Carter said.

Yan isn’t quite so critical of the city’s sidewalk maintenance standards, saying they stand up well compared to other cities.

He said the one-inch minimum for defects warranting repair, for example, may seem like a poor standard, but he argued it’s reasonable given the amount the ground can shift or the fact that so many sidewalks run beside trees.

However, he says the city needs to better define its maintenance policy.

“If you do see a problem on your sidewalk, how do you report it in? What are the protocols for maintenance that the city has towards maintaining sidewalks, much less maintaining public infrastructure?” Yan said.

“I mean, we arguably have minimum standards towards maintaining our roads; one might expect that one has standards towards maintaining our sidewalks.”

Ultimately, it means that the city’s duty of care is arguably open to question — and that could invite legal action.

However, Carter said that while lawsuits against the city do happen, they are rare. A freedom of information request revealed that between Jan. 1, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2019, there had been 28 “civil lawsuits brought against the city as a result of injuries incurred on city sidewalks. A total of $117,000 was paid out by the city to settle these lawsuits, an average of less than $24,000 a year.

Carter said many people don’t file civil lawsuits, and those who do will settle because of the cost of seeing it go to trial.

However, he said many people injured in sidewalk falls do not even think about a lawsuit, and have no idea where to turn to or what recourse they have available to them.

‘I didn’t hear back’

Reporting sidewalk issues to the city isn’t a guarantee of their repair, say people who have tried to navigate the system.

Erik Hearn broke his collarbone when he tripped on a West End sidewalk during his regular 10-kilometre morning walk.

Hearn was aware he could report the damaged sidewalk to the city, and took action.

“I did take a picture and I did send it to the website,” Hearn said. “But I didn’t hear back.”

Hearn said the city “planted trees that are huge trees and with that comes huge roots. And the roots are now the ones that are causing the problem with the sidewalks, curling up and making the sidewalks uneven.”

Hearn said he is worried that his neighbours may have similar accidents and injure themselves as he did.

“The city has neglected totally to repair sidewalks here, which is probably an area of the city where they should pay specific attention to that because a big portion of the residents in this area are seniors,” he said.

Since his own fall in Yaletown, Horton has reported several other damaged sidewalks. He, too, questions the city’s response to reports of disrepair.

“Some of the things that I’ve personally reported multiple times have not been fixed within months or years,” Horton said.

While on the job at Provence Marinaside, Horton said he has repeatedly seen unsuspecting pedestrians trip and get hurt.

“I’ve had customers fall on their face,” Horton said. “A guy just went down face-first on the ground right outside because he tripped on the edge of one of the cobblestone bricks there that’s starting to lift. Broke his nose, lost consciousness.”

Accessibility challenges

Even when reported sidewalks are fixed by the city, some say the repairs aren’t adequate.

Horton said the fall that severely injured his ankle was caused by a piece of sidewalk that had been previously repaired by the city with asphalt, a common fix. He said city crews covered the damaged area with asphalt, which then chipped away over time.

Accessibility advocates like Gabrielle Peters say that such repairs aren’t good enough — and that’s compounding problems for those with mobility issues.

Peters, who has served on the city’s Active Transportation Policy Council, says her advocacy began when she began taking photos of sidewalks and posting them online.

“The city will instruct people to contact 311. Every block, I could be calling 311,” said Peters.

She refers to some of the repairs she’s seen as “almost a work of art.”

“Literally, they poured asphalt on top of pouring asphalt on top of pouring asphalt. And you honestly have this little sort of pyramid, built in the middle of the sidewalk.”

For those with mobility issues, such uneven sidewalks pose an obstacle in reaching public transit or personal vehicles.


Sandy James with the advocacy group Walk Metro Vancouver on W10th Ave where cars, cyclists and pedestrians share space.

Gerry Kahrmann /

PNG

‘Pedestrians are disenfranchised’

For Sandy James, improving the state of sidewalks in the city is about more than repairing cracks and bumps. It’s about making journeys better for the most vulnerable road users, like people with mobility challenges and those who use wheelchairs or push strollers.

James worked at city hall for nearly three decades, including 22 years as a city planner. As a greenway planner, she designed streets to give walking and biking priority over car traffic.

She left the city in 2011, and is now the managing director of Walk Metro Vancouver, a group that advocates improved walkability. She’s critical of the city’s sidewalk policy.

“The challenge here is that pedestrians are disenfranchised,” she said. “It’s just not been on the radar.”

To improve the city’s walkability, James said streets need to be “clean, curious and comfortable,” meaning wider sidewalks, curb ramps for those using wheelchairs, streets clear of gum and other garbage and installation of plants or other street decorations to enhance the overall experience.

James also highlighted the problem of trees. In a city that loves its leafy boulevards, there’s a struggle between maintaining both trees and sidewalks. James said ash trees on Commercial Drive, for example, destroyed the sidewalk. New sidewalks were installed, but that didn’t address the underlying problem.

“Trees sometimes have a shelf life,” James said, adding that’s something she thinks many in Vancouver don’t understand.

Taryn Scollard, the city’s director of streets, said the city’s engineering department works with the park board to select trees that are less disruptive to sidewalks, and have developed root barriers to try to guide root growth downward instead of popping up and leading to sidewalk hazards.

The city has also installed rubber sidewalks made of recycled tires in a couple of locations to see if they are more durable than pavement.

“We’re always looking for new ideas to meet everybody’s needs,” Scollard said.


Construction on Slocan Street. Vancouver tries to extend its sidewalk budget by rebuilding sidewalks at the same time roads are being rebuilt.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG

‘A high priority for the city’

Scollard said while the city could always use more money to address concerns, she believes Vancouver’s sidewalks are in much better condition than those in other Canadian cities. She added that the city makes the most of their budget by combining sidewalk maintenance projects with other construction work whenever possible.

“All areas of pedestrian movement are a high priority for the city,” Scollard said.

She said the city has made a number of changes to sidewalk standards in recent years, including making them wider, putting sidewalks farther away from roads when possible, and installing “pedestrian bulges” at the corners of sidewalks to reduce the amount of time pedestrians spend on the road while crossing the street.

Nathan Durec, Roxanne Egan-Elliott and Mandy Moraes are among this year’s recipients of the Langara College Read-Mercer Journalism Fellowship. This feature was produced through the fellowship.


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9Aug

Committee recommends money for HandyDART, affordable transit fares in 2020 B.C. budget

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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.”

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8Jul

B.C. government says ride hailing services can operate starting Sept. 16

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The provincial government says its regulations for ride hailing will be in effect as of Sept. 16, 2019.


Seth Wenig / AP

Welcome to B.C., Uber and Lyft.

The ride hailing companies could be operating on B.C. roads as early as Sept. 16, according to the provincial government, which announced Monday its regulations on licensing and insurance for ride hailing will be in effect as of that date.

However, ride hailing companies would first need to apply for permission to operate through the Passenger Transportation Board; applications will be accepted beginning Sept. 3.

The PTB, an independent board, is also responsible for setting guidelines around supply, boundaries and fares.

“Our plan has made it possible for ride-hailing companies to apply to enter the market this fall, with vehicles on the road later this year, while ensuring the safety of passengers and promoting accessibility options in the industry,” said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena in a statement.

“British Columbians have been asking and waiting for these services after more than five years of delay by the former government. We took action to allow for the services people want and we’re delivering on that promise.”

Related

The Passenger Transportation Act regulations will require criminal record checks and driver record checks for any driver working with a ride-hailing company, and will introduce a new 30-cent per-trip fee and a $5,000 annual license fee.

The Motor Vehicle Act regulations will change how frequently cars must undergo inspections, will remove seatbelt exceptions for all for-hire vehicles, and will introduce side-entry accessible taxis.

Drivers working for ride hailing companies are still required to hold a Class 4 commercial licence, a requirement supported by B.C.’s police chiefs association but that was not recommended by a legislative committee tasked with making recommendations for ride hailing.

Alberta requires ride hailing drivers hold a Class 1, 2 or 4 licence, all of which are for professional drivers.

ICBC will also introduce a new insurance policy for drivers and vehicles operating with ride-hailing companies, effective this September. The policy is a blanket, per kilometre insurance product that provides third-party liability and accident coverage.

Drivers working with ride-hailing companies would be required to have their own basic vehicle insurance policy when they are not working.

It will also be left to the PTB to decide how many ride-hailing vehicles will be allowed to operate, what boundaries if any are applicable and what rates would be charged.

Uber has yet to respond to the news officially, though a spokesman said the company was reviewing the details announced Monday before discussing publicly how it might impact the company’s entry into B.C.

More to come.

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16Jun

How to make B.C. active transportation accessible for all

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Active transportation includes non-motorized ways of going places like walking, cycling and other types of wheeling. Making it accessible for everyone is a key message at the B.C. Cycling Coalition’s active transportation summit in New Westminster this week, where these five experts will be speaking during the two days of the conference (Monday and Tuesday):

Amina Yasin, New Westminster

Active transportation has to be inclusive and equitable, says Yasin, co-chair of the Canadian Institute of Planners Social Equity Committee. “Equity is the foundation for all solution-making,” she says. But making active transportation equitable requires “building fairness into the process” and, unfortunately, government policies have historically failed to acknowledge people’s physical and systemic barriers to it.

Fixing those problems starts with recognizing where active transportation falls short of being fair. For example, when cities time the cycle lengths for their crosswalk lights, do they prioritize drivers, or the pedestrians who might move a bit slower, such as people with neurocognitive disabilities and seniors? When designing transition spaces, can someone with an invisible illness like Crohn’s disease or dementia easily access the public washroom, too?

“If we don’t solve for equity then we’re not really considering everyone in this equation,” Yasin says. “We’re going to continuing to build biases that affect people in our policies and our built environment.”



Barb Chamberlain, director of the active transportation division of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Handout

Barb Chamberlain, Seattle

“Changes that make the transportation system more accessible to people who need to have barriers removed make it better for everybody,” says Chamberlain, director of the active transportation division of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

She points to an article called The Curb-Cut Effect, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, which explains that while wedge cuts were made into sidewalks to make public streets accessible to wheelchair users, they also benefit parents pushing strollers, travellers wheeling luggage and even skateboarders.

Chamberlain says another thing to consider is that everyone will eventually be in a situation where they do not have the same range of capabilities they may have today, whether through aging or by acquiring a disability.

“We’re all moving through the world in different ways in our lives, over time, so we are building the future transportation system that is for ourselves,” she says.

Even motorists become pedestrians using active transportation once they exit their vehicles. “These needs for universal design are, in fact, universal needs,” Chamberlain says.



Allen Mankewich is an accessibility advocate.

Handout /

PNG

Allen Mankewich, Winnipeg

Who should be responsible for clearing the way for active transportation? It’s a question that is top of mind for accessibility advocate Mankewich.

Coming from a “winter city,” Mankewich, who uses a wheelchair, sees a good case for municipalities taking responsibility for clearing snow from sidewalks. In many places, property owners are required to clear their sidewalks outside their homes, which means “leaving it up to the goodwill of the people to ensure that a public resource is properly cleared,” he says.

“It’s not uncommon in Winnipeg to see somebody using their scooter or wheelchair on the street in the winter because, frankly, we do a better job of clearing our streets than we do clearing our sidewalks.”

Mankewich says municipalities should adopt a “sidewalks-first approach.” After all, their snow-clearing equipment and strategies are far more efficient than a person with a shovel, he says.

Otherwise, disabled people can face serious social isolation when just a bit of snow sticks. “The impact of that is quite serious,” he says. “People are not able to go to work, potentially. They’re not able to go out and get groceries. They’re essentially homebound until the city is able to get out and clear their sidewalk.”



Maddy Ruvolo, a chronically-ill disability activist and transportation planning master’s student at UCLA.

Handout /

PNG

Maddy Ruvolo, San Francisco

Planners can learn from the ways disabled people have adapted and built access for people with all types of bodies, says Ruvolo, a chronically-ill disability activist and transportation planning master’s student at UCLA.

“Disabled people are used to living in a world where your ways of moving and thinking and sensing are treated as deficient,” she says. “Because of that, disabled people have learned to move and navigate through hostile spaces, and have learned to creatively problem-solve when inaccessibility arises — but we shouldn’t have to because it’s exhausting.”

Fixing this means going beyond basic disability awareness and “token inclusion,” Ruvolo says.

Disabled people need to be hired for decision-making positions that will have an impact on active transportation and infrastructure. For example, Ruvolo found that some bike lanes in the Bay Area were designed without thought to how disabled people would navigate the altered spaces.

“If you have disabled people at the table in decision-making positions from the get-go, you can think about how to create a bike lane that works for cyclists, including disabled cyclists, but also works for wheelchair users, blind people and other people navigating around and through bike lanes that aren’t using them,” she says.



Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario.

Handout /

PNG

Sarah Jama, Hamilton, Ont.

Stop using consumerist language when talking about accessibility, says Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. “A lot of our conversations around accessibility tend to focus on adding ramps to stores so that we can expand our economic purchasing power,” Jama says.

Legislation called the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act contains a framework for accessibility in Jama’s province (B.C. has no equivalent) but relies heavily on consumerist language, she says. “It uses a lot of language around, ‘This is what we need in order to build a society that fits people with disabilities in public spaces, in terms of being able to be helpful or useful to the economy.”

The federal act focuses too much on employment, too, she says. “What about the people who can’t work?” she says. “What about the people who can’t really participate in what we would deem as conventional in this capitalist society and framework?” Jama says building public space that fit everybody — including for active transportation — means making them universally accessible regardless of whether people are using them to spend money or simply for their own enjoyment.

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26May

New 2019 Vancouver Bike Map highlights Triple AAA Network

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The free 2019 Vancouver Bike Map is available during Bike to Work Week, Monday, May 27, to Sunday, June 2.


PNG

New 2019 City of Vancouver Bike Maps highlighting the all-ages-protected bike lanes will be handed out starting Monday during Bike to Work Week.

The city has printed 20,000 of the weather-resistant bike maps showing the latest changes to the bike network, said Dale Bracewell, manager of transportation for the City of Vancouver.

The map highlights what’s called the AAA Network: AAA stands for All Ages and Abilities and refers to a protected bike lane separated from motorized traffic by physical barriers such as planters or curbs. The AAA lanes are shown in yellow outlined in green on the maps.

One of the big additions to the AAA network since the last update a few years ago is on the Cambie Bridge.

“We made the switch in the last year on the Cambie Bridge,” Bracewell said. “Now one-way north bound is on the east side and one way south bound is on a protected bike lane on the other side. It has the kind of detail that matters for people in terms of understanding that part of our Triple AAA Network and how it connects to the seawall.”

One side of the map shows the biking network in the city core that stretches from the bikeway along Woodland Drive to the east; the stretch of bikeway along West 14th to the south; the protected bike lanes on the Coal Harbour Seawall and Alexander Street to the north; as well as the downtown core. It’s roughly the footprint of the Mobi Bike Share network.

On the other side, the map shows all the protected bike lanes, local street bikeways, painted bike lanes and shared-use lanes throughout the city and out to the University of B.C.

A new addition to the map is a section on Micro Mobility that uses a graphic to show where people can ride bicycles, E-bikes, mopeds and skateboards.

The bike maps are free. They’ll be handed out at the City of Vancouver Bike to Work stations.

Bike to Work Week, organized by HUB Cycling in Metro, starts Monday, May 27, and continues through to Sunday, June 2. Monday also marks the beginning of Bike to School Week. Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2, is Bike to Shop Week.

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3May

TransLink launches consultation on 30-year regional transit plan

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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.

Take the survey at Transport2050.ca.

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26Mar

Legislative committee gives advice on ride-hailing regulations

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Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft should not be limited by geographic boundaries or caps on fleet sizes, and drivers should be allowed to work with Class-5 licences, according to a provincial legislative committee.

In November, the provincial government introduced legislation that will allow ride-hailing companies to operate in B.C., likely by late this year.

The nine-member, all-party select standing committee on Crown corporations was asked to look at four specific areas of regulation: boundaries, vehicle supply, fare and price regimes, and driver’s licence requirements.

On Tuesday, it released 11 recommendations after hearing from 15 witnesses and receiving 47 written submissions from municipalities, regional districts, First Nations, taxi associations, disability advocacy organizations and ride-hailing companies.

“I do hope that now government will see fit to keep the recommendations and get real ride-hailing in place and on the road in British Columbia,” said Surrey South Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux, who was the committee’s deputy chair.

Currently, taxi companies are limited by operating boundaries, which are set when a taxi licence is granted. They dictate where a taxi can pick up passengers, which can lead to deadheading — return trips without passengers — and ride refusals.

The committee said boundaries should not be imposed for ride-hailing companies. Instead, they considered other options to manage the distribution of vehicles, such as geofencing to redistribute supply and per-trip or per-kilometre fees to deal with congestion, if necessary.

Fleet sizes for ride-hailing companies should not be capped, the committee said, however it did not agree on other mechanisms to deal with supply and demand.

In the interest of safety and reducing emissions, the committee recommended that vehicles used for ride-hailing be no more than 10 years old.

On pricing, the committee said there should be a minimum per-trip price that is not less than the cost of public transit. A regular adult fare for someone who does not have a Compass card is $2.95 for one zone, and $5.70 for three zones.

They also agreed that the cost of a trip should be the same for an handicap-accessible vehicle and non-accessible vehicle.

Companies should be required to disclose the price for a trip on their apps before the customer orders a ride, and data should be monitored to see if a base rate or cap on surge pricing should be implemented. These recommendations were in a 2018 committee report.

The committee was not unanimous in its views on driver licensing, but a majority of members voted for a Class-5 licence requirement, rather than a Class-4. A Class-5 licence is what most drivers in B.C. hold.

“Members expressed uncertainty over whether the Class-4 licensing process actually produces safer drivers,” the report states.

They emphasized that driver rating systems could help identify safe drivers, and said driving record checks and medical exams could be required.

The committee also recommended that ride-hailing companies be required to provide data to the province for monitoring purposes, and that the province make that information available “to the broadest extent possible while maintaining privacy.”

It was recommended that the province review the regulations in 2023.

Committee member and B.C. Green spokesperson for transportation, MLA Adam Olsen, said the government now has the tools to make ride-hailing a reality.

“Ride-hailing will make transportation services more accessible for British Columbians, and the recommendations brought forward by our committee ensure that there would be a regulatory environment that promotes overall safety and a fair playing field,” said Olsen. “I hope government will implement these recommendations, which are informed by other jurisdictions.”

Ridesharing Now for B.C., a coalition advocating in favour of ride-hailing, urged the province to adopt the recommendations and move forward.

“Today’s report marks a major milestone in bringing ride-sharing to the province by the fall of 2019, as promised by the government,” said spokesperson Ian Tostenson. “It is time to get ride-sharing on the road by implementing the key recommendations and finalizing ride-sharing auto-insurance.”

To bridge the gap until ride-hailing is allowed in the province, a local company has started Kater, a ride-hailing app that will begin beta testing on Saturday.

People who have registered on the company’s website and been chosen to take part in the trial will be able to download the company’s app and order rides from Vancouver to anywhere in B.C. Kater will begin with a small number of vehicles and scale up to 140 within a few weeks.

The company will use Vancouver Taxi Association licences to operate and will be expected to abide by the existing rules — which include requiring a Class-4 licence, TaxiHost Pro certificate, and chauffeur-for-hire permit, and charging taxi rates — but use a typical ride-hailing app that takes payment and allows users to track their rides and rate drivers.

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20Feb

B.C. Budget 2019: Discounted transit fares, HandyDART funding absent

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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.

TransLink has invested money in expanding HandyDART service as part of its 10-year regional transportation plan, and made some changes following a review to improve the quality of service.

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.


Viveca Ellis, a leadership development coordinator of the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition and All On Board campaign coordinator, wants free transit for youth and reduced fares for others.

PNG

“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.

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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.

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