It’s Time — now — to have your say on mobility pricing

By Vince Gonsalves

The clock is ticking with only one week left to participate in the It’s Time online engagement, at www.itstimemv.ca. We don’t just want public input on decongestion charging — we need to hear from you, to ensure your needs and priorities are reflected in the final report of the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission, which will be completed this spring.

We recently posted an article by members of our public engagement team about the process and challenges of designing a public engagement campaign. Over the past 8 months, the It’s Time project team has been researching ways to combat congestion through different forms of decongestion charging in Metro Vancouver.

This research is just the first step in a long process, and it may take years before the region’s decision-makers can determine if or how to change the way we pay for our region’s transportation system. But that means that right now, you have the opportunity to shape where we go from here. Your input will help inform the recommendations the Commission puts forward to the TransLink Board of Directors and the Mayors’ Council.

There’s no doubt that congestion is a growing problem in Metro Vancouver, and for many of us, it’s reducing our quality of life. Amongst some, there is an assumption that we can just build our way out of congestion by constructing more roads and bigger bridges, or simply adding more transit service. Multiple studies by transportation and urban planners have shown that these measures alone would not solve our traffic problems, especially with the rapid population growth that Metro Vancouver is set to experience over the next 30 years.

The other reality is that one of the mobility pricing tools we currently have in place –the fuel tax — is a dwindling revenue source and is not designed to reduce congestion. We need to think about the future of our transportation network in order to come up with sustainable and workable ways to address the issue. It’s time for bigger picture thinking — and we need your help.

What if, together, we found a viable way to combat congestion in Metro Vancouver? How much would it impact our daily lives? Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, Happiness Researcher and Professor with the UBC Department of Psychology, thinks that overall it could make people happier. She says that,

“Buying time is a good investment in our happiness. Commuting is one of the most unpleasant activities in most people’s day, and shaving off minutes from the time we spend commuting could help to improve people’s wellbeing on a day to day basis.

A solution to our congestion dilemma is years away, but we need to first undergo an extensive period of research that is dependent on feedback from the public. The It’s Time team spoke to members of the community about the importance of this study and why we all have a part to play in redefining the future of our transportation system. Here’s what they had to say:

  • “Research is an important method to solving any problem, and helps us understand our current conditions and what is needed to successfully approach issues we face. Public input is fundamental in helping researchers, like the It’s Time Project team, understand how congestion affects our region, and ensure that the needs of our communities, including fairness and affordability, are considered.”-Mairi Lester, Sustainability Coordinator, Kwantlen Student Association
  • “The majority of our major infrastructure was designed and built at a time when the expansion in economic activity and population we have experienced was not contemplated. It was time to address this decades ago; it certainly is time now. The It’s Time project team’s research will help us understand the strengths and limits of our current transportation infrastructure and inform our decisions as we maximize its utility and undertake new projects to address emerging needs. All of us have to be open minded to hear about and work hard to understand the research. Most of all we have to be flexible enough to change our approach when circumstances require it.“ -Dave Earle, President & CEO, BC Trucking Association
  • “The sheer growth in the number of people in the region is a huge factor in the congestion we’re experiencing in our cars and on transit. The reality looking forward is that if the current system remains, we will simply not be able to handle the proportionate number of people in cars that we are seeing today. That is why this research to address congestion is hugely important. We need to understand that there are millions of stories from millions of people about how they get around the region. We need to hear about people’s unique challenges so that we can identify approaches that are going to be as fair as possible to as many people as possible.” Marc Lee, Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

So yes, it is time. It’s time to have this important conversation about how we adapt to growth in the region. It’s time to accept that the status quo is no longer working. And it’s time that everybody has their voice heard in this process.

We’ve heard from others, and now we need to hear from you. Engagement runs until March 14, and is available in English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Punjabi on the It’s Time website, www.itstimemv.ca.

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