Moving from talk to action on transit and transportation

Jan 8, 2019 | Blog, Governance | 1 comment

Transportation is a high priority of residents of Saanich North and the Islands. As the home of the Victoria International Airport and the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, our riding connects the Capital Region, to the rest of the world.

There are transportation challenges on each of the Gulf Islands. And, there are challenges with the ferry service. These issues will be addressed another day.

Today, we will tackle the Saanich Peninsula.

Brentwood Bay has been my home from day one. Since that day 43 years ago, the roads have become much busier. Congestion is growing on the Pat Bay Highway.

Fixing congestion after the fact, is much more difficult that making incremental investments to alleviate pressure and change behaviour. But, that requires a vision and the political will over the long-term to develop and invest incrementally.

In my experience government is much better with big, concrete overpasses. One-time expenditures that are an obvious sign your government is at work. And, a big, beautiful ribbon to cut at the end.

We need long-term planning.


First and foremost, we need a regional transportation authority. Proper governance is critical. We can develop a great plan, and make the funding commitments to execute. But, the fragmented governance in the Capital Region is a big problem.

With thirteen local governments all owning and controlling interests in municipal roads that connect to each other, the challenge is obvious. There needs to be an authority that controls specific routes that are a priority for a well functioning transit program.

The province has a role here. The Local Government Act is our legislation. Transportation funding is our responsibility. And, the province just recently released the CleanBC program which outlines ways to reach our 2030 climate targets. (Or, at least 75% of the way there.)

In the plan there is an aggressive push toward zero emissions vehicles. Excellent. But, that does not do anything for congestion.

The CleanBC “highlights report” states that over the next 18-24 months we will identify six megatonnes of CO2 to be reduced in transportation. This includes “improving community planning, active transportation and transit.”

Transit Futures Plan

In the oft talked about (and oft neglected) Transit Futures PlanBC Transit did an excellent job of laying out the opportunity. That plan is nearly eight years old now!

There are three municipalities and four First Nations on the Saanich Peninsula. Their leadership have expressed that improved transit is a priority. It would not be difficult to bring them together on this. So, even if the province did not deal with the governance issue, we can get moving on investments to increase transit use to and from the Peninsula.

The plan is to use the Pat Bay Highway as a hub. Run frequent service from Uptown to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, with stops at the major crossings along the line.

Connect the hub with spokes. Small neighbourhood busses pick up passengers and deliver them to the highway. It is not rocket science. Literally, all we need is a commitment for funding to increase the service level. Once that is in place, BC Transit can change how they deliver the service.

The Pat Bay Highway

Highway 17 is increasingly congested. But, it’s not at the point that it requires a major upgrade like more lanes and big interchanges. Besides, we know that chasing congestion with more road, only creates more congestion. It does not affect a change in behaviour.

Aside from a safer exit at Keating X Road which we absolutely need for transport trucks and the million plus visitors to Butchart Gardens, what can we do now to ensure that we never have to make those other major upgrades? How do we make better use of the road we have?

Remember how dangerous the Sayward Road crossing was? In 2013, the province spent $3 million to make the east side of that intersection safer. It appears the improvements are successful. Let’s keep going.

Beacon, Mt. Newton, Island View and Haliburton. The cost of improving these intersections now to allow for transit stops and bus priority lanes, will be far cheaper than adding another lane or cloverleaf overpasses in the future.

Again, this requires vision from the province. Commitment from the province. Funding (or funding mechanisms) from the province.

Let’s not overthink this

There has been a lot of thinking, and perhaps even more talking.

We have a desire to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, limit the need for massive investments in infrastructure, and change behaviour.

We can use the highway that we have to achieve these outcomes. What about transit and high occupant vehicle (HOV) lanes during rush times? What about transit priority lights? These are simple modifications that begin to encourage a change in behaviour.

The final piece is how we, the citizens act. It’s the choices we make once the province makes the long-term commitment to provide a service that entices you and I to make a modal shift.

Unfortunately, government makes it more difficult on itself. As people pay their taxes for their transit services and then they watch busses pass by their communities without even stopping, or, in some cases they never see a bus in their neighbourhood, they become discouraged, frustrated and less willing to support future expenditures.

The average Canadian family spends approximately $12,000 per year on transportation. Even if the improvements and investments outlined in this post save each family on the Saanich Peninsula half of that, the math is in our favour.

If we see that transit is convenient, reliable, easy to use and relatively inexpensive, then we will make the change. If the government truly wants to make life more affordable for British Columbians, as we have so often heard, then I offer this as low hanging fruit.

Let’s pick it. Together!

(Photo credit: “Victoria Double-decker bus” by “Richard Eriksson” used under license CC by 2.0)

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1 Comment

  1. Bruce Batchelor

    Agreeing with you on all your points, Adam. And wanting to add that there is great opportunity in largely untapped transportation demand management strategies to alter the NEED and PATTERNS of travel – to everyone’s benefit. PAYD insurance and CloserCommutes are two examples that would reduce congestion, improve people’s lives dramatically while boosting the economy and costing the government nothing.


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