Since my election in May 2017 it is crystal clear, people who live and work on the Saanich Peninsula want better public transit. They need better transit.
This is an issue right across the Capital Region. It is a priority in addressing climate change, reducing congestion and prolonging the life of our aging infrastructure.
There is a growing frustration that the BC NDP government has done so little to increase the capacity of BC Transit in Greater Victoria. The bus lanes on Douglas are not enough. If we expect people to get out of their cars and onto public transit then we need to increase frequency, convenience and reliability.
While there are unmet expectations of this government to do more for public transportation, they recently made a massive investment in Highway 14 improvements connecting Sooke and Langford.
In Question Period I ask the Minister of Transportation when she will prioritize transit on the Saanich Peninsula and why the Highway 14 improvements were put ahead of public transit investments across the Capital Region?
The Saanich Peninsula is a vibrant community. It’s a hub of industry. It’s home to businesses of all sizes, powered by innovative entrepreneurs and a skilled labour force. Nearly $1 billion worth of business transactions are generated in Keating, North Saanich and Sidney each year. It creates more than 5,000 jobs for this region and thousands of other spinoffs.
Many of these entrepreneurs are leaders in the global marketplace. People who work in my riding come from all across this region, but as the years pass, it’s becoming more difficult to get around. In every one of my visits to local businesses, the owners and managers have told me their employees need better access to transit services. It’s not a new problem. The message has been consistent over the years and across multiple governments.
My question is to the Minister of Transportation. When will the minister make public transportation on the Saanich Peninsula a priority?
Hon. C. Trevena:
I appreciate the member’s question. I know that he’s passionate about public transit, as am I. We want to make sure that we’re making investments in the transit system to get people out of their cars. At the moment, we’re in Bike to Work Week, and we’re seeing more people getting on bicycles to commute, but we do need to make that shift to get people out of cars and onto public transit.
We’re, at the moment, investing in bus lanes along Douglas Street, out along the Saanich Peninsula, and we’re investing record amounts of money in B.C. Transit. I hope that the member will continue to work with me to identify the areas that really need that investment.
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
Joshua is a roast master at Level Ground. For 12 years he’s been a transit rider, and unfortunately, he, like many other people that I have spoken to, feels that service on the Saanich Peninsula is in decline. I think this is hardly the message that we should be sending to people that we want to get out of their cars and onto transit.
Recently, local leaders have called for free transit, which is open to discussion here in the region. Every time I visit local high schools, students are clear with me that they need and want a robust, convenient, reliable transit system. The central focus of the town hall last week on the Green New Deal here in Victoria was on public mass transportation.
The minister has opened up a south Island transportation study in this region, but since 2011, we’ve had a very good plan for how to improve regional transit infrastructure and services. But instead of implementing it, this government has kicked the can down the road once again. That said, some projects, like the $86 million improvement to Highway 14, seem to be getting funding without any problem.
To the Minister of Transportation: can the minister explain why the Highway 14 project was more of a priority than investing money more broadly across greater Victoria to improve our regional mass transportation networks?
Hon. C. Trevena:
I really do appreciate the opportunity to talk a bit about transportation in the south Island, which was ignored for 16 years under the previous government. Through those 16 years, there has been a massive deterioration, which is why we did launch the south Island transportation strategy, which is going to be looking at how we can make sure we integrate transportation.
We’re looking at bus transportation. We’re looking at how we can potentially integrate ferries. We’re looking at the rail lines. We’re looking at our highways — how to make sure that is integrated to better serve the needs of everyone in the south Island.
Safety does come first. We are looking at Highway 14. Investments there are going to increase safety. They’re going to increase reliability and address mobility concerns for one of the fastest-growing regions, I think, of the whole of B.C., when you look at the West Shore and what’s happening there.
It is not an either-or. It’s working together to make sure we’ve got a strategy for a region that was ignored for 16 years, as well as making immediate investments.