Metro Vancouver’s proposed transit plan would mean more jobs, a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions and a better quality of life, according to a report released this week.
The study, conducted for the labour and environmental alliances Green Jobs B.C. and Blue Green Canada, found that approval of the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan would bring major benefits to the Lower Mainland.
“The Mayors’ Council plan, if adopted, will create family-sustaining green jobs, reduce travel times, ease congestion and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This plan will transform the way people get around,” said Lisa Matthaus, co-chair of Green Jobs B.C.
Voting is now underway in a referendum on a proposed 0.5 per cent Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax. If approved, the estimated annual revenue of $250-million would be used to partially fund an $8-billion, 10 year transit plan.
Among projects included in the plan are more rapid bus routes, increased SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus and West Coast Express services, a new, four-lane Pattullo Bridge, rapid transit along Broadway, two new Light Rail Transit lines connecting Surrey City Centre to Guildford, Newton and Langley and extensions of cycling and pedestrian walkway networks.
The study, written by public policy researcher and former deputy minister of transportation Blair Redlin and economist David Fairey, found that, over a decade, the plan would result in 43,800 person years in new employment, $2.96 billion in wages and $4.48 billion in GDP, while reducing projected greenhouse gas emissions by 8.2 per cent.
“Transit occupies a sweet spot for creating green jobs that reduce our environmental footprint. They are a classic green jobs generator,” says the report.
“The devastating impacts of global climate change are clearer by the day. Dependence on fossil fuels must be reduced. And we can do it by creating good green jobs that also help build a just and prosperous economy for everyone.”
Currently, more than 6,000 people in Metro Vancouver work in mass transit and the report predicts that the plan will not only create 3,600 more direct jobs in construction, operation and maintenance of vehicles, it will also make it easier for people to get to work, putting 60,000 more jobs within reach.
Investing in transit creates 10 times more jobs than investing in fossil fuel extraction, said Charley Beresford, Blue Green Canada chair.
“In the oil and gas patch in 2014, which you could argue was the peak, there were 6,200 direct B.C jobs. That’s roughly equivalent to the jobs that already exist in transit and with the Mayors’ Plan there would be a 60 per cent uptick. That gives an idea of the impact for B.C,” Beresford said.
“We’re past the argument about economy versus environment. The world is getting serious about building a green, inclusive economy and this plan is in step with that process.”
The report found that road congestion in Metro Vancouver costs $487-million a year and reduces business revenue by $591.8-million. As the population grows, the costs would almost double by 2045, but, by implementing the Mayors’ Council plan, those costs could be reduced by up to 41 per cent.
“We’ll save more than $1-billion in traffic congestion costs. The distances people drive and the costs of excess emissions will all be reduced by about one-third,” says the report.
Transportation is the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C and, in order to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gases to 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020, the province is aiming to double transit ridership by 2020.
The study finds that, currently, emissions are forecast to increase to more than 5.1-million tonnes a year by 2030, but, with the Mayors’ Council plan, they will rise to 4.7-million tones – an 8.2 per cent improvement.
The plan has met with opposition from groups such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which argues that many residents cannot afford the tax and that TransLink is a wasteful organization. When it was revealed that former CEO Ian Jarvis will be paid almost half a million dollars a year until his contract expires next year, those campaigning for a no vote gained traction.
Governance problems do need to be addressed, but voters should look at the advantages offered by the plan, Beresford said.
“These are the jobs of our future. We need this infrastructure to get around and we need it for our quality of life.”