Colwood echoes Langford’s ‘no’ to joining CRD-led transportation service

Council declines to support the regional proposal, citing cost and in-town board structure as principal concerns

Colwood council has come to the same conclusion their Langford counterparts did a week earlier; before they get on board with a regional transportation plan, several changes need to be made to the current proposal.

The overall cost and the lack of strength of Colwood’s voice at the table were two chief concerns expressed by council and residents who spoke during a lengthy public participation period at a special committee of the whole meeting Monday.

During a presentation, Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the Capital Regional District’s transportation select committee, and CRD CEO Robert Lapham touted the strength of a regional service when pursuing provincial and federal granting opportunities, as well as the possibility to deliver transportation programs and identify priorities.

“Speaking with one regional voice and in concert, we’re way stronger than we are as one individual municipality looking to get into those kinds of regionally significant dollars,” Brice said.

Lapham also pointed to the large majority – upwards of 90 per cent – of Colwood residents who commute outside of the municipality as a reason for a regionalized service. For Colwood to reach its mode share targets for 2016, which aims to reduce the number of car trips from a current level of 89 per cent to 70 per cent by 2038, it needs more investments in the trail, transit and road systems, he added.

The presenters pointed to a three-phased service approach, with the first phase being to consolidate existing CRD transportation functions with no new funding required. Phase two would see an expansion of service, from travel demand management to web-based transportation platforms, which would be done through board direction.

Finally, a greater role in transit could be implemented with a change in legislation, confirmed governance structure and a transfer of funds.

Colwood, which has 4.4 per cent of the region’s population, would see its share of the funding be 3.1 per cent.

Even that figure was a stumbling block for Coun. Jason Nault, who cited Colwood’s small share of the vote at the CRD table and not being able to withdraw from the service at a later date as primary concerns.

“From past experience, there’s no way of getting out of these services once you’re in. Colwood gets a very small vote on that weighted vote at the CRD and I have no confidence that Colwood’s best interests will be looked after by that kind of a vote,” he said.

Coun. Gordie Logan also worried that larger municipalities would be making decisions that would impact Colwood.

“I don’t think anyone is arguing the notion that a regional transportation service is a bad idea … but from what I’ve heard, it’s the governance structure and decision-making structure,” he said.

“The feeling here is that the West Shore matters too … the big players in the fish bowl generally make the decisions that impact the little fish. What I’m hearing tonight is the little fish want to be heard and actually ensure that the discussion at the table is meaningful.”

Mayor Carol Hamilton expressed similar concerns.

“Smaller communities are somewhat disadvantaged at the board table with the governance model that’s there,” she said.

She also wondered how much impact the service model could have, with municipalities ultimately having the final say on what happens to their roads regardless of the board’s direction.

“If it defaults to the municipality’s will on their roads, then it’s not going to be that solid of a plan. I think we need to have more buy-in,” she said.

Despite those concerns, Hamilton said she remains hopeful that collaboration can continue to develop with regards to transportation in the region going forward.

During public participation, one attendee wondered how impactful a service could be without Langford, whose council declined to support the service last week.

“Do we need a regional transportation plan? Absolutely. Is the CRD the right venue to do this job? I’m not convinced,” the woman said. “We need help urgently now, not two years from now when you might get this committee together.”

Later, during its regularly scheduled meeting, council unanimously declined to offer its support for the regional service.