MP Fin Donnelly on UBE: piecemeal transportation planning unfair

This is a guest post from New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody MP Fin Donnelly about the controversial United Boulevard Extension project.

Over the past month I have received numerous calls from constituents regarding the proposed United Boulevard Extension (UBE) road project, connecting Coquitlam and New Westminster.

Those from Maillardville argue that this ‘long overdue’ project will allow traffic to flow more freely out of the Brunette corridor in Coquitlam; while Sapperton residents have major concerns that the project will result in increased traffic flowing into New Westminster and the expropriation of residential and industrial land.

Transportation projects like these define communities, they become the ‘face’ of cities; but in the design stage, can be contentious because of the very nature of their impact on neighbourhoods. They also put interests at odds; pitting car driver against transit rider, industrial landowner against homeowner and neighborhood against neighborhood, and in the case of the UBE, Council against Council.

While the process used to shape these projects can be hostile, thankfully people often share the same goal of developing a liveable, sustainable community. However, regardless of where we live or our transportation mode of choice, this goal can be overshadowed when plans are implemented piece-meal.

With the UBE, the Conservative government and Translink have taken a ‘now or never’ approach threatening to pull $65 million in federal funding off the table if the project plan is not approved by December 31st 2010.

By trying to ram this through, New Westminster residents feel they are being denied meaningful consultation without assurance that other important pieces to the overall transportation corridor, like Front Street, which would steer trucks away from residential neighbourhoods, are in place. Neither have they received commitments that these concerns will be resolved before the December 31st deadline.

None of the UBE options proposed by Translink adequately serve the needs of the Sapperton residents. For this reason, New Westminster city council sent Translink back to the drawing board earlier this week.

Projects and processes such as these drive home the point that a meaningful regional transportation plan with real community engagement, adequate timelines and all relevant information, is needed.

It is unfair to expect that we can build a sustainable transportation network piecemeal.

I believe Canada needs a bold, new national transit strategy, one that adopts a far-sighted approach to urban transportation, recognizing the coming shift to a post carbon future. The trick is accommodating current transportation projects, such as the UBE, with this goal in mind.

This strategy would give top priority and funding to projects like the Evergreen Line. If we don’t have convenient, safe, clean, reliable public transit, then commuters will continue to opt for car-oriented road solutions that, at best, temporarily relieve, but eventually worsen congestion.

We must remember that decisions made today around infrastructure spending and priorities will be felt well into the future; so let’s plan, consult and spend wisely.

Fin Donnelly
Member of Parliament
New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody

Taking the ‘Zero Waste Challenge’

This is a guest post by Coquitlam City Councillor Fin Donnelly, a member of the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee, Executive Director of the Rivershed Society of British Columbia and a candidate for NDP Member of Parliament in New Westminster-Coquitlam-Port Moody.

Photo: Proggie
Though garbage is far from glamorous - it's one of the most important issues we can be talking about right now. Photo: Proggie

“If we know TODAY that it’s possible to divert up to 82% of Metro Vancouver’s solid waste then shouldn’t we be aiming for that NOW, and then to 90% and eventually 100% diversion?”

That was the question I put forward at a recent Metro Vancouver Waste Forum where the debate significantly focused on whether to burn or bury our garbage.

With nearly 3.5 million metric tonnes of garbage being produced in Metro Vancouver every year, waste management is one of the largest environmental concerns facing the Lower Mainland and a political hot potato that many politicians would rather transfer to a neighbouring municipality (or nation) than face head on.

Currently, Metro Vancouver recycles just over half of the waste created in the region each year. This means about 1.8 million tonnes is recycled and about 1.6 million tonnes is sent to landfills in Vancouver and Cache Creek or burnt in the Burnaby incinerator.

In 2006, as a (then) Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver) Director, I put forward a ‘Zero Waste’ motion, which passed unanimously and developed into the Zero Waste Challenge; which now aims to divert 70% of the regions waste by 2015 (currently we recycle 52% of our waste).

Metro Vancouver staff has identified 18% of material, currently in the waste stream (e.g. paper, paperboard, cardboard, food & other organic waste, and wood), that could be fairly easily diverted (recycling this material would get us to 70%). Metro staff has identified a further 12% of recyclable material in the waste stream that could be diverted, although they claim a significant investment in tax dollars would be needed to change the system and people’s habitat to divert this amount of material. However, if we were able to remove this material from the waste stream, we’d move to 82% and be among the world leaders in waste diversion and recycling.

Though garbage is far from glamorous – it’s one of the most important issues we can be talking about right now. We have a choice to make with our waste: Invest in increased recycling and green jobs, or continue with the more traditional methods of burn and bury.

I say, instead of introducing 3-6 waste-to-energy incinerators in the Lower Mainland, let’s create 3-6 recycling centers or Eco-Parks. This would create many local, green jobs, reduce impacts to our climate and air quality, and put us on the path of becoming world leaders in waste diversion – which is pretty exciting – at least as far as garbage goes!

As a final thought, I leave you with my initial question: if we know TODAY that it’s possible to divert up to 82% of Metro Vancouver’s solid waste – shouldn’t we be aiming for that NOW and then to 90% and eventually 100% diversion?

Visit www.metrovancouver.ca and let Metro Vancouver know where you stand on this issue.