Shaping the Future: Policy and Governance

photo courtesy of: BC Transit

Good practice in governance suggests that when long-term objectives are clear and key partners work together to achieve these goals, the process is more efficient and the likelihood of success increases.  

Multiple stakeholders

There are three main stakeholder groups in the development and funding of transit services across BC: the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the BC Transit Crown corporation, and the 130+ local governments outside of metro Vancouver that host transit services. The division of roles and responsibilities is complex. Lead roles for stakeholders vary from one decision-making area to the next.

Figure 5 - Transit roles and responsibilities (click image to enlarge)

 

Numerous other agencies also have a role to play in transit development, funding, and/or operations: 
  • federal government
  • transit operating companies
  • other provincial ministries
  • major employers, post-secondary institutions and hospitals (concentrated populations of transit users) 
  • airport authorities
  • BC Ferries

Transit customers’ needs and preferences also influence transit decision-making, and BC Transit solicits input from the public into transit planning.

To consider: Does the current governance model allow for the most efficient and effective allocation of roles and responsibilities to meet the long-term sustainable transportation goals?

 

BC Transit's objectives

The overriding objective behind government’s Provincial Transit Plan is connecting transit growth and development to climate action goals.

The focus of BC Transit’s mandate in the Transit Act, which was set in 1986, is to support regional economic development

Figure 6 - Timeline of BC Transit legislative and policy initiatives (click image to enlarge)

To consider: How should the varying objectives for transit be reflected in legislation?

Several other policy documents contain a wider range of goals and objectives for BC Transit.

To consider: How should all of the various plans that relate to transit fit together?

There is general agreement among stakeholders that increasing transit ridership is an important goal, along with reducing single-occupant vehicle use. There is also widespread support for the ultimate goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion. At the same time, stakeholders hold social, environmental and economic goals for transit. Multiple and often conflicting objectives cannot be resourced equally so they must be prioritized.

To consider: When different transit objectives cannot be pursued simultaneously, how should they be prioritized?

 

Decision-making on transit policy

Key policy decisions that affect the likely success of transit are made by a variety of stakeholders at different levels.

To consider: What collaboration is required from each partner to ensure effective implementation of transit plans?

For example:

Land Use

Land use policy and planning is a crucial tool for transforming transit usage in a financially sustainable way; conversely, if land-use planning does not consider transit, it can make it more difficult for transit to be financially viable. Local governments in British Columbia currently make many of the key decisions in land use planning. Provincial government decisions also influence land use and development.

 To consider: How can transit and land use planning processes effectively be integrated?

Transportation

Broader transportation policies such as the location and size of highways and bridges, parking fees, or road regulations also affect transit’s financial and environmental success. Transit services often cross jurisdictional boundaries, and therefore require collaboration between different jurisdictions and levels of government to run smoothly and consistently. For example, the proposed rapid transit project for Victoria would run through five municipalities and on a highway that is under provincial jurisdiction.

To consider: How are transit goals integrated into the overall vision for the overall vision for transportation in B.C.?

Economic

Government economic policies and other decisions beyond the transportation arena can also influence the success and financial viability of transit services—for example, tax policies (such as a carbon tax, or tax deductions for a bus pass)  or regional development policies. Energy policy also has a direct influence on transit; when consumers feel gas prices are low, they may maintain or increase single-occupancy vehicle use rather than choosing more energy efficient transportation such as public transit.

To consider: What are the potential impacts of other government initiatives and activities on the achievement of transit objectives? If these may have a negative impact, how can conflicting priorities be reconciled? 

Other important decisions that influence transit success at the local level include the location, fares and level of transit service to be provided. These choices are closely linked to funding decisions. Many of these decisions are made by local governments, or local governments in partnership with provincial government and/or BC Transit – see Transit roles and responsibilities and the BC Transit funding sources section.

The Provincial Transit Plan provided transit authorities and local governments with a vision that could inspire transportation decisions in support of the above mentioned goals. BC Transit’s ability to implement the goals and objectives of the Provincial Transit Plan are dependent upon how transit decisions are made. As local governments have the responsibility to make decisions regarding transit service levels, BC Transit’s ability to control or influence decisions is limited by the realities of local government affordability and its own local goals and objectives for transit. BC Transit advised us that the world economic crisis which occurred subsequent to the release of the Provincial Transit Plan put further pressure on local governments' ability to achieve and support Provincial Transit Plan goals and objectives, and in many cases simply maintaining current transit service levels has proven to be a challenge.

Organizational structure

Doubling ridership and substantially increasing mode share is likely to require transformational shifts in transit operations. Experience in other jurisdictions suggests that such a shift may require significant change in organizational structure, knowledge, and approach for the main stakeholders involved. In British Columbia, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure created a Transit Branch subsequent to the launch of the Provincial Transit Plan to focus on this aspect of transportation.

To consider: What capacity does each partner require (people, skills, knowledge and resources) to deliver their required contributions and what organizational structure is most appropriate?

Policy and Governance: Questions for key stakeholders to consider

1. Does the current governance model allow for the most efficient and effective allocation of roles and responsibilities to meet the long-term sustainable transportation goals?

2. How should the varying objectives for transit be reflected in legislation?

3. How should all of the various plans that relate to transit fit together?

4. When different transit objectives cannot be pursued simultaneously, how should they be prioritized?

5. Where does B.C. stand in relation to the evolving development of public transit in the Pacific Northwest, in Canada, and worldwide? 

6. What collaboration is required from each partner to ensure effective implementation of transit plans?

7. How can transit and land use planning processes effectively be integrated?

8. How are transit goals integrated into the overall vision for transportation in B.C.? 

9. What are the potential impacts of other government initiatives and activities on the achievement of transit objectives? If these may have a negative impact, how can conflicting priorities be reconciled? 

10. What capacity does each partner require (people, skills, knowledge, and resources) to deliver their required contributions and what organizational structure is most appropriate?