‘The Transportation Referendum and Your Health’ Webinar Summary

There is a huge body of evidence that shows that community design and transportation systems greatly impact our ability to be healthy, which is why at BCAHL we are big supporters of active transportation and healthier built environments.

On January 28th BCAHL hosted a webinar: ‘The Transportation Referendum and Your Health’. The outcome of that referendum – and the transportation infrastructure that will result from a Congestion Improvement Tax – will have significant public health impacts.

Transportation and Health: Our first speaker, Dr. Patty Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), explained some of the most significant ways that transportation systems influence our health. Specifically, she described how active transportation (walking, biking and transit) improves:

  • Physical activity and reduces risk for chronic disease. According to VCH data, Metro Vancouver residents that take transit are 27% less likely to report being overweight or obese and those who bike or walk are 45% less likely.
  •  Air quality. There are 680 deaths each year in Metro Vancouver that can be attributed to air pollution. It aggravates chronic lung conditions such as asthma and COPD but also has a long-term effect on heart disease, lung cancer and can reduce overall life expectancy.
  • Health equity. Transit helps disadvantaged groups, who have a higher risk for disease, to access employment, education, health services, social and recreational opportunities and healthy food which will help keep them healthier.
  • Injury prevention. There is a direct connection between vehicle mileage and per capita traffic fatalities.

Regional Transportation Investments A Vision for Metro Vancouver: Our second speaker, Bob Paddon Executive Vice-President of Strategic Planning and Stakeholder Relations at TransLink, described the transportation projects that will be paid for with the Congestion Improvement Tax and explained some of the considerations that went into this funding model.
He spoke about the:

  • Growth in the region that will require additional transportation infrastructure – one million more residents means adding a PoCo every year for the next 25 years.
  • $7.5B in new investments, that will: fund new buses in existing and new communities; increase SeaBus, West Coast Express, Handydart, and Nightbus service; increase SkyTrain service and extend it further west; build new light rail transit in Surrey and a new Pattullo Bridge.
  • Priority on fairness and affordability when they chose this funding model – which works out to about $185 for the average household (or 35₵/day according to Shelley Fralic at the Vancouver Sun).

Why a Yes Vote is Vital to the Region’s Health: Our final speaker, Peter Ladner, Chair of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition and a former Vancouver City Councilor, Metro Vancouver Vice Chair and TransLink board member. As the lead for the ‘YES’ side of the referendum, Peter pointed to the great diversity of organizations supporting the yes vote including business groups, labour, environmental and health organizations (like BCAHL!)
Peter had some great visuals to demonstrate what a huge issue this will be for the lower mainland.

  • He showed how if all 1 million new residents that are estimated to come to the region in the next 30 years were to drive cars – it would require a parking lot the size of Richmond to park them all, and
  • If we were to move the equivalent number of people in cars instead of the Expo line – it would require a 26 lane highway!

Peter also pointed to many of TransLink’s successes including: the highest per capita transit use among other cities our size in North America – three times more than Portland, the next highest city; and how the Canada Line has beaten all revenue and ridership projections.
This is a very important health issue. We hope that if you live in the region that you will join the Yes Campaign. We couldn’t put it any better than Dr. Daly who described a yes vote as a vote for the “next great public health legacy.”

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