Council motion adds conditions to approval of CRD regional transportation service

Cost allocation, promotional aspects, and grant values cause for concern

The CRD was in front of council this week asking for feedback and seeking approval on their controversial bylaw proposal to establish a regional transportation service. While Oak Bay council was mostly supportive of the idea of the bylaw, there were a few factors that needed to be addressed before they would give their support to the project.

The creation of a transportation service would provide a unified regional voice on transportation issues, according to the CRD, who claim the service will initially be cost-neutral. The bylaw would provide the CRD with the ability to identify top transportation priorities, co-ordinate between municipalities, integrate regional walking and cycling trails, collect and analyze data as well as advocate more effectively for government funding.

“I generally support service integration across the CRD in the areas where a particular service can be maintained or improved at a demonstrable cost reduction,” said Coun. Eric Zhelka. “From an engineering perspective, regional transportation planning makes good sense.”

Opponents of the project cite concerns that include future costs, loss of control over local infrastructure, and the potential for decision-making to prioritize certain municipalities.

At Monday’s council meeting, CRD Regional and Strategic Planning staff provided a presentation to council on the proposed bylaw and sought an indication of whether council would be supportive of the proposal, prior to determining a formal approval process.

Coun. Kevin Murdoch made a motion to recommend the approval, but with three conditions attached:

  1. that the costs of the service are allocated by population instead of property value
  2. that promotion services and web-based or multi-media platforms are removed from the current list of services
  3. that the increase in grants will substantially exceed the increased cost incurred by implementing this service

For regional projects, when costs are based on property values, Oak Bay residents wind up paying more than residents in other regions for the same service.

“I am supportive of the idea of this bylaw, but would like the question about basing the funding on population rather than property values answered as I really think this is an important one for Oak Bay,” said Coun. Hazel Braithwaite. “Basing the funding on property values is always going to go against us as a community.”

The second point of concern was the CRD’s intention to have the service include both technical aspects, such as data collection, analysis, and policy recommendations, and PR aspects like marketing and promotions.

“I don’t believe those two belong together – it politicizes the technical work and lays the foundation for money being spent on communications and PR rather than useful data provision, so I asked that those aspects be removed from the bylaw,” said Coun. Kevin Murdoch.

The CRD claims that the integrated service would allow the region to access more and larger grants, however, when asked at the council meeting if they could provide examples, the CRD was unable to.

By tabling Murdoch’s motion, which council chose to do, they are giving the CRD an opportunity to respond to council’s concerns before they have to vote on the CRD initiative at the next council meeting.

“We have to approve or decline the bylaw amendment by Feb. 23, so the CRD will be back at council on Feb.13 with the answers,” said Coun. Tom Croft.

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