Rebecca Mersereau

Running for Saanich Councillor

What would be your highest priorities in the next four years to reduce the total energy use and emissions from transportation?

  1. Lobby the provincial government to come to the table to enable a long-term plan for public transportation in the region (requires the right governance structure (e.g. regional transportation authority) & funding model).
  2. Better sidewalks, cross walks and conditions for pedestrians (and those using mobility devices) in Saanich.
  3.  Better bus services (more routes, service frequency and expanded bus-only lanes).

Over the next 4 years, would you support increasing the space for walking, biking, and public transit and reducing that for private motor vehicles in your community? How would you do that?

Yes. Sadly, many Saanich residents are literally too scared to walk around in their own neighbourhoods, or unable to do so with wheelchair/mobility devices, or strollers and dogs in tow due to the haphazard condition of our streetscapes. To provide what I think should be a basic service and is critical to quality of life for our residents, I would prioritize increasing our sidewalk network in Saanich, our number of cross walks, and consider traffic calming measures in the right places.

Would you actively encourage the provincial government to prioritize public transit, walking and biking infrastructure over roadway expansion projects such as the proposed interchanges on the Pat Bay Highway?

We need to make finding a medium and long-term solution for dramatically improved public transportation a priority, which is why I am also running for CRD Director. We have a window of opportunity do so with many local MLAs elected to what may be a short-lived government, but we’re lacking leadership to move the conversation forward. We need to identify the governance model, the funding source, and the right transportation solution that will give people a reason to leave their personal vehicles at home, or forgo buying them, which will also help make life more affordable in the region.

While I encourage provincial funding support for other ‘active transportation’ modes, I consider a better public transportation solution to be the most urgent and critical piece from a regional perspective. Broader recognition that we can’t build our way out of traffic congestion is long overdue (i.e. we shouldn’t be building more roads).

Do you support making walking safer and more enjoyable in Saanich?

Absolutely. The fear and discomfort people are experiencing to simply walk around their neighbourhood is the most common concern I’m hearing on the doorstep in most areas of Saanich. It’s not only a matter of public safety and quality of life, it’s a matter of equity for those without the physical or financial means to own or drive personal vehicles. They must be able to access the services they need, and the nearest bus stop without fearing for their lives. This requires more attention to and funding for sidewalks in Saanich, more and safer cross-walks and intersections, and a closer look at the variety of tools we have to calm traffic.

What specific policies, projects and expenditures would you support in the next four years to make walking safer and more pleasant in Saanich?

Increase our annual spending on net-new sidewalks (effectively nil at present). Lower speed limits on all residential streets (ideally through increased powers granted to municipalities to regulate default levels), and use traffic calming measures and lower speed limits where appropriate to address safety concerns on other Saanich roads.

We are so significantly behind on this critical safety infrastructure that we may need to consider dedicated funding sources, such as a fund from development cost charges, or an annual levy akin to what has been used in Saanich over the last 10 years to ‘catch up’ on past underinvestment in underground infrastructure. Increasing the rate at which we bring online more housing and commercial amenities in our urban areas would also help reduce the financial impacts to residents.

Do you support building a community-wide network of all ages and abilities (“AAA”) bike routes in the next four years?

My spending priority will be addressing the severely inadequate condition/non-existent status of our sidewalk infrastructure in Saanich. I support moving in the direction of AAA bike routes in Saanich (providing more transportation options is a critical way to help young families afford to live here), but it my opinion (as a commuter cyclist and a member of Saanich’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Committee) a complete community-wide AAA network is unfortunately not an attainable goal in the next four years. I expect, and hope, Saanich will continue to work toward this vision, which is well laid out in our new Active Transportation Plan.

Do you support building a protected bike lane on Gorge Rd?

We have a separated bike lane along most of Saanich’s share of Gorge Road that I believe to be more effective than many in our municipality because of its width and the decent road width. I think we should extend this lane to the City of Victoria’s boundary using a protected lane design. I believe ensuring cyclists have a safe way to cross the Tillicum bridge should be a higher priority than retrofitting the existing lanes on Gorge to protected lanes.

Would you support completing the 24/7 bus lanes along the Douglas Street/Highway 1 corridor, as well as along other routes such as the Pat Bay Highway as a high priority for municipalities and the BC government in the next four years?

I absolutely support completing the Douglas Street/Highway 1 bus lanes, and regret that it has taken so long. Giving transit a competitive edge is one of the only hopes we have for a significant mode shift. I am less sure if a dedicated route on the Pat Bay Highway would provide such an advantage due to lower traffic volumes, but provided the case is clear cut (in terms of time savings for commuters), I would also support this. However, before venturing too far down the path of new projects, I think it’s time we got on with figuring out what our long-term strategy to move people around the region will be.

Would you support keeping the E&N railway as a railway and actively campaign for electrified passenger and freight services?

I’m not a traffic engineer, but the E & N railway appears to offer one of the most straight-forward solutions for improved public transportation over the medium and long term. I would need to see hard numbers to justify investment in it, but I absolutely think we need to keep this option open until we determine what our long-term game plan is for getting people around, and also up and down the island given the limitations of the Malahat. Having the option alone is a tremendous asset that allows the region and the island to be more resilient in the face of an uncertain future.

Would you support and actively campaign for street-level electrified rapid transit in the greater Victoria region? If so, along what routes?

This sounds good in theory, and especially in the short-term, but if we make these investments, we need to consider if it will provide the kind of service we need for long-term sustainability in this region (a vision which includes a significant share of people leaving their personal vehicles at home).

Can it be structured in such a way that it convinces people to switch modes? Typically other modes of public transportation that don’t share the roads with cars offer more temptation to people that results in significant mode shifts. A business case for electrified rapid transit would have to be looked at carefully and considered relative to other medium-long term solutions to meet our transportation and sustainability needs.

In the next four years, would you support removing the requirements for off-street vehicle parking from new and infill developments?

Yes – I would support lowering parking requirements in the right locations (served by public transit and nearby amenities), and for the right type of development – possibly removing them (granted it’s easier done in downtown Victoria than Saanich). This is an important demand-side tool for municipalities to help manage traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, but it also makes housing significantly more affordable and within reach for more people, since parking spots add an additional $30,000 – $40,000 to the cost of new units.

In the next four years, how, would you activate and bring more people into public spaces within your municipality, including sidewalks, public squares, streets and parks?

We urgently need more placemaking in Saanich. We lack neighbourhoods with existing commercial centres, which we need to remedy over the long-term by more integrated land-use and transportation planning. In the short term, we can help overcome this lack of gathering places by helping reclaim streets for people (through the regulatory & infrastructure approaches listed above), and by leveraging our community associations, our non-profit sector, and our businesses as partners to help create more place-based activities (festivals, block parties, pedestrian-only days) in all of our neighbourhoods. We can encourage this kind of activity through partnerships, grants, sharing of staff resources, and reducing regulatory barriers such as permits and fees.

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