Monday, February 18, 2008

Peter Ladner responds to Get Moving BC

Vancouver City Councillor Peter Ladner was kind enough to respond to last Monday’s Get Moving BC press release which called on TransLink to adopt Hong Kong’s successful real estate funding model to help pay for the Transportation Authority’s currently unfunded $2.75 billion share of the new transit plan.

In his email, Councillor Ladner acknowledges that Get Moving BC raised “some excellent points.” However, Councillor Ladner does not agree with everything Get Moving BC said in our release and he raised some questions that we would like to help clarify:

Councillor Ladner’s email states: “I assume you will also extend this campaign to paying for new roads, which are also funded by taxpayers and have many real estate opportunities attached.”

Get Moving BC’s response: The type of real estate opportunities we’ve suggested for TransLink are focused on the high density rezoning potential associated with rapid transit nodes like SkyTrain stations – just as they are in Hong Kong. However, it is possible that road-related real estate opportunities also exist for TransLink and these are also worth exploring as part of a total road, bridge and highway funding strategy. As we noted in our press release, we have to stop the mentality of always going back to the taxpayer to fund big transit projects, and the same thinking could easily apply to our roads, bridges and highways. Get Moving BC certainly encourages the new TransLink board to think outside the box and to use some old fashioned entrepreneurial spirit and common sense ingenuity to build us one of the best transit and transportation systems in the world without reaching into the pockets of B.C. taxpayers. If TransLink can expand on the funding model we’ve suggested in our press release then we would fully support that.

Councillor Ladner’s email states: “Also, if TransLink captures the added value from development around transit nodes, can you advise the municipalities, which now benefit from upzonings around transit stations, where they will find the money they currently raise through those upzonings to pay for parks, sewers, child care, street improvements etc., without raising municipal taxes?”

Get Moving BC’s response: Councillor Ladner seems to be confused on this point. We’re not suggesting that TransLink should become the beneficiary of Development Cost Charges and Amenity Charges that municipalities normally derive from developers. What we’ve clearly stated in our press release is that TransLink should become the developer (continuing to pay the appropriate DCCs and amenity charges to municipalities along with paying the property taxes on the increased value that higher densities produce for municipalities) and in some cases work with municipalities to assemble land that can be rezoned and sold as a package to private developers for a profit. The key point we’re making is that TransLink needs to leverage the resources it has in order to increase its resources rather than continually relying on the taxpayers to pay for everything.

Councillor Ladner’s email states: “And are you aware how many 'professionals' were on the previous TransLink board? You might want to do the count before using the expression "professional board" to describe the new board, as though the old board was less than "professional". Hint: several lawyers, an accountant, business entrepreneurs, planner etc.”

Get Moving BC’s response: The term “professional board” that we used in our press release comes straight out of the Ministry of Transportation’s October 23, 2007 News Release announcing legislation to “revamp TransLink.” The term is in common use with the B.C. media and the meaning of the term, as it is being used by the media, is very clearly understood by the public. We can certainly understand how Council Ladner might feel about the suggestion that he and some of the previous board members were not “professionals” considering the fact that some of them were. However, the term “professional board” is being used to denote the fact that the newly-appointed TransLink board members are appointed, not elected, and that they have qualifications and professional experience that is directly relevant to the operation of a complex organisation with the size and scope of TransLink. The term “professional board” is not being used as a pejorative. It is just a term that describes the role and the experience of the new TransLink board and points to the increased operational load being placed on this new board.

Get Moving BC would like to thank Councillor Ladner for his email and his comments. This is exactly the kind of dialogue on transportation issues that Get Moving BC wants to see taking place. We welcome all comments and discussion on transportation issues in B.C. and our blog is the perfect forum for such a discussion to take place.

Get Moving BC

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Revolution Through Competition: the Automotive X PRIZE

The race is on to claim the $10 million Automotive X PRIZE. For all you non-Geeks out there who don’t follow such things, an X PRIZE is a multi-million dollar award given to the first team to achieve a specific goal (set by the X PRIZE Foundation) which has the potential to benefit humanity. Rather than awarding money to honour past achievements or directly funding research, an X PRIZE fosters radical innovation and technological breakthroughs by tapping into the competitive and entrepreneurial spirits.

The X PRIZE Foundation set the Automotive X PRIZE in order to accelerate the pace of change and stimulate the kind of breakthroughs in automotive technology that are needed to bring about a new generation of super-efficient, super-clean and commercially viable mainstream vehicles. The Automotive X PRIZE will be awarded to the first team to build a production-capable vehicle that exceeds 100 MPG fuel efficiency, produces less that 200 grams of greenhouse gases per mile, and then wins a long-distance race against other clean, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG.

The X PRIZE Foundation’s method of accelerating innovation through competition was inspired by the $25,000 Orteig Prize, offered in 1919 by wealthy hotelier Raymond Orteig, to the first pilot who could fly non-stop between New York and Paris. The prize was finally won in 1927 by an unknown airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh’s world-changing achievement spawned a $300 billion aviation industry.

For the naysayers out there who say it can’t happen, take note of the fact that the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, which sought to bring about a radical breakthrough in the advancement of human spaceflight, has already been won by SpaceShipOne on October 4, 2004. A private team led by famed aerospace designer Burt Rutan and financier Paul Allen of Microsoft were the first to build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth's surface, twice within two weeks. Space travel will never be looked at the same way again.

For anyone interested in knowing more about the Automotive X PRIZE there is a great article in the January issue of Wired Magazine entitled “1 Gallon of Gas, 100 Miles — $10 Million: The Race to Build the Supergreen Car.”

Carl Congestion