[Sust-mar] Gas Tax Revenues - Lend your voice to an initiative asking for 10% to go to active and sustainable transportation in Nova Scotia

susanna fuller susannadfuller at gmail.com
Sat Sep 9 11:51:07 EDT 2006

Dear Sust-Mar,

EAC and VeloCapeBreton are partnering on an intitiative asking the
provincial government to allocate 10% of the gas tax revenue to active
and sustainable transportation.
Please got to http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?suz24ful
and add your name to the petition. For more details and background,
see the article below from the EAC's Between the Issues Magazine.


Build It and They Will Bus, Walk and Cycle

Investing in Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure

by Stephanie Sodero and Laena Garrison

Provincial Funding Priorities
As TRAX Coordinators responsible for the promotion of sustainable
transportation throughout Nova Scotia, we are regularly asked about
bike and transit routes in Nova Scotia. Peole say, "Sustainable
transportation – in Nova Scotia? Cool!  What's happening? Is there a
bike path to Peggy's Cove? Does Bridgewater have a transit service?"

Unfortunately, our responses are not as optimistic as we would like.
At TRAX, we have learned that lack of designated infrastructure
funding is the major barrier to increasing walking, cycling, and the
use of public transit throughout Nova Scotia.

In the 2005/2006 fiscal year, Nova Scotia's budget for roads, highways
and bridges was $307 million. The government has increased spending on
roads for six consecutive years; this year's budget is $44 million
larger than last year.   The bulk of road funding comes from the
provincial gas tax, which in 2005 totaled $256 million.
Currently, 100 per cent of the provincial gas tax is invested in road
infrastructure. Nova Scotia has no budget allocated for active
transportation or public transit infrastructure. At the same time, it
is estimated that approximately 30% of Nova Scotian's do not drive due
to age, health, economic or environmental reasons.  This percentage
will increase as Nova Scotia's population ages, as fuel and insurance
costs rise, and as more individuals want to use environmentally
sustainable modes.  Presently, approximately 8 per cent of the
province's labour force commutes by foot, 5 per cent  by transit, and
1per cent by bicycle
To rectify the imbalance in transportation funding, the Ecology Action
Centre and Velo Cape Breton have partnered to campaign for the
allocation of 10 per cent of Nova Scotia's gas tax to fund sustainable
transportation infrastructure. This works out to about $25 million per
year, or the equivalent of constructing 25 kilometres of highway and
amounting to half of this years spending increase on roads.
Given the provincial mandates to address chronic disease prevention,
air quality, and climate change mitigation, as well as federal funding
opportunities, Nova Scotia is in an ideal situation to invest in
sustainable transportation. During the last election campaign, Nova
Scotian's were promised 500km of new trails – why not make some of
these kilometers cycling routes and lanes in some of Nova Scotia's
urban areas? Nova Scotia's Green Plan needs a practical success.
Active transportation infrastructure will result in a direct reduction
in green house gases.
Health – How do I look on this bike?
The health of Nova Scotian's is ailing. More than 50% of Nova Scotians
are not active enough to enjoy health benefits. Obesity costs the Nova
Scotia health care system $120 million per year, equivalent to 7% of
the provincial health budget.
The creation of pleasant sidewalks and cycling paths, as well as
spaces for skateboarding and rollerblading is key in helping
individuals get the physical activity they need to be healthy (e.g. 90
minutes per day for youth).  Transit infrastructre also yields health
benefits by improving access, particularly of seniors, to health care
facilities.  As well, transit provides seniors with access to social
opportunities, an important factor in emotional health.   Transit
encourages active living as transit riders spend on average 20 minutes
daily walking to and from transit.
Air Quality – How's the air out there?
Nova Scotia has the second highest rate of asthma in Canada with more
than 50,000 children and 80,000 adults suffering from the disease.
Respiratory disorders are the leading cause of emergency room
admissions for children up to 11 years old (37%) and for 12 to 19 year
olds (40%).  According to one estimate, vehicle emissions cost the
provincial health care system more than $200 million annually.
Investing gas tax funding in sustainable transportation infrastructure
would result in health care savings that could be diverted from
treatment and invested in preventative initiatives, such as
infrastructure development.

Climate Change – Is it getting warm in here?
In 2003 and 2004 Nova Scotians experienced the severity and frequency
of storm events that are predicted to occur as a result of climate
change.  The impacts of Hurricane Juan included $100 million in
damages, 300,000 citizens were left without power and 100 million
trees were lost.  Months later, White Juan brought Nova Scotia and
Prince Edward Island to a standstill. The impacts included a 1.5 metre
storm surge in Pictou County highlighting the vulnerability of Nova
Scotia as a coastal province to climate change.  Investments made now
to improve the viability of cleaner transportation will help mitigate
climate change related costs in the future.

Canadian Examples - What are the neighbours up to?
Nova Scotia has many examples to follow, and everyone likes keeping up
with the neighbours. Within Canada, several provinces have invested in
active transportation and transit infrastructure.  La Route Verte in
Quebec is a well planned and comprehensive provincial cycling network.
 When complete, it will comprise 4,300 kilometres of bike
infrastructure including bike paths and designated shared roadways,
marked by signs along its full length.  Since 1995, the province has
invested $95 million in this project, on average $8.5 million per
year. The project is 80% complete  And over 50 per cent of its users
are Quebecois.

Similarly, the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) is an
excellent example of a provincial transit service. On a budget of $4
million annually, the STC operates 28 transit routes throughout the
province. More than 250 communities and 250,000 passengers are served.
STC has a fleet of more than 40 vehicles and the average vehicle age
is a green seven years.

These projects are and, should be considered as economic development.
The Confederation Trail in PEI is used heavily marketed by PEI Tourism
and consequently enjoyed by cyclotourists and locals alike. In 2000,
cyclists using the Route Verte in Quebec spent over 95 million
dollars, adding to local economies. Development of 40 kilometers of
cycling routes and corresponding investment in cycling infrastructure
in North Carolina's Outer Banks has had economic returns of nine times
the initial investment, with cycling tourists spending on average
$175.00USD/day in the area. With Nova Scotia's new economic tagline,
"sustainable prosperity", investment in active transportation can only
help us attain this reality.

Next Steps – We need your voice
Inspired by the steps taken in other provinces, EAC and Velo Cape
Breton have collected more than 1,500 signatures on a petition asking
the government to invest 10% of provincial gas tax revenues in
sustainable transportation infrastructure. Our goal is 5,000
signatures. Please got to
http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?suz24ful and add
your name to the petition. We are going to present this petition to
the Nova Scotia Legislature at their fall sitting.

Susanna Fuller
5687 Bloomfield St.
Halifax, N.S B3K 1T1

Susanna Fuller
5685 Bloomfield St.
Halifax, N.S B3K 1T1

Biology Department
Dalhousie University
Halifax, NS
Rm 4026 LSC

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