I own a multistate company with a significant operation in Vancouver. I know from experience that transit choices are good for business. Setting aside for a moment that a new Interstate 5 bridge won't happen without light rail, and that my business depends on the Columbia River Crossing being built, I want to focus on what transit choices really deliver to a business owner, and to someone who wants options to get around.
Our company employs more than 30 people in Vancouver, and we are proud to be here. I'm perplexed by the lack of options for getting to work in Vancouver. In other cities where we have operations, our employees have access to light rail, bus rapid transit and a variety of other options that I and our employees use on a regular basis. A good transit system is an absolute necessity for a city to grow, and Vancouver is falling behind.
Good transit options, from my experience, translate to economic prosperity for communities.
On the issue of how to fund light-rail operations, Vancouver has a pretty sweet deal — I understand the project expects to receive about $850 million from the federal government to build a light-rail line, leaving only the operation and maintenance of the Vancouver section to be funded locally. This is the brass ring to be grabbed, Vancouver. If we can't fund it with a transit tax hike, then find something else that works … and fast!
The Columbia River Crossing is an opportunity to jump-start the economy and provide more incentives for businesses like mine to grow here. Multiple transit services will grab the attention of many more employers, and offer relief and options to those needing to get to work.
I would like to see Vancouver grow, and my business along with it. I understand that there are other ways to fund transit operations. I've seen it done in other cities in any number of ways. My point is that it would be a shame to miss an opportunity for Vancouver to build a transit system that has made other cities across the country successful and attractive places in which to grow a business.
Walt Keeney, of Arcadia, Calif., is president of Food Express, Inc., a family-owned business since 1983. With a fleet of 165 trucks and over 300 specialized food-grade trailers, Food Express transports bulk food products throughout the western states, including Washington, Utah, California, Arizona and Montana.