The mayors of Metro Vancouver’s municipalities are turning the heat up on British Columbia’s political parties to ensure their election platforms include billions of dollars in funding for transit expansion projects.
A ‘Cure Congestion’ campaign was launched by TransLink’s Mayors’ Council this week to raise public awareness and pressure political parties to make transit investments a forefront priority.
“Metro Vancouver voters need clear, detailed commitments from BC’s political parties – before the election on May 9th – on how they plan to solve transit overcrowding and traffic congestion,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chair of the Mayors’ Council.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that people across our region want action on the transit improvements in the 10-year plan, which Metro Mayors approved almost three years ago. We can’t afford to see more delays on funding the entire plan, and that hinges on strong commitments and follow-through from the next B.C. government.”
Last week, the BC Liberals announced they would match the federal government’s $2.2 billion commitment towards funding Phase Two – the major transit projects of the underground extension of the Millennium Line under Broadway and the new light rail network in Surrey.
The opposition BC NDP have already pledged to fund the same amount.
The federal and provincial commitments account for 80% of the costs of the projects combined, leaving TransLink and the local municipalities to find the revenue needed to fund the remaining 20%. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2018.
Three transit expansion phases are envisioned, with the first phase already underway to provide more frequent SkyTrain and SeaBus service as well as the acquisition of additional trains.
Phase One’s $2 billion plan was approved late last year by the region’s mayors, and funding commitments of $370 million from the federal government and $246 million from the provincial government have already been secured. TransLink will cover the remaining balance of the first phase.
The Mayors’ Council wants the provincial government to commit a further $360 million to cover approximately 40% of the $900 million cost in additional transit investments for Phase Two.
This would fund an additional 72 Mark III cars for the Expo and Millennium lines, new train storage and maintenance facilities, control and power system upgrades, and station renovations.
TransLink has already ordered 28 Mark III cars as part of the Phase One budget, but it needs more rolling stock to reduce overcrowding and accommodate the quicker than anticipated ridership growth from the Evergreen extension.
Additionally, the region’s mayors would like to see the provincial and federal governments each cover 33% of the cost of the $1-billion, four-lane Pattullo Bridge replacement.
The existing 79-year-old bridge is seismically unsafe rapidly deteriorating, and TransLink has determined that the structure will need to be decommissioned by 2024 at the very latest for safety reasons.
TransLink’s ability to fund its 20% share of the Broadway extension, Surrey light rail, and other projects is dependent on the provincial government introducing new legislation providing the public transit authority with a new source of revenue.
The Mayors’ Council is seeking the approval of a development cost charge in the fall legislative session so it can be enacted by TransLink by 2020. Peter Fassbender, the Minister Responsible for TransLink, previously indicated he supported such a development charge, provided that municipalities allow extra density around stations.
Other sources of revenue being contemplated by the Mayors’ Council include regional tolling, a vehicle levy, and higher property taxes.