The provincial government has announced short-term funding for immediate public transit upgrades in the Metro Vancouver, short of the full $3-billion commitment being pursued by TransLink’s Mayors’ Council.
During a press conference early this afternoon, Minister Responsible for TransLink Peter Fassbender said the B.C. government will provide $246 million over the next three years for the first phase of its public transit investments.
The funding allotment is based on the federal government’s $370 million commitment for the region’s transit projects, which was announced earlier this year during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first budget. With the federal government increasing its share to 50% and the provincial government maintaining its traditional 33% share, TransLink and municipal governments will now need to cover a 17% share – down from one-third.
Altogether, the first phase of transit upgrades over the next three years is expected to cost approximately $743 million.
It is expected that the initial funds from the federal and provincial levels will go towards more SkyTrain cars, improvements to bus exchanges and SkyTrain stations, upgraded SeaBus service, upgrades to other public transit infrastructure operated by TransLink, and pre-construction planning work for the underground extension of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line under Broadway to Arbutus in Vancouver and Surrey’s new light rail transit network.
Both projects will cost a combined $4.5 billion, the lion’s share of the Mayors’ Council’s $7.5-billion, 10-year transit plan.
Earlier today, the Mayors’ Council said it was seeking a $3 billion contribution from the provincial government over a 10 to 15-year timeline – equivalent to a 33% share of the multi-billion dollar construction costs. Additionally, it wants the provincial government to redistribute and return $50 million in the Provincial Carbon Tax subsidy provided to households living outside Metro Vancouver back to the region to fund transportation upgrades.
The Mayors’ Council officially proposed a plan to raise its 17% share through a number of methods including a nominal increase in property taxes, a one-time 2% increase in transit fares in 2018, and the introduction of region-wide road tolls.
Although the region’s mayors want the provincial government to support its plan for road tolls, Fassbender and Transportation Minister Todd Stone have both warned that the proposal could trigger another transit plebiscite.
Over the past few weeks, Fassbender has suggested that between $800 million to $2 billion could be raised for public transit by taxing developers who build dense developments near SkyTrain stations.
“We believe public transit investment leads to increased property values near stations and that the public should share in the rise in property values through increased support for transit and affordable housing options,” said Fassbender. “This is an idea worth supporting and we will work closely with regional leaders and others on how we can develop better transit and better housing options right across Metro Vancouver.”