Nearly one year after the failed regional public transit plebiscite, TransLink’s Mayors’ Council has announced its 10-year plan on how it will fund the municipal level share in expanding Metro Vancouver’s public transit system.
To raise the funds needed, there will be a nominal increase to property taxes region-wide, with increases averaging at $3.00 per household. It is expected that the property tax increase plan will raise $340 million over the next decade. This is a significant shift away from the Mayors’ Council’s longstanding position as it was previously resistant to the provincial government’s idea of increasing property taxes.
As well, there will be a one-time, 2% increase in transit fares in 2018. Revenue from the fare increase and revenue from the expanded transit service is expected to generate $550 million throughout the 10-year timeline.
The Mayors’ Council says it will move ahead with a plan to introduce region-wide road tolling to support road and bridge infrastructure improvement projects. It is expected that tolls will begin by 2021, although such a move to introduce road pricing requires approval from the provincial government. The provincial government has previously said that new regional tolls could trigger another transit plebiscite.
Other sources of revenue will come from a new regional development tax near transit stations to generate $15 million to $20 million annually, selling TransLink’s surplus properties for at least $100 million, and diverting $400 million of the region’s Gas Tax Fund over 10 years to transit investments.
For the underground extension of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line under Broadway to Arbutus Street and the new Surrey Light Rail Transit network, the municipal governments of Vancouver and Surrey will help offset costs by providing land for stations and associated railway infrastructure.
The total cost of the transit improvement plan is $7.5 billion, as previously proposed by the Mayors’ Council before the transit plebiscite. TransLink and municipal governments will provide $5 billion from their new revenue streams to cover the 17% share of one-time construction costs and 100% of annual operating costs.
The federal government has already promised that it will contribute 50% of the construction costs while the provincial government is being asked to contribute the remaining 33%.
“Mayors have heard loud and clear from all 21 communities in Metro Vancouver that new funding for transportation improvements and accountability for managing those dollars go hand in hand,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chair of the Mayors’ Council, in a statement. “The Mayors’ Council put fair options on the table for the BC government to consider that would allow us to immediately get moving on transportation projects that will make it easier for residents to move around the region.”
Additionally, the region’s mayors want governance and control of TransLink returned to the Mayors’ Council.
Shortly after the Mayors’ Council announcement this morning, the provincial government revealed its plans to provide up to $246 million in transit funding for the region over the next three years– far short of the entire $3 billion commitment. It is based on its 33% share formula for the first phase of regional transit upgrades, with the federal government already funding $370 million or 50%.
Minister Responsible for TransLink Peter Fassbender recently suggested that the mayors could raise between $800 million to $2 billion for public transit from densifying the areas around SkyTrain stations and collecting fees from developers.
The results of a regional survey conducted this month by Angus Reid Global for the Mayors’ Council found that 90% of residents in the region want more public transit infrastructure immediately.