TransLink funding referendum on the horizon with Liberals re-elected

With the B.C. Liberals re-elected, Metro Vancouver residents are expected to vote in a referendum on a new funding mechanism for TransLink in the November 2014 municipal elections.

The referendum proposed was part of the party’s platform and it remains to be seen if they stick to this promise. The idea was torpedoed by Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, Mayors’ Council chair and North Vancouver Richard Walton, and SFU City Program director Gordon Price shortly after it was announced.

Watts expressed concern it could pit Surrey against Vancouver in a fight for rapid transit. Walton worried there wouldn’t be enough time to communicate the different funding mechanisms to allow the voter to make an informed decision. Price called it an “excruciatingly bad idea” since the focus will be on creating something the voters will accept rather than what is best.

If the referendum is held, Metro Vancouver residents will be voting on a short-term funding mechanism and not something divisive like road pricing. A decision on a long-term funding and road pricing will be made afterwards by the Province and the Mayors’ Council with input from the public.

“The short-term funding would go to a referendum in 2014 in the fall and then we would begin our work on what the long-term, sustainable funding mechanisms would be,” elect Mary Polak told the audience at SFU’s Next Generation Transportation last month.

A sales tax, a $38 vehicle levy, and carbon taxes were the short-term solutions proposed by the Mayors’ Council in February. Road pricing is the Mayors’ Council’s preferred long-term solution.

“There are a range of different types of road pricing,” Polak said. “There’s everything from straight road tolling like you see on the Port Mann Bridge to distance tolling, which gets at some of the types of features that you see advocated by those who are looking to control demand as well as fund transit systems.

“Whichever we end up choosing, it would be a result of the work we do with the Mayors’ Council and we’ve committed that that would then be brought into legislation.”


Photo Credit: Cee-Bee/Flickr