TransLink funding referendum means no expansion until 2016 at the earliest

Metro Vancouver mayors have passed a resolution in opposition of a TransLink funding referendum. The Mayor’s Council feels there is no way the referendum will pass and when it fails, it will cause services to stagnate and deteriorate as the region’s population grows and congestion worsens.

“Referenda on any kind of additional fee or tax for provision of core services is virtually impossible in any jurisdiction in the world,” Mayors’ Council Chair Richard Walton told News 1130.

Despite the opposition from mayors, Transportation Minister Todd Stone reiterated to the Surrey North Delta Leader that there will be a referendum. Premier Christy Clark promised a transit referendum as part of the Liberal Party’s platform in this past May’s election.

“I want to be very clear to the mayors and the people of the Lower Mainland, there will be referendum on any new funding options, period,” Stone told the Leader. “Let’s sit down, let’s roll up our sleeves and figure out what would be the most appropriate question for this referendum.”

Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore warns on Twitter that even if a referendum passes for new revenue sources, the provincial government does not sit until Spring 2015. It will take some time for legislation to be enacted and for the funding source to be implemented. He says funds for expansion won’t be in place until 2016 at the earliest.

Say a vehicle levy is approved in the referendum, it would take time for the levy to be collected, transferred to TransLink, and implemented. To utilize the funds, the transportation authority has to outline how and what these funds are going to be spent on through the annual Base Plan or amending an existing one through a Supplemental Plan. These plans will need to go through a public consultation before going the TransLink BoardCommissioner, and Mayor’s Council for approval.

According to TransLink, the Base Plan is developed each year and “outlines strategic initiatives, transportation programs and services that TransLink will deliver [in the next three years] using current existing revenue sources.

Following the conclusion of the 2010 Winter Olympics, TransLink retired their aging fleet of New Flyer D40s and D60s buses, but held off on retiring the D40LFs purchased in 1995 and 1996 in anticipation of expanding service. However, expansion plans were cancelled in 2012 and about 50 of these have been sent to the scrapyard.

TransLink will now need to procure new buses and SkyTrain vehicles for expansion, which will take some time to complete. The last bus order with New Flyer was signed in July 2012 for 42 buses and a year later, some of these buses have yet to be used in even an hour of revenue service.

Transit users in Vancouver might immediately see improvements on trolley routes since TransLink currently operates with 75 and 54 spare trolleys in the morning and afternoon peak hours respectively.

When this is all said and done, any tangible improvements might not come until 2017 or 2018 if the provincial government proceeds with a referendum in November 2014 rather than working towards a funding solution immediately. 

Photo Credit: Michael Kalus/Flickr