Transit funding and election speculation

Focus on Surrey: the B.C. government’s $2.2 billion transit announcement, March 31, 2017. Transit minister Peter Fassbender, MLA for Surrey Fleetwood, is flanked by Marvin Hunt, MLA for Surrey-Panorama, first elected to Surrey City Council in 1988; and by technology minister Amrik Virk, MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, formerly a prominent RCMP officer in Surrey. The photo by Arlen Redekop is clipped from the Vancouver Sun.

British Columbia’s Liberal government took a surprising step late last week with a rapid transit announcement that exceeded most expectations.

The Province will match the federal government’s $2.2 billion pledge toward Phase 2 of the 10-year transportation plan put forward in 2016 by the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council. This phase includes construction of a Clark Street to Arbutus SkyTrain extension in Vancouver, and the Newton-Guildford light rail line in Surrey. Continue reading

TransLink mayors speak with one voice, mostly

Lougheed at Madison croppedAbout a month ago, Metro Vancouver’s mayors broke with previous form and achieved near-consensus on a 10-year plan for transit investment.

Media coverage of this event has been limited, focusing on the projected cost of the plan rather than the promised improvements. The region’s trains and buses carry more than 800,000 passengers per day, and this should be enough to sustain a conversation on transit funding; but the transportation authority’s governance structure is convoluted, and its financial woes never-ending. Public interest, for now, remains at its normal lukewarm level. Continue reading

Public transit and politics in Metro Vancouver

The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, has expressed her intention to audit Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority and reduce operating costs.

Regional mayors went out on a limb last year with apparent provincial support, approving a $70 million supplementary transit plan with a $30 million revenue shortfall.  New revenues were to be identified in 2012, but the process has become  messy.  The Premier’s statement, offered without backup documentation, can be seen as a poke at the mayors and TransLink staff.   She is clearly banking on the belief that public opinion is on her side. Continue reading

Should Metro taxpayers pay for Vancouver streetcars?

The proposed downtown Vancouver streetcar network

A streetcar plan recently revived by City of Vancouver mayoralty candidate Suzanne Anton is definitely kool.  Anton’s September 21, 2011 announcement is based on a 2005 consultant’s report putting the capital cost of a Granville-Island-to-Waterfront streetcar line at $100 million (in 2005 dollars.)  Annual operating costs are estimated at $3.6 million, with a ridership on the order of 5 million people per year by 2021.

Anton’s funding strategy, vaguely outlined, would see the City joined with private partners to fund the line.  Vision Vancouver Geoff Meggs responded that the streetcar system is not a priority; but if it is to be funded, it should be paid for by taxpayers across Metro Vancouver through TransLink.

A rendering of the future streetcar in Gastown.

A weekend streetcar service ran on part of this line until 2009, staffed by volunteers and making use of antique cars.  I lived a hundred metres from the track and enjoyed riding to Granville Island on Saturday afternoon.  The new service would be more modern and attractive, but to a large extent it would fulfill the same touristic and local lifestyle function as the old line.  I would love to see a modern streetcar in operation, but it is not an essential component for the regional transportation system.

TransLink: fuel taxes and revenue

As noted in my September 15 post, Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority is looking for ways to scare up an additional $70 million per year for service expansion.

In the current proposal, a 2 cent lift in the regional fuel tax is supposed to cover $40 million of this.  But in a presentation in Maple Ridge, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis cautioned that the motor fuel tax may not be the reliable cash cow it used to be; and in the foreseeable future, fuel tax revenues may drop.   Continue reading

TransLink and the Evergreen Line: Let’s make a deal

TransLink, aka the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, moves about 600,000 transit passengers on the average day in Metro Vancouver.  Forgiving the occasional breakdown, the corporation seems to have most of its technical issues sorted out.

But on the softer side – politics and financing – the outlook is uncertain.  TransLink’s operates as a unified agency in a fractured region.  Its funding requests are subject to approval by a council of 21 municipal mayors – and yes, this includes Anmore, Belcarra, Bowen Island and Lions Bay – plus a first nations chief.  If the mayors happen to agree on something, their decision is subject to further approval by the provincial government.  Continue reading