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Vancouver's TransLink Faces Serious Funding Gap

» Meeting long-term transport needs will require a major new governmental commitment, as well as new financing options like central-city tolling.

This week, metro Vancouver’s TransLink presented three options for the region’s elected officials: with an infusion of new cash, the transit authority could dramatically improve service and expand rapid transit along three new corridors; it could maintain the status quo and cut bus service by 40%; or, it could do something in between. Politicians in the region’s cities and in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, have until October 31st to make up their minds. They’ll either have to find significant new funding sources or face dramatic cuts in transit service.

Though Vancouver is currently building a new rapid transit project called the Canada Line and is investing in a downtown streetcar project in time for the 2010 Olympics, the picture isn’t all rosy. TransLink faces a $4.6 billion funding gap between now and 2020. Municipalities and regional officials have a responsibility to come forward with $450 million of new annual funding if long-planned projects such as the Evergreen Line and Broadway extension of the Millennium Line are to be pursued. No funding at all would devastate plans to encourage more of the region’s population to choose transit over driving.

Three Options for Vancouver
No new financing $260 m more annually $450 m more annually
Bus service 40% reduction 10% increase 20% increase
# New buses Few 160 400
# New trains 48 100 138
Major expansions None None Evergreen Line, Broadway Extension, Surrey Extension
Station upgrades None Expo Line Expo Line
Cycling programs $1.2 m/year $10 m/year $23 m/year

——

Mayors are adamantly opposed to any proposals that would result in such reduced transit service as TransLink has suggested in the “no new financing” plan shown above. Cities alone would be able to raise about $275 million yearly from local revenues. Mayors may choose to levy automobile users an average of $122 a vehicle, with those in more polluting cars paying more. They could also increase taxes on parking, introduce higher gas taxes, and augment transit fares. Implementing all of these new funding solutions would allow the compromise plan to be implemented, basically allowing for a slight increase in transit provision.

TransLink is also proposing an even less expensive $130 million solution that would eliminate the need to levy an automobile fee but that would avert service cuts. Local officials have argued that an increase in property taxes would be politically infeasible.

Yet in order to fund transit service expansion at a cost of $450 million a year, British Columbia will have to get involved. Thus far, transport minister Shirley Bond has suggested that she isn’t a major supporter of rapid transit expansion. Nonetheless, mayors are continuing talks with provincial officials to find more money.

The province could choose to toll automobilists for bridge use or charge a vehicles miles traveled tax. Tolling drivers to enter the city core would be an effective incentive to take the bus or train. Together, at reasonable rates, these fees would raise $175 million a year. It’s unclear whether British Columbia officials will find such major new fees acceptable, but if there’s a consensus on the necessity of transit expansion in the region, someone’s going to have to find the money somewhere.

5 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Des

    FYI, the Downtown Streetcar project is not sponsored by TransLink and is wholly undertaken by the City of Vancouver. At this stage it’s likely to be a month-long demonstration, only available during the Olympics (February 2010).

    After that point Bombardier and Brussels will take their loaner streetcars back to a real city with a real transit system that needs them, and Vancouver will continue figuring out how to continue the courageous compromise (no freeways, poor transit, bare minimum for cycling/walking) that makes for great promotion, but satisfies nobody.

  • political_incorrectness

    Shirley Bond, what an idiot. What does she want? More car choking pollution and freeways? There needs to be a compromise and Vancouver needs rapid transit. They have an opportunity unlike most North American cities to prove they can be an oddity. Their transit is much better than most North American cities and one of the best ALRTs in the world! How much money is wasted with congestion, what road improvements would improve transit while not adding more to a downtown road network? What areas want TOD?

    This is not a time for more cars and less rapid transit. This is the time to improve transit!

  • EngineerScotty

    I have no idea how roadwork improvements could benefit Toronto without decimating neighborhoods. Certainly, there is no prospect of a freeway between Richmond (where SR99 turns into a surface street) and downtown; the other major N/S corridors (Knight street, Oak street, Cambie Street) would also require major disruption to freeway-ize. Unlike the Olympic Line, which is being done as a cut-and-cover subway under Cambie Street, burying a freeway in that fashion seems dubious; a project on the scale of the Big Dig.

  • David

    Our Provincial government is moronic. The government unveiled a CRD$14 billion rapid transit plan, but so far will not give Translink any powers to raise more money for it. The entire debate is politics at its worst. The government doesn’t want to allow Translink to tax more because the government has plans to soak taxpayers with a very unpopular major increase in sales taxes starting in 2010

    I don”t have a solution except to fire this government, but we can’t do that for another 31/2 years.

  • Lynda Brown

    We rode skytrain with our grandchildren 1 and 3. There is no signage to tell you at what age children pay and other rates. Came home and had to look this up and realized we paid for the 3 year old and did not have to. It would help people to know this information as they are buying the tickets. Kids loved the experience expecially being able to ride up front and look through the big window to see the track and where we were going. Just thought I would pass on our experience.
    Sincerely
    Lynda Brown

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