Increased Canada Line service is part of the transit expansion that gets underway in January.

Increased Canada Line service is part of the transit expansion that gets underway in January.

Mayors vote for TransLink tax, fare hike to fund more transit (with VIDEO)

Metro Vancouver mayors give green light to phase one transit expansion

Metro Vancouver mayors have approved small increases to TransLink property taxes and fares to launch a long-awaited service expansion that should begin to ease transit overcrowding by early 2017.

Wednesday’s vote releases $2 billion in new funds over the next three years, much of it capital spending for new buses, SkyTrains and West Coast Express cars, but also more operating cash to pay for a 10 per cent lift in bus service.

“Today is really a Merry Christmas day for the region,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, vice-chair of the mayors’ council.

“There’s been a lot of soul searching,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read, whose residents were most strongly opposed to a regional sales tax for TransLink in the failed 2015 referendum. “There’s no question in my mind we have to get things moving.”

Since the referendum defeat, the new federal government boosted its share of major transit projects from one third to half, setting the stage for the defeated plan to rise from the ashes.

More Canada Line service, more frequent off-peak SkyTrain and SeaBus sailings are to begin Jan. 16, with more buses starting to run by April and HandyDart service also increasing significantly.

But almost immediately, the haggling will resume over how to finance the second phase of the mayors’ 10-year plan.

At stake is whether construction starts on schedule for the two big rapid transit projects – a Broadway SkyTrain subway in Vancouver and light rail lines in Surrey.

That second phase still requires a new regional revenue source to be hammered out between mayors and the provincial government to generate $50 million a year.

It’s unclear whether that could be an annual vehicle levy or a regional carbon tax, both of which mayors continue to favour, or whether a new referendum will be triggered.

Negotiations between the mayors and the province are to start soon in the hopes a deal can be reached before next May’s provincial election.

If not, officials say the issue will be frozen until likely next fall and could run the risk of Metro Vancouver falling behind transit projects in Toronto in Montreal in the quest for second-phase federal funding.

Also to be fleshed out is a regional development cost charge on new homes and commercial buildings that is so far undefined, requires provincial approval and would generate $15 to $20 million a year.

If it’s not in place by 2017, later planks of the phase one plan could be shelved.

Most crucially, mayors need the senior governments to quickly commit their next major capital contributions for phase two and predict it will become an election campaign issue if the province drags its feet.

“We need our provincial government to step up to the plate and play a larger role in the next components of the mayors’ plan,” New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté said.

“The road ahead is still a little bit foggy. There’s work to be done, but we are moving ahead,” White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin.

While Wednesday’s vote was unanimous, three Metro mayors were absent: Burnaby’s Derek Corrigan, Coquitlam’s Richard Stewart and Delta’s Lois Jackson.

Corrigan said he had a cold but would have voted against the plan had he been there. Both he and Jackson have been opponents in the past of any deal to increase property taxes.

West Vancouver Mayor Mike Smith has strongly opposed higher property taxes for TransLink, and he noted homes in his city will pay an average of $824 to the transportation authority next year.

But Smith voted in favour of phase one “with reservations” in order to get service improved, adding he will not vote for later phases unless TransLink gets a different tax power to end the pressure on property tax.

The property tax hike will be $3 more each year for the average assessed home in the region. The fare increase mean it will cost $2.40 to ride one zone by 2019, up from $2.10 now.

Road pricing is also a potential revenue source for the long term.

A commission will be struck next year to explore mobility pricing, including “a major field study on coordinated bridge and road tolling options that improve on the existing system of uncoordinated bridge tolls,” according to the plan.

The next three years will be the largest transit expansion for TransLink since 2009.

CEO Kevin Desmond said it’s urgent to improve service on bus routes that are chronically overcrowded and late.

Five new B-Line express bus routes are to be launched by 2019 on three corridors in Vancouver, plus  Fraser Highway and Lougheed Highway, connecting Maple Ridge residents to the Evergreen Line.

Design work would be funded on the rapid transit projects and Pattullo Bridge replacement, and other spending includes $32 million in seismic upgrades for various overpasses and minor bridges.

Minister for TransLink Peter Fassbender said he was pleased with the positive vote of the mayors and looks forward to more detail from the federal government on its long-term plan to fund transit.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Sources White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank is located at 2356 156 St. (File photo)
Door-to-door canvassers not working on behalf of Sources Food Bank, says manager

Accredited White Rock, South Surrey, Langley food bank does not canvas for donations

Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic in Surrey, at Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. (Photo: Fraser Health)
Surrey gets one of three post-COVID-19 recovery clinics

The Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre is located at 9750 140th Street

Surrey RCMP say that after checking on a “semi-conscious” driver in Whalley on Jan. 20, 2021, officers found about 21 grams of suspected cocaine, 68 grams of suspected fentanyl, about $1,400 in case, a stolen shotgun and ammunition. (Photo: Surrey RCMP handout)
Surrey RCMP say ‘semi-conscious’ driver found with drugs, gun

Officer saw ‘open alcohol and suspected drugs’ inside the vehicle, police say

Tyler Tardi will serve as a fifth on Team Laycock at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tyler Tardi to serve as alternate for B.C. team at Brier

Langley/Cloverdale curler to serve as ‘fifth’ on Team Laycock at Calgary-hosted championships

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Competitors make their way through the course at the 2019 Canadian Cross Country Championships, which was hosted by Abbotsford in 2019. (File photo)
Abbotsford to host 2023 Canadian Cross Country Championships

Clearbrook Park last hosted the event in 2019, Ottawa hosting 2021 and 2022 races

Officers investigate the scene after a pedestrian was struck and killed on Friday morning. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Male pedestrian, 37, killed in Abbotsford after being struck by vehicle

Collision took place in 31800 block of South Fraser Way on Friday morning

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Most Read