Is this what the future of bus transportation will look like in Metro Vancouver if new sources of funding can't be found soon?
A broad-based coalition of mayors, environmentalists, business and union leaders held an ill-timed news conference on June 30th demanding more money be put on the table to help finance cash-strapped TransLink. The news conference was held in the afternoon just prior to Canada Day. As a result, it received almost no media attention. I'm not sure who is giving the coalition communication advice, but holding a news conference just hours before your nation's holiday will almost guarantee you will get no media pick up - let alone secure the cash you need to fund your plans.
Led by Surrey's popular Mayor Dianne Watts, the coalition says TransLink needs $450M in new funding now in order to keep the current transportation plan alive. That plan calls for a major expansion of rapid transit, bus and bikeways throughout the Metro Vancouver region. Without the dough, you can expect a number of these desperately needed projects will be shelved.
Here's what Watts had to say:
We must look at a range of funding mechanisms beyond existing revenue sources for funding. We convened this forum to check in with the views of business, environment and labour stakeholders. We heard that all three levels of government must get to the table in order to establish a Transportation Improvement Funding Policy that specifically addresses the movement of people, goods and services.
Fellow blogger and Langley Councillor Jordan Bateman made some very interesting observations about the meeting and the lack of emphasis on the carbon tax:
I have no inside knowledge on this, but yesterday's big Regional Transportation Accord announcement has Mayor Dianne Watts's fingerprints all over it. Taking a cue from the Livability Accord strategy, Lower Mainland mayors have signed off--along with business, labour and environmental leaders--on a "Regional Transportation Accord calling on all three levels of government and TransLink to work together to find solutions to achieve adequate funding." (See press release here.)
This is a classic Dianne move--when in doubt, expand your coalition--and stands a much better chance at gaining traction in Victoria than the last suggestion the Mayors made: asking for the carbon tax revenue to be directed to TransLink.
That idea, Mayor Green tells me, came from Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson--maybe the last guy in any City Hall in British Columbia that you want to take advice from when it comes to the provincial government.
A former NDP MLA, Gregor runs very hot and cold when it comes to the Province, whether it be gushing over the Premier at an event, retracting those same statements when they were (gasp!) published, or negotiating the HEAT shelter funding via press release. He doesn't seem to grasp any of the fundamental principles of how the BC Liberals operate.
As a regular transit user, I must admit I hope the coalition is successful in finding new funding streams to pay for their ambitious plan. Good transit means less cars on the road which translates into a better environment.
However, I suspect that since the Province of BC has said TransLink won't be able to get its hands on the funds raised from the controversial carbon tax, it will have to get really creative. This will likely mean some sort of new tax on cars and bridges which may well prove to be quite unpopular during bad economic times. New taxes (in whatever form they come in) are never popular with voters.
Standing shoulder to shoulder in support of the plan were BC Chamber bigwig John Winter and BC labour boss Jim Sinclair. Winter is concerned that we need to get cars off the road if we're going to keep goods moving around the region.
While the BC Chamber represents businesses of every size, of every sector in every region of the province, we recognize that the current congestion in Metro Vancouver is having a negative impact on the ability to move people, goods and services that are inherent in a healthy, robust economy. We need to ensure that we have the ongoing funding in place to support a long term transportation plan that supports growth in the region and province.
The TransLink 10-year plan will be submitted to the Board of Directors in July and sent to the Mayors' Council in October. For more information on TransLink's 2040 Plan go to www.bepartoftheplan.ca.