Metro Vancouver mayors push ahead with transit surge plan (with VIDEO)

Plan would lift property tax, add development charges in order to take advantage of federal grants, quickly increase bus, SkyTrain service

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson after mayors' council tentative agreement on a first-phase transit expansion.



Metro Vancouver mayors gave a tentative green light Friday to a first-stage transit expansion plan that takes advantage of federal and provincial contributions while injecting more money to quickly boost transit service by 10 per cent region-wide.

The $2-billion phase-one plan still must go out to public consultations in October and get final approval in another vote of the mayors council in November.

But if it stays on track, SkyTrain and bus service could be boosted in early 2017, while orders go in for 50 new SkyTrain or Canada Line cars, five more West Coast Express train cars and a new SeaBus.

MORE INFO: Phase One plan details

The phase one plan provides for detailed design of the new Broadway subway and Surrey-area rapid transit extension, but construction would wait on a second-phase plan.

To pay for it, mayors intend to approve an increase in TransLink’s property tax that would add an extra $3 to the bill for the average home in each year of the 10-year plan. The hit from the extra property tax would be considerably higher for detached house owners and particularly for those in areas with the highest property values.

A development cost charge to raise $100 million over 10 years from new development in the region, subject to provincial government approval, is also proposed, as is a  transit fare increase, while $125 million comes from selling existing TransLink property.

Several mayors said the federal government’s offer of 50 per cent contributions to phase one capital projects – worth $370 million – was too generous to risk losing.

“It’s an unprecedented opportunity,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner.

“We’re taking leadership now,” added Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson. “We want to see the improvements now.”

The vote came a day after the NDP promised a 40 per cent provincial contribution to Metro transit projects if elected.

Both Hepner and Robertson said they’d welcome a sweetened provincial share, but said the current deal is the best they can get for now.

All mayors at Friday’s meeting voted in favour of the plan except Burnaby’s Derek Corrigan, who said that capitulating to the province instead of making it a major issue in the next provincial election likely dooms the mayors to turning to property tax again and again for TransLink.

“The provincial government is spending billions of dollars on bridges,” Corrigan said. “Until we get the courage as a group to make that confrontation real they are going to coast by again to an election without having to deal with the harsh reality that transit service in the Lower Mainland is inadequate.”

Other mayors who in the past opposed the decision to go to referendum on a regional sales tax – West Vancouver’s Mike Smith, Maple Ridge’s Nicole Read and Delta’s Lois Jackson – this time voted in favour of at least taking the plan to public consultation.

Smith said any use of property tax is unacceptable because it would have a much more severe impact on high-priced homes in West Vancouver.

But he said he will push to amend the plan to introduce a vehicle levy instead of the property tax hike.

“What we need in the region is to have the tools to decide how to fund it,” Smith said. “Things like a vehicle levy should be on the table. If we get that we can take the pressure off property taxes. Do we tell the province how to raise their revenues? Why should they be telling us how to raise ours?”

Other mayors said they also wish a vehicle levy was possible, but the chosen funding sources are ones the province will allow now without a new referendum.

Read said she will push to ensure public information on the plan is objective and not a “sell job” of the sort that she said soured the public on the proposal to them in the failed 2015 referendum.

The higher property tax, development charge, fare hike and asset sales would cover the region’s 17 per cent share of the capital projects, after 50 per cent and 33 per cent contributions from the federal and provincial governments, respectively.

Property taxes to TransLink do go up every year regardless – the agency is allowed by law to collect three per cent extra every year – but the 0.12 per cent annual increase proposed for the plan would be in addition.

The fare hike of two to three per cent per year for three years equates to about 10 cents more on base fares or $2 more on a monthly pass.

The plan would be the first of three phases spread over 10 years.

Future phases could still require other funding sources – potentially a vehicle levy or eventual mobility pricing – but Robertson said mayors don’t envision turning to property taxes again.

Under phase one, studies of mobility pricing options would begin.

The alternative before mayors Friday involved a pared-down version of the plan strictly aimed at pulling in federal dollars with no early transit service lift to combat overcrowding and no property tax hike.

The planned bus service lift of 500,000 service hours is equivalent to adding 140 new buses.

The most significant increases in bus service are promised in the eastern parts of the region – up 64 per cent from today in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows and up 16 per cent in Surrey/Langley – compared to lifts of six to seven per cent in comparatively well-served Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond.

See maps below for details of proposed improvements by region

Phase one also provides for up to five new B-Line express bus routes on Fraser Highway, Lougheed Highway, Marine Drive, 41st Avenue and Hastings Street.

Areas where all-new transit service is promised under the plan include Silver Valley in Maple Ridge, Morgan Creek and Clayton in Surrey, Willoughby in Langley and Burke Mountain in Coquitlam.

The third SeaBus would increase capacity and bring more frequent sailings every 10 minutes in rush hours and every 15 minutes at off-peak times.

Additional SkyTrain and SeaBus service could be put on as early as January, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said, while the bus service lift would start in April, in part by keeping older buses slated for retirement on the road longer.

10 Year Vision – Phase One Regional Improvements Maps

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

Just Posted

Kevin Fowler of Abbotsford won almost $57,000 in the Lotto 6/49 drawn from Aug. 15. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford man wins almost $57K in Lotto 6/49

Kevin Fowler matches five out of six numbers, using dog’s age and other numbers

Everett Silvertips’ Gage Gonclaves fights with Spokane Chiefs’ Filip Kral for the puck during the game on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mission’s Gage Goncalves invited to Hockey Canada’s World Juniors selection camp

Goncalves was recently drafted to the NHL in the 2nd round by the Tampa Bay Lightning

Mission firefighters in the process of hooking up a hose to a fire hydrant across the street. The fire was extinguished before it was needed. Patrick Penner photo.
Mission firefighters respond to house fire on Ferndale Avenue

Emergency scanners reported flames shooting out of bedroom window

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:56 a.m., Oct. 29.
TRAFFIC: Westbound Highway 1 crash between Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Left lane is blocked, traffic backed up to No. 3 Road

Staff at Lowe’s Canada stores contributed more than $2.1 million to charities across the nation through their Heroes Campaign. In Abbotsford and Mission, three charities received a total of more than $25,000. (Submitted photo)
Lowe’s Canada donates more than $25K to 3 local charities

Funds will support non-profits in Abbotsford and Mission

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Most Read