Community

Fassbender tells Metro Vancouver mayors to ‘suck it up’ on transit funding

Minister says mayors can't hold out for the perfect deal to fund entire 10-year TransLink expansion plan

Minister for TransLink Peter Fassbender says Metro Vancouver mayors need to “suck it up” and approve a modest increase in TransLink taxes to cover the region’s share of launching an ambitious transit expansion plan.

Some Metro mayors are reluctant to okay more funding for a first phase of expansion without certainty that the rest of their 10-year plan will get full support from the federal and provincial governments.

Fassbender told Black Press they need to get over that and deliver funding for phase one of the plan, which has 50 per cent contributions from Ottawa and one-third from the province.

“What they need to do, quite honestly, is to suck it up and to get on with phase one,” he said.

RELATED: NDP promises to boost transit cost sharing if elected TransLink boss maps out transit surge option

Fassbender said there’s no way for B.C. or Ottawa to provide ironclad guarantees that subsequent phases will be fully funded.

“I can’t hold future governments to anything other than what we can do in our budget cycle,” Fassbender said. “My message to the mayors is you can say ‘I’m not going to do anything for the region until I know I have everything.’ That’s not reality. That’s not the way it works. That’s not the way their municipal budgets work.”

The minister spoke Thursday on the eve of a mayors’ council meeting Friday and after NDP leader John Horgan pledged to raise the province’s contribution to big transit projects from one-third to 40 per cent.

Fassbender questioned where the NDP would find the extra money for the increase, but gave no sign that the BC Liberals might also increase B.C.’s contribution.

As it sits, the region must find 17 per cent of the capital costs, while the senior governments pick up the rest.

“The region has to come up with its share,” Fassbender said. “It’s my understanding they have the financial capacity to do that. So we expect that they will do that.”

The province’s commitments include a third of the capital for the Broadway subway, light rail lines in Surrey and the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

Phase one would only provide for further design work on the new rapid transit lines, not actual construction. It would also bring 28 new SkyTrain cars, 22 new Canada Line cars, five more cars for the West Coast Express and a new SeaBus.

And while the federal government has committed $370 million for its 50 per cent share on the first phase, Fassbender noted Ottawa has not yet made any commitment on phase 2, adding that won’t come before the next federal budget.

“They have not made an ongoing commitment to 50 per cent for the entire vision.”

Operating costs are also a significant challenge, but Fassbender said he believes some method of capturing some of the value increase in properties along transit lines as they densify could help as a funding source.

He also reiterated his willingness to explore mobility pricing – which could mean road user fees or tolls on all bridges – with the mayors.

Fassbender said he wants a concrete definition of what it would involve, timing, costs for infrastructure, and the potential revenue it might generate, adding so far the concept has been hazy. “You can get 21 mayors around the region in a room and you probably have 17 different definitions of what mobility pricing really is.”

That’s a longer term debate.

For now, Fassbender said, mayors can raise what they need for phase one from existing sources, allowing everyone three or four years to determine how to pay for later stages.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond indicated earlier this month he is preparing a plan to quickly increase bus service by early 2017 if a deal between mayors and the province can be reached this fall.

Just Posted

White Rock to ‘embark on a new direction’ for city’s management

Dan Bottrill has been the city’s chief administrative officer since 2012

‘Slight’ arsenic increase noted in White Rock water: city

Challenges in plant commissioning cited, testing underway

Coastal FC Walking Soccer program takes first steps

South Surrey recreation program held weekly at BMO Coastal Soccer Centre

Event set to light up White Rock’s Memorial Park

Inaugural Festival of Lights will launch on Dec. 6

Advocates push for high-speed rail connecting Vancouver to Seattle, Portland

The bullet train idea could cost an estimated $50 billion

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

Judge rejects Terrace man’s claim that someone else downloaded child porn on his phone

Marcus John Paquette argued that other people had used his phone, including his ex-wife

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a B.C. campaign became a national issue, organizer said

Bargaining to resume in Metro Vancouver transit strike as bus driver overtime ban looms

Both sides might be headed back to the table to prevent new overtime ban

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

B.C.’s high gasoline prices still a mystery, Premier John Horgan says

NDP plans legislation this month, seeks action from Justin Trudeau

Group walking on thin ice at B.C. lake sparks warning from RCMP

At least seven people were spotted on Joffre Lakes, although the ice is not thick enough to be walked on

VIDEO: Don Cherry says he was fired, not sorry for ‘Coach’s Corner’ poppy rant

Cherry denies he was singling out visible minorities with his comments

B.C. teacher suspended for incessantly messaging student, writing friendship letter

Female teacher pursued Grade 12 student for friendship even after being rebuked

Most Read

l -->