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From Business in Vancouver:

Harper’s Surrey LRT pledge hinges on regional funding

$700 million federal election campaign promise only part of city’s rapid transit puzzle

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The federal Conservative promise of $700 million from taxpayers to build a light rail system in Surrey is the latest vote-getting pledge from the major federal parties to open purse strings to fund TransLink expansion.

But a TransLink executive told the TransLink board of directors on September 25 that business cases with more precise cost estimates are required to unlock both federal and provincial funding for the proposed Surrey light rail transit (LRT) and Broadway subway projects.

Fred Cummings, TransLink vice-president of engineering and infrastructure management, said a third of funding from the B.C. government is “committed” and a third from the federal government is “anticipated.”

The third from Metro Vancouverites is the wild card, after voters rejected hiking the provincial sales tax to 7.5% from 7% in this year’s transit funding plebiscite.

“Because of the size of the investment, the ability to advance the rail projects is really contingent on determining a new regional source of funding,” Cummings said. “We can’t obviously fund them with our current revenue streams.”

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So it’s clear, as if it was ever in doubt: The region needs a new source of revenue to finance the major projects in order to match the already-promised sources from senior government.

And we aint got it ’cause we voted no.

And we aint gonna get it anytime soon.

From The Sun:

Any move to toll roads, bridges would trigger another referendum: Fassbender

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The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation voted late last week to get a staff report as quickly as possible on how to advance “mobility pricing,” after the public rejection of a transit tax in the July plebiscite. Mobility pricing can include tolling highways and bridges, or charging drivers based on distance or road usage. Mayors have debated its potential merits for years as a way to cut congestion and generate new funds.

It’s a complex and interesting idea, said TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender. But mayors won’t be allowed to implement it unless they get permission from voters in another referendum, because it’s a new funding source that is not already approved by current legislation, he said.

The mayors of Vancouver and Surrey said Monday they have no desire to plunge into another transit referendum. Yet they and their regional counterparts are wrestling with ways to generate billions in local transit funding for projects like Surrey light rail, Vancouver’s Broadway subway line and a replacement for the Pattullo Bridge.

The federal and provincial governments have each promised one-third funding for the $2.1-billion Surrey rapid transit project, putting pressure on the mayors to find a way to finance their share.

Another transit referendum would be “suicidal” for mayors, said Gordon Price, City Program director at Simon Fraser University.

“If they have to go back to a referendum, that’s effectively the end of transit planning for at least a decade,” he said.

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Two further points:

There must be a movement in this region to convey to the provincial government: No more referenda just on transit, just in Metro.  Or there have to be political consequences.

Second, Fassbender also said this:

Fassbender met with mayors privately last Thursday.

He said he told the mayors they should better co-operate with TransLink’s board of directors. The mayors are welcome to raise property taxes or implement a vehicle levy to raise money, said Fassbender. But the mayors have previously shied away from both sources.

Is the Minister really saying that his government would accept a vehicle levy if the mayors voted to ask for it?  Because in the past, provincial governments, both NDP and Liberal, have rejected the vehicle levy even though it’s authorized in the legislation and the regional bodies have asked them for it (the report above is incorrect; the mayors have not shied away from it).

Could we get out of this mess – at least enough to proceed with the major projects – if there was joint support by both levels of government to move forward, without a referendum, to implement a vehicle levy (perhaps sweetened with the removal of tolls from existing or proposed bridges)?