Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls it “very good news B.C. has been waiting for.”
Speaking in Burnaby, he says his government has completed negotiations on an agreement with the province to provide federal funding to support public transit.
“So today, I am very happy to announce that our government will be investing $460-million in public transit in British Columbia, including $370-million for public transit right here in Metro Vancouver.”
With contributions from the province and the cities, it will be a total of $934 million to be invested in public transit across the province.
This will cover, among other things, additional SkyTrain and West Coast Express cars, a third Seabus, and planning and pre-construction of the rapid transit line to UBC and the South of the Fraser light rail system.
$3.4 billion was previously pledged nation-wide for transportation.
Province still hasn’t committed to long term funding
However there is till no deal on long term stable funding for the mayors 10 year transit and transportation plan.
Will it be higher transit fares, property taxes, mobility pricing, or a property lift? TransLink minister Peter Fassbender says those talks continue.
But he doesn’t agree with the idea the big funding issues have just been kicked down the road.
“Well, it’s part of moving ahead, it hasn’t been kicked down the road, it’s part of the discussions we need to have with the region in looking at what the needs are, what the opportunities [are] the timing and the phasing, and we’re going to do that work. I sent a letter to the mayors prior to this announcement saying we need to get on with that job right away and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Mayors want Phase Two funding deal by August
The mayors say phase two funding must be worked out by the end of August, but Fassbender doesn’t buy that.
Yet Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson says a deal needs to be in place for phase two funding by the end of August, or things like the order of new SkyTrain cars is at risk.
He says TransLink will sell off surplus property to raise $125-million to cover the region’s phase one bill, but the argument over stable transit funding options continues on.
“Those include fuel tax, carbon tax, mobility pricing, and the future. So that we have a rational system of tolling for the region. We’ve put those options on the table to the B.C. Government, and that’s what we need to confirm in these weeks and months ahead; to get the ten-year-plan nailed down.”
Road pricing urged
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, which says transit expansion is vital to a thriving regional economy, is encouraging mayors to consider mobility pricing as a way to raise local revenue.
President and CEO Iain Black says the tolling system we have right now is only “a starting point.”
“I can see how it might involve some much lower forms of tolling on different bridges, I can see how it would also include some sort of total kms driven fee that would be tied into your ICBC relationship and renewing your auto insurance.”
Black also wants to see more focus on other projects like the Massey Tunnel replacement, improved port and rail capacity and a six to eight-lane replacement for the aging Pattullo Bridge, instead of the currently proposed four-lane bridge.