Transit tax defeat a problem for new SkyTrain line

Lack of buses to force costly new parking lots along Evergreen Line

Work continues to complete the Evergreen Line SkyTrain extension

The new Evergreen Line to the Tri-Cities opens next fall but Coquitlam’s mayor is warning the $1.4-billion project may be hobbled by the defeat of the transit funding plebiscite.

Richard Stewart said the new SkyTrain line will open without the much improved connecting bus routes that would shuttle passengers between their neighbourhoods and the stations.

Instead of jumping on a bus near their homes, people will drive and expect to park.

“I’ve got to start building parking lots,” Stewart said, estimating 5,000 more stalls will be needed at new park-and-rides.

“If we don’t have the robust bus network that was envisioned by the mayors’ plan, we need parking. Because people are going to get in their cars and drive to transit.”

He estimates it will cost $40 million for a “monolithic” parkade of just 1,000 stalls, adding the bill could go much higher.

“We’re going to spend way more than a referendum would have cost our taxpayers,” Stewart said. “We have no choice. We’re going to end up with more cars. This is the unintended consequence of the failure of the referendum.”

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He predicts Surrey will face the same problem if it succeeds in building light rail lines but without a regional funding solution to improve the broader bus network.

“You can’t just build a transit line and then open its doors,” he said. “You need to integrate a much improved bus network in order to bring passengers to the transit stations.

“None of this stuff is going to work the way it’s intended unless we fix the regional system and get it properly funded.”

As for Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner’s suggestion that her city be allowed to take back its share of gas taxes to fund LRT, Stewart said it’s tantamount to breaking up the system of regional governance.

He said it would be “incredibly inefficient” for Metro Vancouver’s 22 municipalities to revert back to going it alone.

Stewart and others fear the mayors who were united behind one plan could now fragment and compete to advance local priorities.

“The province has put us in a position that has neutered regional governance entirely,” he said. “If we decide to head down the path toward parochial transportation planning, everyone will suffer.”