Mayors Council Chair Richard Walton

Bigger surplus may solve short-term budget crunch for TransLink

Minister Polak lays out provincial conditions for new transit funding sources



TranLink may not face a $30-million shortfall after all if regional mayors rescind a scheduled property tax hike.

Independent TranLink Commissioner Martin Crilly now estimates TransLink has $25 to $35 million more available to it than the tranportation authority disclosed in its 2013 base plan because it has underestimated the revenue it will pull in and overestimated the expenses.

“The expenditure esitmates, in our view, are a little heavy,” Crilly told mayors in a briefing Wednesday, adding it wasn’t clear if that was “by omission or by an abundance of caution” on TransLink’s part.

He said the extra money could equate to a four to six per cent increase in bus service.

Mayors had vowed this fall to cancel the $23 per average home property tax hike if the province failed to deliver new funding sources before March, chopping $30 million in each of the next two year and precipitating what was then assumed to be a new revenue crisis that might force deep transit service cuts.

Now mayors and TransLink officials are hopeful the tax hike won’t be needed for 2013.

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis disputes Crilly’s findings, however, noting there’s no provision yet in TransLink’s plan for a negotiated pay hike for unionized workers, and he suggested the commissioner’s estimates may be too optimistic in other areas.

“We are not going to put services out that people rely on and make life decisions around on the premise that we may have to pull them back,” Jarvis said.

The disclosure came Wednesday after mayors also met Transportation Minister Mary Polak behind closed doors, where she spelled out the province’s position on how it might approve new sources of revenue for TransLink.

More money for the long term is needed to build new rapid transit lines in Surrey and Vancouver and generally expand transit service.

Polak said the government insists the mayors clearly spell out the money they seek to raise, how they would raise it, what it will go to fund and that they demonstrate public backing.

Mary Polak Transportation Minister Mary Polak speaks after meeting with Metro Vancouver mayors Wednesday.

“I need to see that there is public support for that change,” she said. “The mayors need to put together what is their consensus on the priorities for the region.”

Polak said the mayors’ desire to pursue comprehensive road pricing – where small tolls are charged on roads across the region – would take at least four to five years to implement and would require the highest degree of public buy-in.

Even a simpler scenario like imposing an annual vehicle levy could not go ahead if it’s not affordable or if it has a negative impact on the regional economy, she said.

Mayors’ council chair Richard Walton said he didn’t expect a breakthrough in the first discussion with Polak on funding reform, but added Victoria’s apparent reluctance to grant new sources suggests “there’s going to be some tension.”

The premier previously rebuffed the mayors’ demands for new revenue last spring, saying they’d have to wait until an audit was finished. It failed to solve TransLink’s financial bind and mayors say they seem no closer to a solution.

“It gets a bit frustrating,” said New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright, who took over as mayors’ council vice-chair, defeating Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender.

“We’re still moving at a snail’s pace.”

Fassbender had worked closely with the BC Liberals but Wright said he could offer a more neutral perspective, from a city in the centre of the region that’s already fully served by SkyTrain and not seeking a new line.

Walton, mayor of North Vancouver District, was returned as chair by acclamation.

He said TransLink needs more money not to maintain its existing level of service but to keep pace with growth as more people arrive in the region and expect usable transit.

“In this region, you can’t deliver additional public transportation without subsidizing 60 cents on every single ride you create,” Walton said. “Sixty cents has to come from somewhere other than the fare box. That’s the way it is.”

Demands on TransLink include Vancouver’s push for a $2.8-billion SkyTrain line on the Broadway corridor and Surrey’s aim for rapid transit to Langley and White Rock.

Walton said he believes Surrey and Vancouver will work well together to help determine the timing of the two lines and avoid a feud over which one gets priority.

Crilly’s term as TransLink commissioner is ending and area mayors appointed Bob Irwin as his replacement effective May 1.

Irwin is Crilly’s senior advisor at the commission and is a former CEO of BC Transit.

Just Posted

WHAT’S IN STORE: Caffeine drip, please

A look at how local businesses are helping kids through hospitals, camps, and homeless initiatives

VIDEO: People pack the streets for Community Day in Langley City

For the 25th anniversary of the annual event, it incorporated the food truck festival

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

Langley’s Wyatt twins make Pan Am team

Wyatts back home after completing freshman year at University of Memphis

VIDEO: Beer lovers tip a few for Langley Rotary Clubs

17th Annual Tip ‘n Taste at Cascades Casino serves up craft suds for local charities

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

Most Read