Mayors announce funding for Broadway SkyTrain, Surrey light rail
Metro Vancouver mayors are proposing small hikes to transit fares and property taxes to help fund the long-awaited Broadway SkyTrain expansion and light rail in Surrey.
On Friday, the TransLink Mayors' Council announced it had reached an agreement with the province on how it intends to generate the region's $2.5-billion share of those and other projects planned for Phase 2 of its 10-year plan.
In total, Metro Vancouver's transit and transportation plan is worth $7.5 billion, making it largest transit infrastructure investment in the province's history and one of the largest-ever in Canada.
"This is a huge win for transit users, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians," Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told reporters Friday.
The council said it will amount to a five to 15 cent increase to fares and $1 to $3 increase to monthly passes.
Mayors also plan to increase property taxes $5.50 a year, or about 46 cents a month, beginning in 2019, and hike parking rates 15 cents over the current average of $5 an hour. The infrastructure project will also be funded in part by a new tax on residential developments, pending a new law.
The bulk of the funding – $1.6 billion – is expected to come from increasing fare revenue as ridership grows, and from "resources and efficiencies" at TransLink.
Corrigan called the increases "modest and balanced" and even though he wasn't keen on revisiting the idea of raising property taxes, the opportunity to make such a major investment in transit infrastructure was too significant to pass up.
"I don’t think there's a mayor in the region who likes everything that was in there, but we do like the fact that we're getting $7 billion of investment into the Lower Mainland," he said.
"When you get that chance…it will make you swallow your pride a little bit and say 'Alright, I'm going to go along with this because I know, ultimately, we're going to achieve so much more together."
Phase 2 of the Mayors' Council's 10-year plan also includes an eight-per-cent increase in bus service in Metro Vancouver and upgrades to the Expo and Millennium lines as well as sidewalks, bikeways, multi-use pathways and roads.
Corrigan called the announcement "a huge win for bus riders," adding that, combined with announcements made in Phase 1 of the plan, TransLink will have added 900,000 hours of bus service a year to the region and created hundreds of new jobs.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson said it was important for the province to get these projects underway because "people have waited far too long."
"The region was left in the dark, wondering if important transit projects would ever get off the ground," she said. "It's important that we get moving on Phase 2 of the vision as fast as possible.”
It's still unclear, however, how much all of these projects will cost.
"The project businesses cases are at the province at this time," TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said.
That's why the transit authority is revisiting some of its timelines: the Millennium Line extension and the Surrey light rail projects are now expected to break ground in late 2019 or early 2020.
Urban planner and former politician Gord Price said that, while the plan could have been set in motion years ago, he is pleased Lower Mainland municipalities and the province finally agree on how to move forward with transit.
"It could have been done…at least five, 10 years ago," he said. "I think I join many in saying, 'At last. Get on with it.'"
With files from CTV Vancouver’s David Molko