Yesterday, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation released their vision for transportation in Metro Vancouver. This was in response to the demands by the province to come up with a fully funded transportation vision for the region by the end of the month for the transit referendum that the province is hell-bent on having.
The mayors’ vision is very similar to the Leap Ahead Transit Plan that Paul Hillsdon and I released last fall. Unlike our plan, the mayors’ vision spells out the funding needed to maintain our regional roads, build the cycling network, and improve the base bus network. In fact, the mayors’ would like to increase cycling network funding from the current $1.5 million to $16.5 million. Other main differences are that the SFU gondola is missing and the UBC Subway is truncated at Arbutus. The mayors’ council has a two page fact sheet which outlines the improvements envisioned.
|Map of specific transportation investments identified for implementation in the first decade of the mayors' vision. Click map to enlarge.|
I talked about the vision on Global’s BC1 yesterday afternoon.
Like our Leap Ahead Transit Plan, the mayors’ vision relies on the province and federal government to pay for 2/3rds of the major capital projects. To pay for the rest of the vision, the mayors proposed a stepped funding plan. In the first six years of the plan, an additional annual $110 million in new revenue would be needed. This would step up to $275 million by year seven, and top out at $390 million annually by year 12. This would require two new funding sources to pay for the vision.
The first funding source preferred by the mayors is for the province to return the carbon tax collected in Metro Vancouver back to the region to pay for transportation improvements. This would be on top of 3% annual increases in property tax and increased fare and toll revenue. As this would impact the province’s revenue, it took all of six seconds for Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone to reject this idea. The mayors’ also suggested a higher carbon tax for Metro Vancouver as a “Plan B” first funding source. Minister Todd Stone suggested that the province could support that idea.
The second new funding source suggested by the mayors to pay for improving the region’s transportation network is road pricing. This would kick in around year seven of the plan. With road pricing in place, gas tax would be reduced by 6ȼ per litre.
The fact that all of Metro Vancouver’s mayors (with the usual exception of Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan) endorsed this vision is impressive and shows how well our region’s federation of local municipalities work.
In the vision, the region’s mayors have settled on a four-lane tolled replacement for the Pattullo Bridge. Surrey was pushing for a six-lane replacement while New Westminster wanted a four-lane replacement. This has delayed replacing the bridge for several years. Taking a page from the province who built the Alex Fraser and Port Mann Bridge to not preclude light rail going over them in the future, the mayors' vision for the new Pattullo Bridge is that it will be designed to not preclude its expansion to six-lanes in the future.
With the release of this vision, the mayors’ have thrown the ball into the province’s court for funding a sustainable transportation network in our region. The province will have to decide if it will move forward with the referendum based on the mayors’ suggestion of a new regional carbon tax.
If the province does not move forward with a new regional carbon tax, does Christy Clark have a “Plan B”? If the province does move forward with putting a new regional carbon tax to a referendum and it fails, is there a “Plan C”? If new funding for building a sustainable transportation network is not approved, getting around our region will become increasingly harder to do. This will impact the economic prosperity and quality of life for people who live in Metro Vancouver.