– TransLink’s Broadway transit gambit condemned

The Straight

By Matthew Burrows

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan believes the possible development of rapid transit along Broadway has blinkered Vancouver politicians to the funding constraints facing a regional transit authority he calls “bankrupt”.

“I think that Vancouver very much has seized on the idea that somehow they are going to get a Broadway line out of this and that there is a campaign issue for them [Vision Vancouver],” Corrigan told the Georgia Straight by phone.

Because TransLink is in such a financial crunch, its TransLink 2010 10-Year Plan has laid out a “base plan” along with two supplementary funding options, each with a varying price tag to get out of the hole.

A third option, called “On Track to a Sustainable Region”, would piggyback on the supplementary plan titled “Maintain and Upgrade” and abandon the base plan. It is also the most expensive version. Vision Vancouver—representatives of which occupy all of Vancouver’s six spots on the Metro Vancouver board—has come out in favour of “On Track”, which would require an additional $450 million in annual funding above current levels and would dramatically expand the borrowing limit, to $6.5 billion.

“I think one of the things that happens very clearly is that unless you go to the $450 million [option], there is no discussion of expansion of any rapid transit in Vancouver,” Corrigan said.

He added that he favours a position of “no supplement”, which is the base-plan option. This would require “drastic cuts”, according to TransLink documents. (The remaining option, called “Funding Stabilization”, requires an additional $130 million a year above current levels.)

Provincial legislation requires that TransLink’s mayors’ council—consisting of the region’s 21 mayors as well as Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird—respond to the funding scenarios by October 31. TransLink spokesperson Judy Rudin told the Straight that the mayors’ council will vote October 23.

Neither Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson nor Dianne Watts, Surrey mayor and chair of the mayors’ council, responded to messages by the Straight’s deadline.

On August 26, Metro senior regional planner Raymond Kan sent a list of recommendations to the regional planning committee. The On Track option presented “the highest level of consistency and support for the Livable Region Strategic Plan”, Kan said. The regional planning committee approved Kan’s list and sent it to the Metro Vancouver board meeting of September 25, where Robertson moved the initial motion before giving an impassioned speech pushing for more funding.

“I think it’s critical that Metro Vancouver directors remain united on the $450 million and that we don’t fold our tents now,” Robertson said at the time, having just stated: “The other [funding] levels are totally inadequate and inappropriate to be suggesting.”

Baird and Corrigan both missed the Metro vote, and Burnaby city councillor Sav Dhaliwal was the only dissenter as the motion passed. Corrigan countered later that Vancouver politicians are pushing for the $450 million because they want to “get back in the queue”.

“And they are desperate to get back in the queue, because, in essence, past councils have completely messed up any opportunity for the line to go along Broadway,” he said. “So they are really the authors of their own misfortune. I’m not blaming Gregor. He wasn’t on council. He inherits a series of decisions from [former Vancouver mayors] Philip Owen through Larry Campbell through Sam Sullivan that have militated against any expansion of the transit system down Broadway.”

The mayors’ council has “no appetite” for approving the $450-million option, Corrigan claimed, partly because TransLink commissioner Martin Crilly’s August 31 report on TransLink’s 2010 10-Year Plan states that this option has a “gap of $175 million [per year] in identified funding”.

“This means that the scenario has no status as a Supplement to be approved or rejected under the Act,” Crilly wrote.

Speaking at the September 25 Metro meeting, Surrey councillor Linda Hepner also expressed concern over the changes to TransLink governance initiated in 2007 under then–B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon. Hepner called it a “dog’s breakfast”, which resonated with Corrigan, who has claimed both at the Metro board and to the Straight that a private, unelected board equates to “taxation without representation”.

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