Two-and-a-half years after the province signed an agreement to find new funding sources for TransLink, Transportation Minister Mary Polak announced she will work with the mayors to deliver some recommendations by this September.
In September 2010, then-Premier Gordon Campbell signed a memorandum of understanding with the TransLink mayors’ council to find new revenue streams besides existing property taxes, gas taxes, and fares.
Since then the Liberals have only signed off on hikes to fares and the gas tax, forcing TransLink to scrap its plans to expand service hours to keep pace with the region’s growing demand for transit. Meanwhile, Surrey and Vancouver have been ever more loudly calling for additional funding for major new infrastructure projects.
“What is likely to happen is a range of different revenue opportunities, some of which might be lowered, raised, those are things that we have to consider across the piece,” Polak said during a press conference Monday in Burnaby.
“It’s not likely that you’re going to find one silver bullet for funding.”
The mayors have repeatedly asked the Liberal government to consider a regional vehicle levy, a regional carbon tax or giving TransLink a portion of provincial carbon tax revenue, but to date those requests have been denied.
Polak said the working group will consider ways to capture some of the increased property values along major new projects, such as the proposed Broadway corridor rapid transit line, and whether road pricing could also be an option.
An independent report released last month concluded TransLink’s accountability, transparency, responsiveness, and clarity of purpose have all been declining since the province fired its elected board of directors in 2007 and replaced it with an appointed panel of experts. Monday’s announcement included a commitment to reconsider that governance model.
Mayors’ council chair Richard Walton, who will be working with Polak until the fall — or at least until the provincial election — said Polak is the first minister who has been willing to sit down with the mayors to try to solve the funding crunch.
NDP Transportation Critic Harry Bains said if his party wins power he will step in and conduct similar consultations with the mayors on the same timeline, and is committed to changing the transit authority’s “dysfunctional” governance model.
The NDP has also said it would raise the corporate tax rate from 11 to 12 per cent, generating $200 million that would be put toward expanding service hours to provide immediate relief along the most congested routes.