A container is loaded onto a truck at Deltaport. Business groups have entered the debate on how to refinance TransLink

Business voices push transit funding reform

Quiet talks underway to broker deal for TransLink, steer outcome.

It’s no surprise when transit apostles demand more money for TransLink.

But calls to reform funding for transit are now coming from an unusual corner – business groups that usually focus more on whether trucks can haul cargo efficiently.

They fear the impasse between Metro Vancouver mayors and the province over how to finance TransLink may block transit expansion plans for years and even reduce existing service, clogging roads with car commuters who could be more efficiently carried by bus or rail.

“There seems to be some sense that if you represent business you don’t care about transit,” B.C. Trucking Association president Louise Yako said, adding that’s dead wrong.

The BCTA is one of the business groups that have begun quiet talks in hopes of finding a fix for TransLink’s cash woes.

Yako noted more secure funding sources for transit would benefit the whole region – and avert disaster.

“TransLink is facing the wall,” she said. “We have a very short window of time to try and come up with a solution that is palatable for most people.”

The organizer who has brought the business groups together is Bob Wilds, managing director of the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, which represents port, airport and other transportation business interests.

Wilds, who helped persuade the province to build the new Port Mann Bridge and other Gateway program projects, agrees transit service can’t be allowed to atrophy while the region’s population and vehicle traffic keep climbing.

“You can’t expect to solve this problem without looking at difficult and innovative ways of doing it,” he said. “Maybe we need road pricing. Maybe we need system-wide tolling. Those are the kinds of things we think we need to look at.”

Billions of dollars are being spent in the region on port-related Gateway roads and infrastructure, he noted.

“It will be wasted if we can’t be competitive,” Wilds said, adding road congestion and high gas taxes could easily drive container traffic away to rival ports.

The business groups don’t want to give TransLink a blank cheque for expansion.

Part of the challenge, they suggest, is to determine the maximum amount of revenue the region could reasonably generate for TransLink through new mechanisms – and then ratchet back spending demands to fit the funding envelope.

“Everybody wants everything but there’s a finite amount of money we can generate,” Wilds said. “Maybe we have to revisit our ideas of what we want to have here.”

Alternately, he said, maybe senior governments can be persuaded they need to give TransLink ongoing operational funding, rather than just one-time capital cost sharing.

That case could be made, he said, based on Metro Vancouver’s critical role as Canada’s Asia-Pacific gateway.

“I don’t think it’s reasonsable for local citizens to bear the full brunt of it,” Wilds said.

TransLink needs new funding sources because one of its biggest ones – the gas tax – has proved unreliable and is generating less money as cars get more efficient, more drivers fill up outside Metro Vancouver and transit use rises.

“The more expensive fuel becomes the more people go out of the region to buy it and that’s not a sustainable funding mechanism,” Wilds said. “Maybe we’ve got to have a better way of road users paying their far share.”

The real estate development industry has also entered the debate.

Urban Development Institute CEO Anne McMullin said project developers have increasingly become believers in strong transit after recent projects on the Canada Line swiftly sold out.

She said TransLink needs a suite of new funding options, not a strategy that relies too heavily on either property taxpayers or vehicle drivers alone.

Land-use planning for more density near transit stations must be done at the same time as planning new lines, McMullin added.

“If you concentrate density along transit lines, you increase ridership and you increase revenue.”

The business interests aim to first agree on key principles before developing specific recommendations to TransLink, the province and the mayors.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Guildford’s Winter Festival raises nearly $7K for Surrey Memorial Hospital

Funds raised through two weekends of skate rentals, on-site donations

Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Court awards Surrey Costco shopping cart collector $583K after car pins him

Kurtis Ryan Burdeniuk, 22, was retrieving carts when driver backed into him in the parking lot, pinning him

Royal Canadian circus coming back to Cloverdale

June dates for rebranded circus in year of expansion into U.S.

Committee that replaced Surrey’s Public Safety Committee seven months ago has never met

Surrey mayor dissolved safety committee in July 2019, replaced it with Interim Police Transition Advisory Committee

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Woman missing out of downtown Maple Ridge

Police seek public’s help locating Atefeh Jadidian

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

‘Chain reaction pile up’ closes southbound traffic on Coquihalla Highway

Black Press Media has reached out to RCMP, paramedics for details

Exploding enrolment prompts opening of second TWU campus in Richmond

Langley’s faith-based Trinity Western University opens a second campus in Richmond

Fraser Valley seniors’ home residents go without meds for a night due to staff shortage

Residents speak out about staff shortages that are leading to serious safety concerns

Most Read