Delta will seek a new funding model for the Gas Tax Agreement in 2015 which governs the federal transfer of monies collected at the gasoline pump to municipalities.
The purpose of the federal Gas Tax Fund is a method of transferring $2 billion of federal funding annually to local governments for infrastructure projects, allocating the money based on census population.
But in Delta, which is part of Metro Vancouver, all that money is allocated entirely to the regional transportation authority.
TransLink has received $676 million in federal gas taxes between 2005 and 2012, using the money to replace, refurbish or purchase new vehicles, renovate Skytrains, upgrade the Expo Line, implement smartcard bus equipment and build the Hamilton Transit Centre in Richmond.
Council isn’t sure it’s getting a good transit return for its tax investment.
Delta has calculated its annual contribution to TransLink based on property taxes and provincial and federal gas taxes at $39.4 million, or $394.50 per capita based on census population.
Director of engineering Steven Lan said he wasn’t able to quantify the monetary value of Delta’s return for investment in TransLink.
“That money is being used overall for the entire system, and it’s providing service across the entire TransLink system,” he said last Monday (July 15).
But TransLink’s annual performance review released in June showed the cost of providing bus service in South Delta is the most expensive, generating a passenger cost of $2.67. This compared poorly with service in Vancouver and University of British Columbia, which cost just $1.08 per passenger.
In the report, TransLink blamed the poor service on low population density and areas that are primarily car-oriented.
Service isn’t the only concern for Delta. Without access to federal infrastructure funding through the Gas Tax Fund, the municipality relies on Metro Vancouver funds such as the Innovations Fund and Greater Vancouver Strategic Priorities Fund.
Since 2005, Delta has received $348,000 from the $82 million that has been or will be allocated to the Innovations Fund ending in 2014.
But Metro Vancouver’s entire share of the Greater Vancouver Strategic Priorities Fund, or $799 million, has or will be contributed to TransLink based on a 10-year UBCM agreement ending in 2015. Delta can do little to change that allocation until the agreement is renewed.
Metro Vancouver’s board used to have direct control over TransLink’s strategic and financial programs, but that changed in 2008 after the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act created a new governance model, effectively reducing Metro’s authority over TransLink’s unelected board and its approval of projects.
Mayor Lois Jackson has raised the concern that Metro will be using some of that infrastructure money for projects outside Delta.
“What I keep hearing in the hall at Metro—and it’s a bit of a heads up for us—is that there is some consideration to possibly moving some of that TransLink money to pay for LuLu Island and Lion’s Gate [treatment plant] upgrades,” she said. “This is the beginning of the question, because many of us know that the Annacis Island treatment plant capital was paid for by the people south of the river. But it seems that now it may be that we in the south side of the river may be paying for capital works for the two other treatment plants.
“I think we have to be very careful about the amount of money Delta is contributing on a yearly basis to a TransLink system that may now be—through the Metro mayors—using some of that money in addition to the sewage treatment plants.”
Staff will now investigate and report back on options for a new funding model prior to the expiry of the current Gas Tax Agreement in March 2015. Council also resolved to write a letter to the TransLink chair and board asking them to provide Delta with the direct costs of services provided south of the Fraser River.