Fassbender tells Metro Vancouver mayors to ‘suck it up’ on transit funding

Minister says mayors can't hold out for the perfect deal to fund entire 10-year TransLink expansion plan

Minister for TransLink Peter Fassbender says Metro Vancouver mayors need to “suck it up” and approve a modest increase in TransLink taxes to cover the region’s share of launching an ambitious transit expansion plan.

Some Metro mayors are reluctant to okay more funding for a first phase of expansion without certainty that the rest of their 10-year plan will get full support from the federal and provincial governments.

Fassbender told Black Press they need to get over that and deliver funding for phase one of the plan, which has 50 per cent contributions from Ottawa and one-third from the province.

“What they need to do, quite honestly, is to suck it up and to get on with phase one,” he said.

RELATED: NDP promises to boost transit cost sharing if elected TransLink boss maps out transit surge option

Fassbender said there’s no way for B.C. or Ottawa to provide ironclad guarantees that subsequent phases will be fully funded.

“I can’t hold future governments to anything other than what we can do in our budget cycle,” Fassbender said. “My message to the mayors is you can say ‘I’m not going to do anything for the region until I know I have everything.’ That’s not reality. That’s not the way it works. That’s not the way their municipal budgets work.”

The minister spoke Thursday on the eve of a mayors’ council meeting Friday and after NDP leader John Horgan pledged to raise the province’s contribution to big transit projects from one-third to 40 per cent.

Fassbender questioned where the NDP would find the extra money for the increase, but gave no sign that the BC Liberals might also increase B.C.’s contribution.

As it sits, the region must find 17 per cent of the capital costs, while the senior governments pick up the rest.

“The region has to come up with its share,” Fassbender said. “It’s my understanding they have the financial capacity to do that. So we expect that they will do that.”

The province’s commitments include a third of the capital for the Broadway subway, light rail lines in Surrey and the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

Phase one would only provide for further design work on the new rapid transit lines, not actual construction. It would also bring 28 new SkyTrain cars, 22 new Canada Line cars, five more cars for the West Coast Express and a new SeaBus.

And while the federal government has committed $370 million for its 50 per cent share on the first phase, Fassbender noted Ottawa has not yet made any commitment on phase 2, adding that won’t come before the next federal budget.

“They have not made an ongoing commitment to 50 per cent for the entire vision.”

Operating costs are also a significant challenge, but Fassbender said he believes some method of capturing some of the value increase in properties along transit lines as they densify could help as a funding source.

He also reiterated his willingness to explore mobility pricing – which could mean road user fees or tolls on all bridges – with the mayors.

Fassbender said he wants a concrete definition of what it would involve, timing, costs for infrastructure, and the potential revenue it might generate, adding so far the concept has been hazy. “You can get 21 mayors around the region in a room and you probably have 17 different definitions of what mobility pricing really is.”

That’s a longer term debate.

For now, Fassbender said, mayors can raise what they need for phase one from existing sources, allowing everyone three or four years to determine how to pay for later stages.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond indicated earlier this month he is preparing a plan to quickly increase bus service by early 2017 if a deal between mayors and the province can be reached this fall.

Just Posted

Surrey killer foiled by cops’ suspicion he was underage in a bar

Birinderjeet Singh Bhangu was shot dead outside the Comfort Inn and Suites Hotel on Fraser Highway

Bureaucracy leaves Whalley Legion members thirsty

Legion’s new location needs liquor licence, despite being down street from former digs

Blaine railway stop contingent on international support: All Aboard Washington

Non-profit organizers look to residents of Surrey, White Rock and North Whatcom County

Delta man charged after police surround Tsawwassen home

Troy Kevin Reimer, 52, is charged with one count of uttering or conveying a threat to cause death or bodily harm

‘What we’re hearing about is a different kind of overdose happening,’ says Fraser Health

Health authority says benzodiazepine doesn’t respond to naloxone as it is not an opioid

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

Most Read