Community

TransLink talk goes round and round

It may be getting closer to Christmas, but for Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin it feels more like Groundhog Day.

After attending TransLink’s Mayor’s Council meeting Wednesday, the familiar topics of revenue sources and funding responsibilities continue to be discussed, with little result.

Daykin says the provincial government seems to be saying there is capacity to tax homeowners to pay for TransLink.

That was rejected by the Mayors Council, which opposes the hike that would average $23 per home for two years.

Daykin says the province is contradicting itself by creating the municipal auditor general’s office to rein in municipal spending, yet on the other hand wants TransLink to boost its levy charged to homeowners.

Taxpayers, though, are probably tired of hearing about it all, he added. “People don’t care who’s not getting along or who’s not talking to who. They just want their bus.”

Daykin had high hopes a few years ago that all revenue sources would be up for discussion.

“If they were willing to talk about sharing the carbon tax, then I was willing to talk a little about property tax.”

But the mayor added he’d applaud any sharing of the carbon tax revenues to fund transit, if the NDP wins the election in May.

He pointed out the carbon tax is a provincial tax, but the Lower Mainland has 70 per cent of the population.

Perhaps it could just be as simple as taking 10 per cent of what is raised locally by the carbon tax to fund TransLink, he added.

TransLink though may not face a $30-million shortfall after all if the mayors rescind the property tax hike.

Independent TranLink Commissioner Martin Crilly now estimates TransLink has $25 to $35 million more available to it than the transportation authority disclosed in its 2013 base plan because it has underestimated the revenue it will pull in and overestimated expenses.

When it comes to local transportation projects, Daykin said he still wants to see an express bus service connecting Haney Place Mall bus station to Braid SkyTrain station in Burnaby. A bus currently connects those two stops, but it loops through Pitt Meadows.

But discussion about new transit projects will take place in January, Daykin said.

Wednesday was a chance to meet the new Transportation Minister Mary Polak.

Daykin added that the NDP could offer more promise to Maple Ridge when it comes to TransLink funding or expansion of the West Coast Express service.

While a feasibility study on expansion of the service is supposed to be underway, Daykin said he may try to get the mayors along the line together to press for service expansion.

“If there’s seven or eight of us with the same message, maybe they’ll listen.

“For the overall region, it’s [West Coast Express] probably not No. 1. But for us out here in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, it’s one or two.”

The TransLink-CP Rail agreement for track time expires in 2014, he pointed out.

Metro Vancouver mayors had vowed this fall to cancel the $23 per average home property tax hike if the province failed to deliver new funding sources before March, chopping $30 million in each of the next two year and precipitating what was then assumed to be a new revenue crisis that might force deep transit service cuts.

Now mayors and TransLink officials are hopeful the tax hike won’t be needed for 2013.

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis disputes Crilly’s findings, however, noting there’s no provision yet in TransLink’s plan for a negotiated pay hike for unionized workers, and he suggested the commissioner’s estimates may be too optimistic in other areas.

 

– with files from Jeff Nagel

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