Sidewinder: Shouldering a share of blame

Adding a half percent to provincial sales tax in Metro Vancouver was always totally unfair and inequitable way to finance the scheme.

The doomsday promoters would have had us believe their piffle that failure of the TransLink plebiscite would result in some of the proposed projects being canceled and others being delayed to some point beyond a distant horizon.

The truth was always evident to anyone who was willing to look objectively at the list of projects and other factors such as financing Gregor Robertson’s pie-in-the-sky dreams for a Broadway subway.

Adding one-half percent to the provincial sales tax in Metro Vancouver was always a totally unfair and inequitable way to finance the scheme because it would have resulted in the residents of outlying areas such as Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and the Langleys paying relatively far too much for the services they would have received.

The main promise to Maple Ridge was the provision of B buses to provide a direct link to existing urban transit services in Coquitlam. By TransLink’s own projections, even if the plebiscite had succeeded, it could take as long as four years or more to initiate that service. But we would pay the tax from Day 1, although work would have begun almost immediately on the Broadway subway.

There had also been grave predictions that the promised provincial and federal funding would vanish, something which turned out to be just another myth generated by members of the doomsday cult.

There is no doubt in almost anyone’s mind that most, if not all, of the proposed projects put forward by the Mayors’ Council on TransLink will proceed; albeit, on a substantially altered timetable.

The re-structure of TransLink was also predictable and is already underway. In the coming months, you can almost bet your pension cheques that the governance of TransLink is going to undergo significant changes and will ultimately emerge as a more transparent and less complicated management model.

What is left to be determined is how to equitably and affordably finance the ambitious plans of Metro Vancouver mayors. This is the point at which the provincial government must assert its authority and require the mayors to come up with an acceptable financing formula or have one stuffed down their throats.

This is also the point at which Metro Vancouver municipalities must begin to shoulder their fair share of the blame for the current chaotic state of transportation and transit in the region. Every one has been so busy approving residential sprawl that they somehow forgot or ignored the consequences of unfettered growth on the overall system.

The future financing of most of the projects on the mayors’ list must consider some method of increased user pay, and it’s not likely that it will come from a single source. Surcharges on vehicle licenses and vehicle insurance on existing vehicles, and an increased percentage of operating costs recovered from the fare boxes of transit operations are just some areas where the funds could be generated.

In outlying areas such as Maple Ridge, city council should also consider increased development cost charges for new residential developments.

And not to be overlooked is the rapidly increasing number of cycling commuters and recreational cyclists whose requirements for safe cycling are fairly inexpensive if considered prior to the construction of major city streets and provincial highways and sprawling residential growth patterns.

At first blush, the appointment of Peter Fassbender as the Minister Responsible for TransLink appeared ill considered, but upon reflection, he might just be the right person for the job.

In a previous incarnation, Fassbender was the chairperson of the Mayors Council for TransLink. As such, he helped direct the TransLink Titanic towards its destiny, with the civic version of an iceberg. And now, appropriately enough, he’s in charge of the rescue and reformation of TransLink.

 

– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.

 

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