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June 4,2010 Tri City News


Metro Vancouver mayors won't be asked to vote again this summer on whether to stump up more money for TransLink on behalf of local residents.

TransLink officials are assembling a base plan for 2011 that will see the transportation authority work within a $1.27-billion annual budget.

No funding supplement will be requested, like the one approved by mayors last year that delivered a $130-million increase by raising fares, the fuel tax and pay parking tax.

That was a stop-gap solution delivering just enough money for TransLink to tread water  but not nearly enough to embark on the major transit expansion program the authority had pitched then.

A new deal on more revenue  which would likely require mayors to vote again on further increases  now depends on negotiations with the province.

Up in the air is exactly how the promised $1.4-billion Evergreen Line to Coquitlam will be funded and whether that solution will also finance other priorities, like new rapid transit lines to Surrey and UBC, a third SeaBus and a major bus fleet expansion.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said the authority will focus on maintaining the existing system, reducing administration costs and "rationalizing" bus service.

Transportation minister Shirley Bond said the Evergreen Line will advance to the procurement stage this summer, with construction starting in early 2011.

She said her ministry is working with TransLink and the mayors to secure a regional contribution to the line.

"The Evergreen Line will proceed on schedule without delay while we continue these discussions," Bond said.

"The success of Canada Line both during and since the Olympics has just reinforced our commitment to get on with the delivery of the Evergreen Line."

Ottawa and Victoria have jointly committed to provide $810 million for the line.

Mayors Council chair Peter Fassbender, the mayor of Langley City, is optimistic.

"We're going to work together to find a solution," he said.

A report is being prepared tabulating all sources of funding for TransLink.

It's hoped mayors and the province will be able to use it to agree on how much is paid by people in the region and how much more  if any  they can afford.

One of the factors is the old hospital district tax, which is still collected in much of B.C., but was dropped in Metro Vancouver when TransLink was formed in 1999 in recognition local taxpayers would be paying new property taxes for regional transportation.

Metro's regional planning committee, meanwhile, is criticizing TransLink's consultations on the 2011 base plan.

Little detail is being provided, there are only a few public meetings and there's not enough time for Metro to adequately consider it, said Langley Township Mayor Rick Green.

"This is insanity  this is not consultation of any kind," he said.

The plan calls for replacement of 133 buses, 82 community shuttles and 137 HandyDart vehicles.

TransLink would also advance with plans to add smart cards and turnstiles to SkyTrain and to continue planning for the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

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