Metro mayors’ transit plan hits a snag

The $7.5 billion transit plan unveiled by Metro Vancouver mayors earlier this month had cold water poured on it Tuesday by Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

“This would appear to be a comprehensive plan,” said Stone at a press conference. “This would also appear to be a plan that needs a bit more work when it comes to the funding assumption.”

Stone said that the plan had significant funding gaps and would probably need to be expanded to 20 years to be feasible. He also said that some of the ideas for raising revenue (including road pricing) needed more studying, assumptions on federal funding were overly optimistic, and revenues from the current carbon tax could not be diverted to the funding plan.

Stone’s criticisms come two weeks after the mayors unveiled their ambitious proposals for the future of transit Metro Vancouver. The 10-year plan included a new Pattullo bridge, a subway line to Arbutus Street, and three LRT lines in Surrey.

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Stone’s criticisms drew sharp criticism from Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

“He’s simply wanted a plan based on property tax. We don’t have to a have referendum based on property tax. That is a line the mayors have said we will not cross. I find myself disappointed thinking that is all the ministry wants us to do,” he said.

“He objects to just about everything…it really makes me think that mayors have to have a major rethink of the role in terms of TransLink given this very disappointing answer from the Minister.”

Any new taxes or tolls put forward by the mayors and signed off by the province will have to be approved in a referendum, the date of which must be decided by July 15.

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Until then, the clock is ticking for a new funding model to be in place.

“I’m pleased that the mayors came up the vision they have. I tip my hat off to their hard work,” said Stone.

“I must also say that the most significant feedback I’ve received is related to the funding and whether it’s affordable.”

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