One thing that we learned during the Winter Olympics is that if we really want to, we can use public transit. During the Games, Translink moved 1.5 million people a day in Greater Vancouver, 48.6% higher than a normal day. Vehicle use was reduced by 35% each day, exceeding the 30% goal organizers had set. With a transit ticket included as part of the price of an Olympic event ticket, the system was loaded, but performed admirably throughout the Games.
Point is, when we the public want to use transit, we can get out of our cars, and the advantages of building sustainable communities anchored by rapid transit I believe outweigh the short term capital costs.
Which brings us to the Evergreen Line. When we last talked about it in October the Evergreen Line was in jeopardy again as Translink needed to find another $450 million in funding to build the line and maintain current service levels. The mayors ended up voting down the increase in funding necessary to build the Evergreen, approving a smaller package of funding to maintain service levels. At the time, Premier Campbell said the line will continue, with or without the mayors’ approval.
Before we get to the latest developments, a little background on the way that Translink is governed. The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority was formed in 1999 to replace the old BC Transit, as well as take over many of the transportation responsibilities in the Lower Mainland. The board consisted of a number of elected municipal politicians. In 2007, Translink was overhauled, here’s how it’s now run…
Now with this many fingers in the pie it’s amazing anything gets done, but don’t get too used to any of this. Word is the province is now getting ready to overhaul the funding, and perhaps the governing formula for Translink, and this will include a commitment to actually fund the Evergreen. This week the Metro Vancouver mayors repeatedly called for a meeting with the province on the future of Translink and the Evergreen, going as far as meeting behind closed doors on Thursday to discuss strategy.
With the province looking more serious about building the Evergreen Line than usual, the other mayors in the region are worried that the Evergreen will be built and take money away from transit projects in their jurisdictions. Now I can hear your howls of protest here that we’ve been ignored long enough, but when you get 22 mayors on a board all with voters to face back home, they won’t be able to agree on what to have for lunch, much less altruistically get behind our little 11 km piece of Skytrain. The province is hot to get started, as they want to get it done while the Federal government still has the $417 million they promised in their bank account.
Finally on Friday, word came that Langley City & Regional mayors’ council chair Peter Fassbender will meet with Transportation Minister Shirley Bond today to discuss Translink’s future. Fassbender and the rest of the regional mayors are striking a conciliatory tone with the province. Probably the right move, as the province has shown in the past they are willing to take away the mayors’ voice at the table when they perceive local politics getting in the way of regional transportation infrastructure.
Stay tuned everyone, there will be more twists and turns in this story before all is said and done. What do you think? Should the province take the bull by the horns and build it, or should the mayors’ council decision not to fund the Evergreen be heeded?