Tri-Cities' Evergreen transit line will get built: minister
"We're not even contemplating not moving forward with the Evergreen Line," B.C. Transportation Minister Shirley Bond told CBC News on Thursday.
Bond repeated the province's commitment to the $1.4-billion project after the regional transit authority announced Wednesday that it's facing a $450-million deficit and doesn't have the money to cover its $400-million share of the new SkyTrain line's cost.
But Bond did not elaborate on how she expects TransLink to raise the money. Instead, she said TransLink needs to figure out for itself how it will come up with its share.
"We believe that TransLink has some options that they need to look at. They need to look at their own internal expenses as well to make sure that they're managing efficiently," Bond said.
"TransLink has to go back and look at the plan that they're creating and try to find a way to include it in a more moderate option," Bond said.
TransLink does have several options to raise the cash, and in recent years it has floated proposals to raise more funds, such as parking taxes and vehicle levies, but those proposals have faced strong public opposition.
But Gordon Price, the director of Simon Fraser University's city program, blames the province for TransLink's funding shortfall.
"The province has almost put TransLink in an impossible position. It's given it very high requirements and expectations, particularly addressing provincial requirements — greenhouse gases comes to mind — but they won't give TransLink the tools it needs to do it," Price said.
Residents frustrated by delays
Some residents of the Tri-Cities area — which is made up of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, plus the two villages of Anmore and Belcarra — say they are frustrated by years of delays since the project was first put proposed.
"It's beyond my understanding how a community that is growing as fast as Coquitlam is cannot get what they've been promised for 15 years in the way of transit," resident Jeannine Silvistrone said.
Businessman Colby Lee, who opened his Three Dog Bakery in Coquitlam four months ago, said he feels it's all a political game.
"I think it's probably a political push to try and get more money, but ultimately it's going to be the people of the Tri-Cities that are going to be held hostage," he said.
Lee said he hopes TransLink does not adopt a parking tax, which "is ultimately also going to hurt the local businesses," to pay for the line.
Greenhouse gas cuts
Any cancellation of the transit line could jeopardize the province's ambitious plan to cut carbon emissions in B.C. by a third by 2020, but Bond reaffirmed that those targets will also be met.
"If we look at transit ridership across the province, we're looking at an increased ridership on BC Transit of 15 per cent in some communities, so we're fixed on making sure we do hit our targets," she said.
TransLink is expected to make a final decision on the Evergreen Line's future in October.