British Columbia

Mayors vote to scrap TransLink expansion plans

Lower Mainland mayors have voted to cancel TransLink's expansion plans rather than raise property taxes.

Motion aims to stave off property tax hike

The region's mayors are calling on TransLink’s latest expansion plans to be cancelled until alternative funding sources are determined. (CBC)

Lower Mainland mayors have voted to cancel TransLink's expansion plans rather than raise property taxes.

In a letter released late Thursday, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation criticized Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom for turning down their alternate funding suggestions.

"While we appreciate the minister’s ongoing willingness to directly engage on these issues, we were hoping for some very specific and positive responses to help the region’s collective efforts to better serve the public transportation system’s efforts to serve a rapidly growing region," said Mayor Richard Walton, chair of the mayors' council.

In a recent meeting, the mayors' council voted against a two-year, $30-million property tax levy for TransLink’s latest expansion plans, at least until alternative funding sources could be found.

However, Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender says he and two other mayors south of the Fraser River opposed the vote.

He says the expansion plans mainly affect his region, and thinks the other mayors on the 21-member council were too hasty.

"I think the emotions around the table sort of got the better of everybody and this motion was passed and now we're playing catch-up," Fassbender said.

"We better get the facts and get the legal implications of trying to rescind a previous decision, and we're getting that and will be dealing with it in the next couple of weeks."

'Totally unacceptable'

The expansion plans include a rapid bus along Highway One and over the new Port Mann Bridge, another down King George Boulevard in Surrey and 600,000 hours of additional service.

"It is totally unacceptable to us south of the Fraser to see the amount of effort put in on the Port Mann Bridge and, for the first time in 27 years, not to have rapid buses that will connect the region together," said Fassbender.

At this stage, he said, the vote is a non-binding expression of intent until TransLink presents a revised plan.

In a written statement responding to the mayors' letter, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said the transit authority needed "time to review the information and understand what these decisions mean for TransLink, our customers and the public we serve."

Earlier this week, TransLink Commissioner Martin Crilly rejected an application to raise Lower Mainland transit fares by up to 12.5 per cent. TransLink said the fare increase would bring in an extra $48 million in revenue in 2013, which would be used to pay for new projects.

The TransLink Commission also called on TransLink to find cost savings of $40 to $60 million between 2013 and 2015.

TransLink's board of directors has asked for an audit that would take the cost savings into account. The provincial government has ordered its own review of the transit authority.