British Columbia

Metro Vancouver mayors approve $2B transit improvement plan

The Mayors' Council has approved a $2 billion transit and road expansion plan that will improve services in the Vancouver region over the next decade.

Plan calls for a property tax increase and fare hike

The new 10-year expansion plan is aimed at reducing overcrowding and wait times on transit. (Mike McArthur / CBC)

The Mayors' Council has approved a $2-billion transit and road expansion plan to cover infrastructure projects over the next decade in the Vancouver area.

The 10-year expansion plan will create new bus routes, including HandyDART services for people with mobility issues, reduce overcrowding on transit and improve rail service, according to TransLink. 

It's the first phase of a two-part transit improvement plan across the region.

The federal government will contribute $370 million. The province will add $246 million and TransLink will pay the balance of $1.3 billion.

The improvements will mean a $3 per household increase in property taxes. Fares will also rise by 10 cents, beginning next July.

"This is a major day for the Metro Vancouver area," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, adding the transit improvement plan will reduce overcrowding and improve services.

Robertson said the next phase will include projects on Broadway and improvements to the Pattulo bridge.

The second phase of the plan will go out for public consultation in 2017.

Fassbender: 'Major step forward today'

Minister Responsible for Translink Peter Fassbender said he applauds the mayors moving ahead with the plan, saying it would start work on the Broadway corridor as well as light rail in Surrey and to Langley.

Fassbender conceded those projects would be years away, but this announcement is about meeting current transit needs.

"I think we've made a major step forward today, but [there's] more work to be done," he told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

He said the provincial portion of the $2 billion was made possible by the federal government coming to the table with a substantial portion of its own.

Fassbender reiterated that transit is a priority for the province, and if mayors can find more funding of their own, he will discuss more provincial funding — but he also reiterated any new funding mechanisms will require a plebiscite.

Robertson: Money about 'catching up'

Speaking later in the day, Robertson said agreeing to the property tax and fare increase was "a tough one" for mayors.

He said the movement from the mayors was largely because the federal government came to the table with more significant funding after delays which he said have "killed a lot of time."

"There's been a strong feeling among mayors, a consensus we shouldn't be taxing out homes to pay for transportation," he said. "[This was] basically in the interest of getting the transit service happening as soon as possible … I think people just want to see that happening."

Robertson said because of the new federal funding, the increases weren't as high as originally predicted.

He said this phase of funding is largely about "catching up" after what he called a lack of significant funding over the last decade. He said the aim is to get as many people out of their cars and onto transit as soon as possible.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the interview with Minister Responsible for Translink Peter Fassbender, click the audio labelled: Metro Vancouver mayors approve $2B transit improvement plan

To hear the interview with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, click the audio labelled: Gregor Robertson on $2B transit improvement plan