Premier Christy Clark has ordered an audit of TransLink to address a shortfall in funding for the transportation authority. …
The premier had referenced a $30 million shortfall for the Evergreen Line, however it is believed she misspoke. “There is still a funding gap for the Evergreen Line — $30 million — and we are going to find that through an audit of TransLink,” Clark said.
– The Sun
The fifth audit or efficiency review in a decade.
The third time the rug has been pulled out from under regional politicians over a vehicle levy.
And not the last time for mis-understanding.
The Premier should know the essential facts before speaking: the Evergreen line’s costs are covered; that was the purpose of the $40 million gas-tax increase. Nothing has changed. The additional $30 million that makes up the region’s ‘Moving Forward’ commitment – to pay for improved bus services primarily south of the Fraser, notably the express bus across the new Port Mann Bridge – will come from property tax for another two years. And then end, unless a substitute is found or the mayors are prepared to keep it on the property tax. Which they aren’t.
All the mayors were doing was asking for the Province to consider options for further discussion, after having been given assurance by the Minister of Transportation that they would be given due consideration. Then they were slapped down by the Premier within hours. Just as the NDP leader had done back in 2000, and the Liberals had done after that.
Why do Ministers of Transportation even entertain the idea of a vehicle levy in principle when their leader immediately takes it off the table at the first sign of blowback? (Perhaps the mayors should know by now not to ask in the weeks prior to an election, by- or otherwise.)
The Premier may not care, so long as the Evergreen Line proceeds. But the people south of the Fraser should, because they’ll get hit by a triple whammy. First, there will be the toll on the Port Mann Bridge, and likely diversion of traffic to the free alternative on the Pattullo, further jamming it up. They also could lose not only the fast-bus alternative on the Port Mann but additional services on major corridors like King George Boulevard. And thirdly, they’ll lose hope that an agreement can be found to fund the next major rapid-transit expansion – likely the Mayor of Surrey’s vision for light rail.
There’s even a fourth down-side. Already the road system south of the Fraser, even with expansion, is reaching capacity, according to this report in The Langley Advance:
Transportation was also on (Mayor Jack) Froese’s mind, as he talked about the need to get funding for a widened 208th Street and its highway overpass, and for a new 216th Street interchange.
The 200th Street interchange, upgraded a decade ago, is already at capacity, he said.
Unless transit is significantly improved, the car drivers will suffer along with the transit passengers no matter how much money is spent on expanded roads.
The audit is primarily for political cover. Even the Mayor’s Council wanted one. But no matter what efficiencies may be found, even if measured in the millions of dollars, they won’t begin to address transportation demands measured in the billions.
To give some sense of the gap, here’s a useful illustration: A million seconds equals just under 12 days. A billion seconds? Just under 32 years.
Which may be the time it takes to get the Province to get real.