Yup, that’s what I said at a Surrey Board of Trade Forum last week.  Here’s the coverage from Novae Res Urbis:

Vancouver should strongly support Surrey’s plans for light rapid transit even if its own Broadway subway line is delayed, a forum on Surrey’s transportation future was told last week. Former B.C. premier and Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt and Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, both said they agreed Surrey should be at the top of the priority list for transit projects. …
Price said to applause from the Surrey Board of Trade audience: “Surrey should go fi rst. It deserves the next dollar. “When you’re talking about the fastest-growing region, where the future is, you have this window.” Price said the Broadway subway is unlikely to get the funding soon, although that needs to be addressed. “So Vancouver should get behind Surrey and say ‘We’re here for you.’ And then let’s get in with it. Let’s build that system.”
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said Surrey is expected to add another 30,000 residents over 30 years, making it the most populous city in B.C. … “If we were to upgrade all of our roads, to capacity, it will satisfy 12 per cent of that demand,” she said. “You know where that leads to — into gridlock.” …
She said light rail has been chosen over SkyTrain technology because it’s a “simple dollar and cents issue” that will allow Surrey to service more communities with more frequent stops, which will attract more retail and service uses, with 41 million square feet of redevelopment capacity around the stations. Hepner said the provincial government has committed to pay for one third of the project’s cost and that all three major federal parties have promised funding. “But the regional funding remains elusive,” she said. “I expect that will take some form of mobility pricing. How we work that out and how we develop that funding model is going to take time and certainly the collaboration of mayors and the province is going to be necessary for that.”
Harcourt said he thinks congestion charging is a good idea. Price said mobility pricing is a tax “on something that we have previously taken for granted” as something that was free, and the issue would require exceptional leadership.
Both Harcourt and Price said there should be no more plebiscites or referenda on transportation funding. “If the premier will not clarify there won’t be another referendum, that’s the end of regional planning for the foreseeable future,” Price said. “How can you plan with any success of implementation if you know you’ve got to go to a referendum. “If we believe in this place, if we believe in that vision, we want our leadership to make some tough choices and that referendum has to be off the table.
Harcourt agreed: “I think you’re elected to lead and you don’t have referendums and plebiscites to fi nd out if transportation infrastructure should go ahead. I don’t ever want to see that happen again. That was a big, bad mistake.” …


UPDATE: Just heard from a Victoria reporter that Peter Fassbender has confirmed that there will have to be another referendum for any new funding source.  This would, of course, be disastrous for the region, but apparently even the MLAs and cabinet ministers who represent us don’t understand or don’t really care.  But would they allow the vehicle levy, already in the TransLink legslation, to proceed if the Mayors Council voted for it?


  1. I wish the province would just mandate whatever it is they want rather than make everyone go through this charade. If it’s property tax they really want, just freaking do it.

  2. Why can’t the mayors just agree to an increase in property tax?
    I agree the referendum was an insincere farce that should never be repeated. But I suspect that Victoria Is doing all this to have the mayors agree to a property tax increase to fund TransLink.
    Can Victoria ‘mandate’ a property tax increase on the mayors behalf or do they need final approval from the mayors? Or are both parties waiting for the other to take action (and culpability) on property tax increases?

    1. Another property tax increase for TransLink appears quite unlikely and unfair, both to individuals and to the municipalities not receiving much transit improvement.

        1. A sales tax would have been the same across the region. A vehicle levy would be the same whether the car owners lives in Surrey or West Van or downtown Vancouver. Congestion charging would presumably be based on the level of congestion on roads and kms driven, not where the driver lives.
          Another property tax increase for TransLink would limit municipalities’ ability to raise the tax rate for their own use, at a time when many struggle to even maintain services and infrastructure.

      1. Property taxes pay for municipal infrastructure and services.
        I don’t see how the local municipalities’ share of transit infrastructure is any different from property taxes that are used for water, sewer, roads, etc. – they are of general benefit whether or not the taxpayer uses them.
        The odd thing about it is that a lot of the proposed transit taxes (and existing taxes) are levied on those who do not use, or don’t necessarily use, transit (vehicle levy, congestion tax, gas tax).
        i.e. the reverse of a user pay system – more like a non-user pay system.
        Of course, that screams of “discrimination” and is bound to create resentment among that segment of the population. Instant alienation among them.
        No one like to be forced to pay for something they don’t use.

      2. I have doubts about the argument that a property tax increase will give the mayors less ability to raise money for civic uses and other GVRD issues.There is only one taxpayer in the region, and they will still be paying $x amount of dollars whether from a sales tax or a property tax.
        A property tax is very clear and impossible to dodge (eg like the fuel tax – buy your gas out of the region). Heck you could even make it more progressive and tax higher-valued properties at a higher rate.
        IMO the province and all 3 federal parties are waving money at the metro region for transit, and it looks more and more a contest about who will blink first WRT a property tax, victoria or the metro district.
        “ASK an economist about which are the most efficient kinds of taxes, and property taxes will be high up on the list. They distort behaviour less, and are more growth friendly, than taxes on income, employment or even consumption.”

        1. Indeed property taxes also monetize the desire of foreigners or affluent immigrants to buy high end homes (despite pleading poverty in many cases as they often declare income elsewhere). The provincial government is right to push this transit back onto the (overspending) city councils: if you want more transit in your city, find your own ways to fund it.
          Property taxes in Vancouver, per $100,000 of assessed value are very low compared to other cities.
          btw: Where is the debate to LOWER income taxes, or PST .. but to raise property taxes – the new gold – instead ? Or to LOWER civil servants salaries/benefits as this is where 60%+ of our taxes go ?

  3. Both Fassbender and Price are right. Surrey should go first, as even Vancouver’s Mayor hasn’t commited to a subway all the way tp UBC and Surrrey is faster growing than Vancouver. Fassbender is right as we cannot allow new taxes in an era of spending constraints and excessice public sector salaries (ic. $90,000/year bus drivers and $100,000+ transit cops) so that BC does not end up like Ontario, and soon, AB with huge deficits and dent, and subsequent higher unemployment. So, if we wish to increase parking fees and allow road tolls – a good idea in principle – will we lower PST and/or income taxes (or heaven forbid, public sector salaries and benefits) ?

  4. So, Mezzanine, “the referendum was an insincere farce that should never be repeated.“! Is that because the general public did not share your groove or are you genuinely concerned about the economic future prosperity of Metro?
    If indeed the latter, there are alternatives to which your side seems totally oblivious. Gordon‘s manic obsession with a Skytrain like, or whatever, extension blinds him and his cotierre to a more acessible, economical alternative: i.e. incrementalization! Semi-autonomous urban villages, walk to work, factory/warehouse just-in-time production and transport; walk to school etc etc etc.
    Labeling the NO vote an insincere farce is an insincere farce!

  5. Toronto is promised $2.6 billion by the feds for their expanded LRT in this election; Calgary is promised $1.53 billion for their expanded LRT and Ottawa $1 billion by the feds. The third largest province and third largest Metro area in Canada is promised $700 million.. I guess we know where the federal priorities are in this election…Is Canada the only Western nation that does not have an established federal transit fund? The US federal government pays up to 75 % of the cost of urban transit for cities that successfully apply for grants/funds. One wonders what Surrey candidates will tell us about the disparity in the above funding promises?

      1. From the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, and the Toronto Star online.but surprise not mentioned in the Vancouver Sun?…We want more money for transit; feds offering other cities more. Does not address the lack of provincial leadership but it would reduce the amount the Metro area needs.

        1. No leadership by the province ? You mean: no open purse ? The leadership of the province is clear: no new provincial taxes, unless voter approved (aka referendum). This IS leadership par excellance !
          Money (for anything, incl. transit) has to come from somewhere, and if not provincial taxes, it could come from:
          a) higher property taxes (under full control of the cities)
          b) higher parking fees (under full control of the cities)
          c) higher development charges to new construction projects (under full control of the cities)
          d) lower civil servants salaries / benefits thus more taxes available from other projects (under full control of the cities) as Vancouver pays too high compared to private sector norms for most jobs
          e) debt (I am unclear here what debts cities can get – perhaps a discourse on Vancouver Charter is necessary here )
          Other options require provincial approval, such as road tolls, which is another tax. Perhaps we ought to debate what taxes will be lowered (say PST or income taxes) if road tolls get introduced !
          Lack of leadership ? Quite the contrary !

    1. Myron, you are absolutely correct to point out the historic lack of federal commitment to transit it its own cities. Harper’s contributions compared to other cities and priorities are a joke. Paul Martin was the last PM to promote a serious Urban Agenda, but he was taken out by Jack Layton after a little more than a year. Harper has occupied the big chair ever since.
      Both the Liberals and NDP are promoting similar policies in this election campaign, with the main difference being the Liberals backing their promise with a significant budget forcast, and the NDP promising an Urban Affairs Ministry with a designated full cabinet minister, not a pipsqueak minister of state.
      Would that these two parties start talking now about their many policy agreements and how to implement them in a minority government that excludes Harper.

  6. Not helpful at all. It’s just letting the Province off the hook while diminishing the value of transit. How about demanding that the Province delay the $500 million widening of Highway 1 to Abbotsford or the Massey Bridge and instead investing in transit. The gloom
    and defeatism is not helping at all.

  7. Metro transit as uni-polar!
    Regrettable! There are other solutions but God forbid anyone should consider them!
    Far be for me to compare Metro’s transportation planning to the British new towns of the 1960’s: Harlow the first with Milton Keynes the ultimate failure.
    This blog elevates bikes and bike lanes as one objective transportation solution to Metro’s apparent gridlock: a fool’s paradise, indeed!
    Grotesque offshore real estate speculation, that no one dare call its name, is a massive factor.
    May I nevertheless mention, for one moment, the Milton Keynes dilemma?
    Milton Keynes . . .
    . . . was the last of the British new towns, “with the design brief to become a city in scale“: planned as a population safety valves close to but not an integral part of the county of Central London UK.
    The town boasts a massive central shopping plaza probably as an early planners vision of a self-contained independent city in its own right.
    Things didn’t turn out that way.
    Today the City of Milton Keynes is just another dormitory to an ever bulging Greater London!
    And with that in mind so too will Surrey, and it’s Centre, become another realtor’s dream dormitory to Vancouver.
    That is until planners, contributors to this blog, grow up and stop calling the referendum no side names and commence a mature planning discussion that Metro has, for all it existence, been denied!
    One solution, so far consistently avoided, is semi-self contained incremental villages. It worked well before off shore realtors went berserk as various Metro mayors purposely ignored (at the behest the problem!
    So far, yes regretably, Metro Vancouver is a one horse operation. Real estate speculation!

  8. I profoundly disagree with the Surrey first idea. If anything, both Vancouver and Surrey — in fact the entire Metro — needs to avoid fragmenting transit planning and implementation. They both have individual and differing needs and present two hugely different urban contexts. We need a federal-led equitable transit planning process backed by deep, long-term funding.
    Surrey may well add 300K in population in 30 years and become number one, but it will take them at least as long to build up their employment, business and institutional centres to equate to even half of Vancouver’s. Until then, it will remain a vast bedroom community compared to Vancouver’s light-years-ahead gravitational pull of Central Broadway and UBC employment centres and overall residential density, not to mention the massive existing transit demand that outstrips practically every other corridor in Canada.
    To promote funding Surrey over Vancouver (or Vancouver over Surrey, for that matter) in the absence of independent transit planning is playing into the hands of those who actively fragment and divide the Metro with things like a divisive funding plebiscites and continual manipulation of Metro government bodies like TransLink. Genuine transit planning would assess each city’s needs with a detached and neutral planning process that extends region-wide, then prioritize each project in accordance to need. My guess is that the Broadway Line would end up at the top of the list just because the density, job centres and insitutions (let alone its connectivity to the region) have already been built and have been functioning decade after decade without adequate transit service.

  9. Then of course there is the land use planning. If Vancouver is guilty of being weak-kneed over rezoning the large lot subdivisions that cover 70% of its private land base, then Surrey is a burnt, melted mashmallow. Other than a relatively small cluster of high density in Surrey Centre and a few hundred acres in multifamily, it still protects the massive 7,000-ft2 lots ringing the periphery, is loath to actualy create walkable towns and villages out of its malls encompassed by vast dull halos of asphalt on its arterials, and is still permeated with the conservative political and planning notion that the private sector must be imposed upon as lightly as possible to increase the quality of the public realm in its developments.
    The notion that light rail will foster human-scaled neighbourhoods with fewer cars is an ideal that is oft not realized except over very long periods of time (if at all, even with massive expenditures)) and after several regime changes at city hall. This ideal will collide bitterly with Surrey council and residents/voters who may find a change to more sustainable development with fewer cars hard to swallow until a new generation is able to grow up with it.
    Good luck with that.

    1. I don’t think you giving Surrey proper credit. They have made a lot of in-roads in other neighbourhoods like Cloverdale and greenfield sites like East Clayton. If anything, the land-use and density is there, but unfortunately transit within SoF as planned in the town concepts, is still lacking.
      Just ask Patrick Condon. He planned out East Clayton.

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