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Business, newly alive to the benefits of a good transit system, lobbies for a more rational approach to paying for it

September 19th, 2012 · 14 Comments

It seems as though I’ve spent the whole last year writing about how much business is loving transit these days.

Condo developers do for sure. They are seeing people flock to buy apartments near transit lines. Property development has exploded around the Canada Line.

Office-building owners are starting to love it more too. Lease rates are higher, vacancy rates are lower near transit lines.

But the almost comical series of funding fights and disasters has them worried, to the point where they’re trying to lobby Victoria, setting up groups to work out solutions, and not just sitting back hoping it will all work out.

My full story is here and below.




Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2012 11:47PM EDT

Last updated Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2012 11:49PM EDT

Alarmed by the increasingly shambolic state of transit financing in the Lower Mainland, local business groups are quietly launching special lobbying efforts and task forces to try to find a more coherent approach.

Developers have come to embrace transit lines as they have seen that those lines are creating property booms and sold-out condo projects wherever they go.

And businesses involved in trucking and distribution now view transit as a much-needed complement to the road system.

What they’re seeing, with dismay, is the provincial government and local mayors at a stalemate when it comes to creating a well-funded, logically planned system that keeps up with a rapidly growing region.

TransLink’s announcement of its proposed 2013 plan Monday, which is little more than maintenance of the existing system, was further evidence of that.

“It just seems to be going around and around with no solutions,” said Anne McMullin, chief executive officer of the Urban Development Institute, which represents the region’s major condo and commercial developers. “But it’s access to transit that makes people looking at our products want to buy.”

Her group has begun visiting Victoria to lobby for a more logical approach to transit funding.

Bob Wilds, the man who spearheaded a lobby group that persuaded the province to invest $4-billion in roads and bridges for the Gateway Project, is now turning his attention to transit.

“I think there is a fair amount of interest and concern in the business community,” said Mr. Wilds, managing director of the Greater Vancouver Gateway Project. “If we’re going to be a gateway, we need a rational distribution of the money. And transit will be a benefit to everyone because it will reduce congestion.”

But the people he works with are concerned about the mounting costs for road users.

“We’ve got the highest fuel taxes in the country. And we’re now implementing tolls on an ad hoc basis.”

Along with the two business groups, transit advocate Gordon Price said that a new coalition called Get on Board was just launched Tuesday, bringing together residents, businesses and academics to lobby for better transit funding.

As Monday’s TransLink announcement made clear, the agency is barely able to pay for the existing system and minimal improvements for the foreseeable future. Although Surrey and Vancouver both have ambitious rapid-transit plans – the Broadway line SkyTrain extension in Vancouver, and three light-rail lines in Surrey – there’s not a clue at the moment about how TransLink might pay for them.

The agency has been brought to its financial knees in the past year as fuel-tax revenues plummeted, the province refused to allow new funding mechanisms, the mayors refused to raise property taxes and the transportation commissioner turned down an application for a fare increase above a certain cap.

None of the business groups claim to have found a solution yet, but they’re working on it.

In August, Mr. Wilds organized the first of what he said will be a series of meetings for business people among his members to try to work out options for a better system.

“It’s a very complex issue. But there has to be a better way for road users to pay their fair share, for residents to pay their fair share.”

The question is, will anyone in the provincial government be willing to listen?

The region’s chambers of commerce and boards of trade lobbied the province hard two years ago to improve the transit-financing mechanism.

They did not get much of a response, say several of those involved, with various provincial representatives saying it is up to TransLink and mayors to solve the problem, not the province.

“We do get the response from them, ‘It’s a local body. There’s no solution. There’s no money,’” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • boohoo

    “If we’re going to be a gateway, we need a rational distribution of the money. And transit will be a benefit to everyone because it will reduce congestion.”

    Says the managing director of the Gateway program? Is he bloody serious??? Tell me that’s a joke…please.

    As for the issue, the Province is washing its hands of the it….the very problem it created.

    We have got to get rid of these idiots now.

  • I have to say, this gives me hope. If there’s one group I can count the Liberals to listen to, its big business.

  • Make you yearn for the good ol’ days of developer-built transit. Now we get lobbying to ensure taxpayers keep their margins up.

    The year is 1922, and Mr. Campbell is house shopping. … “Well then, sir, how do I know I can get downtown to my job from here dependably?” asks Mr. Campbell. The salesman smiles and says, “Because we own the streetcar line, of course! Naturally, we had to put the streetcar in before we built the houses, and a pretty penny it cost too. But nobody will buy a house they can’t get to, will they?

  • rf

    Maybe some coverage on Bob Rennie falsely claiming to have ‘sold out’ the Marine Gateway project is warranted?

    Transit shmanshit.

    When they raid the whorehouse, they take all the girls……and the piano player too.

  • Mira

    LMAO boohoo #1
    You are so right!
    This comment “If we’re going to be a gateway, we need a rational distribution of the money. And transit will be a benefit to everyone because it will reduce congestion.” by Mr. Wilds, managing director of the Greater Vancouver Gateway Project. could easily qualify… for the stupidest comment EVER!

  • Higgins

    OFF TOPIC … but I just came across this lovely announcement:
    “Vancouver condos and apartments face mandatory food scrap recycling”
    The word “mandatory” would have been better introduced with the newly Green adopted Communist phrase “We know what’s best for you!”
    Thanks Mr. Judd. You managed to become a perfect Vision puppet by saying this:

    “Yes, people will have to participate and, yes, ultimately there will be penalties if they don’t,” Judd told the Courier.
    How lovely.
    You read it here first:

    Anybody in the blogosphere has any doubts on where is this city going, policy wise?

  • waltyss

    @Higgins “Communist?” Really? Requiring certain to happen is hardly communist and only displays your complete ignorance and does a disservice to those who lived in Communist regimes. Despite your extremist right wing wetdreams, this policy is no more “Communist” than lawn sprinkling regulations.
    Great, we know you don’t like the new requirement and you are cergtainly entitled to it. But cut the stupid and remarkably ignorant analogies.

  • Dan Cooper

    neil21 proposes, “Make you yearn for the good ol’ days of developer-built transit.”

    Well, maybe and maybe not. If ALL you want to do is go from your home to your job downtown and back again, then having a single tram line built from your development to the centre will do it. However, if you also want to go to the mall, your child’s school, UBC, the stadium, or anywhere other than your job downtown…and you don’t want to have to ride into the centre on YOUR line and then pay another fare to a different company to take THEIR line way back out to wherever you’re going, then a unified system is what you need. This is a large part of why metro areas (or cities) have generally taken over/consolidated all those different companies (and different modes such as ferries, trains, buses) under a single management – whether it is run by government or some kind of corporation.

  • gman

    Higgins #6
    Lets see now,we have one party rule,we have unelected bureaucrats making policy without consultation of the public,when they do have a public meeting they use the Delphi Technique creating false choice in order to claim a consensus,they pick winners and losers depending on compliance with their agenda.Yep,communist,marxist or collectivist pretty well describes it.Its all the same crap just a different pile.I think you pretty well nailed it.

  • MB

    @ gman, thank you for illuminating the reign of George W. Bush.

    But we’re talking about the responsibility of those well-know pinkos in the elected BC and federal governments, the former being responsible for TransLink.

  • waltyss

    @ MB, you don’t understand do you. When one party rule without reference to the public is practised by the Campbell or Clark Liberals or Harper Conservatives it is sound business policy. However when the NDP get in or a left of centre party gets in with a large majority at City Hall, then it is Communist, marxist, collectivist whether it be sprinkling regulations, mandatory recycling. You name it.
    I can agree with you on this gman, that your post is just Higgins’ pile of crap moved from #6 to #9.

  • gman

    I forgot to post a link to one of these meetings in the Bay Area I thought you might get a kick out of it.

  • gman

    AHHHH,MB and Witless that didnt take long.Must suck being angry all the time.Because your silly enough to fall for this phony left right paradigm you assume wrongly that I have some party affiliation,now that is funny.After you finish wiping the spittle of you screen you might like to sing along with this little ditty LOL.!

  • gman

    Yikes,should say “off your screen” don’t want the party faithful to get angry again.