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Latest round in confusing TransLink-province tussle: Decision has to be made re Surrey/Vancouver priorities

February 17th, 2014 · 5 Comments

Anyone who thinks the mainstream media is dead should have been at the scrum with Transportation Minister Todd Stone and TransLink mayors’ council chair Richard Walton Friday, where there was a multiplicity of cameras, recorders, and reporters.

And, since the talks that had just happened between the minister and council were fairly inconclusive, everyone was looking for some kind of new news out of the meeting.

I emphasized the fact that mayors, not TransLink, are now going to have to decide whether Surrey or Vancouver gets priority for a big new rapid-transit investment. Jeff Nagel, who has covered this issue like a blanket, went with a lead that suggested the mayors could decide to hold a referendum just on a new vehicle levy in order to pay for a big increase for the bus system.

What was obvious in the scrum was that the minister was trying to set a more conciliatory tone — yes, the mayors know what they want for the region. No, it does none of us any good to be squabbling about all this. The transit rider sitting at the bus stop doesn’t care who pays for it. (I guess that’s what their focus groups and angry emails were telling them, after the province seemed to go on the attack against the mayors a couple of weeks ago, complete with planted calls to talk shows about how the mayors never mention that Vancouver got exempted from the hospital tax to pay for transit 14 years ago.)

On the other hand, what also seems to be obvious is that the province is still stuck in a mentality of fighting to make sure it retains all the money it can from its bridge tolls etc. That’s why Stone, in his letter to the mayors Feb. 6, made it clear the province would not go along with any kind of regional road-pricing scheme in the referendum, since that might impact the revenues the province gets from the Port Mann Bridge and any future tolled bridges.

Too bad. If the province wanted to find a regional solution for road pricing, I’m sure a roomful of highly paid accountants could figure out a way to institute such a system and then divide up the revenue between the province and TransLink. But the province seems to be more desperate to protect its turf than work out a complex but perhaps, in the end, much more equitable and long-term solution like that.

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