SURREY, B.C. –Metro Vancouver mayors have launched a campaign aimed at putting transit at the centre of the upcoming election in British Columbia.
Members of the Mayors’ Council on transit held a news conference outside a Surrey SkyTrain station on Wednesday, calling on the next B.C. government to invest more in transportation around Metro Vancouver.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says the group appreciates recent federal and provincial investments of $4.4 billion, but wants funding for its entire 10-year plan for transit improvements.
Those projects would range from HandyDART and other bus service improvements to upgrades for aging SkyTrain stations and a commitment to the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge between Surrey and New Westminster.
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote pegs the bridge replacement at more than $1 billion, with tolls covering half the cost, but he says the project would still be short by at least half a billion dollars.
The Mayors’ Council is launching a website to raise the profile of transportation issues across Metro Vancouver and the campaign intends to identify the transit priorities of B.C.’s major political parties.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner believes the initiative could form a blueprint after the general election on May 9.
“Today is all about talking around where can the next provincial government help us in achieving our goals in the entirety of the (10-year) plan,” she says.
Peter Fassbender, the minister responsible for TransLink, notes his government already stepped up to match the 40 per cent funding of the federal government, but says there’s always more it could do
He says the government will continue to work with the mayors, adding that he’s still waiting to hear how the council plans to pay the remaining 20 per cent of its share for transit improvements.
Fassbender doesn’t feel pressured by the council, saying the mayors are simply making their case to the public during an election campaign.
“I know what we’ve already accomplished when I think of the billions of dollars we’ve already invested in the Evergreen Line, the (transit) expansions, the new seabus, the additional bus hours, all of which were part of phase 1.”
While the $4.4 billion from the federal and provincial governments has been committed over 10 years, Fassbender says funding for the entire decade-long transit plan is difficult.
“The reality is we do have election cycles, so does the federal government. If a new government was to come in with a different philosophy, they are in a position –unless there are signed contracts –to make changes.”
Fassbender says the government remains committed to continuing to invest in transportation across the entire province.