New West pleads with premier to nix transportation referendum

New Westminster is calling on Premier Christy Clark to quash a referendum on regional transportation.
On Aug. 25,, council approved a motion to ask the premier to reconsider the position of seeking a referendum and to work toward developing the necessary legislation to fund the 10-year investment plan and 30-year transportation vision developed by the Mayors’ Council on regional transportation.
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, who proposed the motion, fears the 30-year transportation vision developed by the Mayors’ Council will be at risk if it’s put to a referendum.
“I worry that a really powerful lobby in a referendum will set us back decades in our transportation planning if the premier goes ahead with the referendum,” he said. “We are pleading, with this resolution, for the premier to reconsider.”
Puchmayr said the city hopes the premier will put her energy toward finding a way to implement the vision.
“Sitting down with the different mayors and coming to an agreement and coming to a compromise on the transportation infrastructure and the needs of the region, I think, showed incredible leadership,” Puchmayr said of work done by the Mayors’ Council. “It showed an incredible compromise and sacrifice.”
In June, the Mayors’ Council presented Transportation Minister Todd Stone with its 30-year transportation vision and 10-year investment plan, a plan the province had requested so a referendum could be held regarding funding of transit in the region.
The 30-year vision includes a tolled four-lane Pattullo Bridge, light rail transit lines in Surrey, an extension of the Millennium Line along the Broadway corridor to Arbutus, a 25 per cent increase in bus service, maintenance and upgrades to the 2,300 kilometres of the region’s major road network to keep vehicles and goods moving, and expansions to SeaBus service, HandyDart service, West Coast Express and existing SkyTrain lines.
To fund the additional $400 million required annually by year 12 of the plan, the Mayors’ Council has proposed six revenue sources: a reallocation of the transportation-related carbon tax, which is  now collected by the province; a new regional carbon tax; a toll on the Pattullo Bridge when it is replaced;  an average two per cent annual transit fare increase;  mobility pricing, including distance-based road charges; and land value capture – a mechanism that allows TransLink to retain a portion of increased land values related to transportation investments.
While the region needs a “reasonable and decent” transportation system, Puchmayr fears it could be jeopardized by organizations with vested interests that differ from municipalities.“They are not going to be in favour of tax increases, they are not going to be in favour of increased fares, they are not going to be in favour of all the different kinds of revenue generators that are absolutely necessary,” agreed Coun. Bill Harper. “It’s really the responsibility of the provincial government, I think, to step up to the plate and work with GVRD/Metro Vancouver and create a financial plan that they both can share in the development of that plan and implementation of that plan with things like the Pattullo Bridge.”Despite their own communities’ needs and issues, Harper said all but one Metro Vancouver mayor supported the 30-year transportation plan. Harper said it’s a “good, solid plan” that provides benefits to all of the municipalities.

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“What we are saying to the premier is the referendum is not the key issue here – it is the plan,” he said. “We don’t think there is a need  for a referendum at this particular time.”

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