In an article in today’s Vancouver Sun (“Seven mayors weigh in–The case for funding public transit”, October 4, 2011), seven regional mayors weighed in on the importance of public transit infrastructure to the Metro Vancouver region: Dianne Watts (Surrey), Peter Fassbender (Langley), Richard Walton (District of North Vancouver), Gregor Robertson (Vancouver), Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (West Vancouver), Greg Moore (Port Coquitlam), and Richard Stewart (Coquitlam). This Friday, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, made up of 22 elected officials from around the region, votes on TransLink’s Moving Forward Supplemental Plan. The proposal includes a 2 cent-per-litre gas tax that will require provincial approval, a new joint long-term funding proposal approved by the Mayor’s Council and the province, and a temporary property tax increase that will cost about $23 per household for 2013-2014. Transit improvements include the Evergreen Line construction, improvements to existing SkyTrain stations, and service improvements in Langley and Surrey. If the plan passes, Minister of Transportation Blair Lekstrom has said that he will introduce legislation this fall enabling the gas tax by April 2012.

The mayors cite increased traffic levels and the 19.6 percent jump in transit ridership from June 2010 to July 2011 (due to transportation mode shifts during the Olympics) as proof that the region is overdue for transit improvements. 2011-2012 is shaping up to be another record year. They also reflect on the vision of previous leaders, who in 1980 struggled with the concept of rapid transit lines but eventually decided in favour of them. Clearly, they see themselves in sync with the region’s early strides towards sustainability.

“We have had the debate. Now we must move from words to deeds. The decision we make on Friday will forge the path Greater Vancouver so badly needs. Passing the 2012 Supplemental Plan is the right decision for Metro Vancouver’s transportation system, economy, and future livability.” –Dianne Watts, Peter Fassbender, Richard Walton, Gregor Robertson, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Greg Moore, and Richard Stewart

However, the municipalities of Burnaby, Richmond, the City of North Vancouver, Delta, and Langley Township have said they will probably vote against the plan. This is surprising considering TransLink’s extensive public consultation during the creation of Moving Forward showed that 80% of those consulted agreed with the proposed improvements and 75% said the Evergreen Line was important in reaching the goals outlined in Transport 2040, the regional transportation strategy. It’s also surprising considering Burnaby and Richmond have both been big winners in terms of transit infrastructure: the three existing LRT lines have paid off for them. With municipal elections a mere five weeks away (November 16th), the stakes are high; yet the stakes for the region have never been higher.

Update: The Mayors’ Council voted to support the Moving Forward Plan with 70% support from its 22 members.

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