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Mayors’ Council approves Vancouver transit funding stabilization option

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The Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation in Vancouver, B.C., has approved a transportation plan ‘supplement' that will generate $130 million in new annual revenue, allowing TransLink to maintain road and transit operations at current levels. The decision will put further expansion of the transportation system on hold for the time being.

The additional
revenue will be generated in part by three cents per liter increase in fuel
taxes levied within Metro Vancouver (to 15¢/l) and a transit fare increase on
FareSaver tickets and monthly passes in 2010. TransLink will apply to the
Regional Transportation Commissioner for the price increase on FareSaver
tickets. There will be no increase in cash fares in 2010 and U-Pass rates are
set in contracts with participating colleges and universities.

"This $130-million
supplemental plan gives TransLink the means to meet the funding commitments for
the many projects and services we have initiated, planned and delivered over
the last few years," said Dale Parker, Chair of the TransLink Board of
Directors. "Most importantly, considering the financial challenges all
governments and organizations face today, this supplement allows us largely to
maintain services and programs for our customers throughout the region.

"TransLink’s public
consultation sessions earlier this year received the clear message that people
in Metro Vancouver want and expect expanded transportation services in order to
maintain the livability of the region, and that they’re willing to pay for it.
There is, however, continuing concern that there would be too much pressure on
TransLink’s current revenue sources to fund the scale of expansion needed
across the region, and the mayors reinforced the view today that new, sustainable
sources of revenue will be required to support future growth," Parker added.

Beginning in 2005,
Metro Vancouver saw some of the most significant transportation system growth
in its history to meet the needs of the rapidly growing region. The bus fleet
has been virtually turned over, 48 new SkyTrain cars are on the rails, the
Canada Line and Golden Ears Bridge have opened, a new SeaBus will go into
service and significant investment has been made in bicycle infrastructure and
pedestrian amenities to encourage alternatives to single-occupant vehicles.

Growing operating
costs as a result of this expansion would have eventually created a $150-million
annual budget deficit, exhausting TransLink’s financial reserves by 2012 and
prompting massive cut-backs, particularly in bus services.

The Council
decision, considered by most mayors to be an ‘interim’ measure will avoid those
service cuts. However, the Council has called on TransLink’s Board and staff to
develop a new transportation plan supplement within the next six to nine months
that will establish a framework to initiate system-wide expansion once again.

For their part,
Chair Parker and TransLink’s CEO Tom Prendergast committed to continuing with
aggressive cost controls and efficiency gains in order to completely resolve
the $150-million annual funding gap. The Authority has frozen the salaries of
management and exempt staff as well as expansion capital. No further hiring is
under way and the 2009 budget was reduced by $6 million. TransLink also ended
2008 with an $8.2-million surplus, $3.2 million better than expected.

Specific timing for the
transit fare and gas tax increases will be announced before the end of the
year.

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