Tentative deal on Evergreen Line funding is good news for riders right across the region; signals major retreat by Victoria

Today’s announcement that Metro Mayors and Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom have a tentative agreement on funding for the Evergreen Line is good news for system riders.

The Moving Forward supplement that will be funded if the Mayor’s Council gives final approval for  the package in September will increase bus service right across the region. That includes crosstown routes in Vancouver and several station upgrades in this city, just to support the increased ridership expected from Evergreen.

New funding sources include a possible regional carbon tax,  a suggestion first floated by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

To get the deal, mayors had to promise a modest property tax increase in 2013 unless new sources of funding are agreed beforehand.

But Victoria retreated a long way from long-cherished positions to gain agreement on Evergreen:

  • Victoria will pay all of its $400 million share of the project cost plus the more than $200 million funding gap that remains in current contributions. Ottawa will pay $400 million and Translink’s share is capped at $400 million;
  • Victoria will increase the gas tax by two cents a litre, something the government had absolutely refused to consider until now;
  • new funding sources, including a possible vehicle levy and a regional increase in the carbon tax, will be considered for future investments like Surrey Rapid Bus and the Broadway Corridor; and
  • Kevin Falcon’s bizarre governance model, that sees an appointed board calling the shots while municipal councils pay the bills, will be subjected to an overdue review.

For Vancouver, construction of the Evergreen Line would clear the way for what could be the most productive investment in the region: rapid transit on the Broadway Corridor, where ridership today already exceeds the Millennium Line.