Posts Tagged ‘Pattullo bridge’

Greenville SC Southern Connector toller files for bankruptcy

July 12, 2010

From Toll Road News

Greenville SC Southern Connector toller files for bankruptcy

Connector 2000 Association developer and operator of the Greenville Southern Connector tollroad filed for bankruptcy today in US Bankuptcy Court in nearby Spartanburg, South Carolina. The filing done under chapter 9 of the US Bankruptcy code that handles broke government entities has been expected for some time.

The Association defaulted on debt service in January.

Moves in the state legislature to bail out the lenders went nowhere.

Revenues from the Southern Connector are not sufficient to service the debt, the Connector 2000 Association toiler says in its US Court filing because actual traffic and revenues are “substantially less than projected.”

“The debtor is insolvent” their lawyers say bluntly in the Ch 9 filing.  $500m was borrowed. Equity was zero of course because the 6320 form allows no equity.

Court papers note Wilbur Smith Associates projected 21k/day in the opening year but fewer than 7.5k showed up. (pro-rated for 10 months we put the number at 8.7k – editor)

Traffic has remained between a third and a half of that forecast by WSA when the association launched the tollroad project in this small South Carolina town in the late 1990s.

Revenue has been even lower and is now under a third of WSA $s.

No purpose

The highway on the southern/southwestern fringe of the city only made sense as an access and development road. The road is too indirect to provide any time savings for long-distance traffic which has stuck to the free interstates. To provide an alternate to I-85 it needed to cross the Saluda River in its western portion to provide a much straighter shot easterly for traffic from Atlanta. It was designed however as an access road to local commercial developments – most of which never happened.

A semi-belt route, 2×2 lanes and 16 miles, 26km long the Southern Connector tollroad gained interstate designation I-185 – totally unwarranted.

Tolls for 2-axle vehicles are $1.00 cash, 75c transponder and 50c at the ramp plazas which are unattended. Tractor trailers pay $3.00/$2.25 sat the mainline plazas and 50c at the ramps.

Trouble is for most trips through the Greenville area the main drag untolled I-85 remains much more direct and quicker. And even for east-west trips traversing the Greenville area to points south  the old I-85/I-385 combination was quicker than transiting I-185. It swings too far out.

The pike failed also because it was conceived as catering to continued development of Greenville as a light industrial and warehousing hub on the Atlanta-Charlotte corridor in the mid-1990s, just when that particular bubble was bursting. Most of the land on either side of the Connector remains undeveloped.

Revenues are running at barely $5.5m/yr and toll transactions 12.5k/day. Tolls are taken at two mainline and two pairs of ramp toll plazas along the road so vehicles on the road are substantially less than the transaction number. The mainline plazas have two lanes of open road electronic tolling and two or three cash lanes alongside each direction – state of the art for the time.

The last annual financial report available is for 2008.


The road opened Feb 27, 2001. First tolls were collected March 13, 2001.  It continues in operation using toll revenues to pay for operational expenses. Traffic at 12k or so vehicles/day would barely justify a 2-lane signalized road, let alone a 4-lane expressway.

No equity investment is involved since this was one of a bunch of not-for-profits that were all the rage as “innovative finance” in the 1990s. They got a special tax advantage and were called 6320s after the tax exemption clause that treated them as a kind of charity.

No-skin-in-the-game ventures encouraged by US tax code

All these unsound no-skin-in-the-game ventures have now crashed.

They were championed by a former federal highway administrator Bob Faris, a former VDOT commissioner Jim Atwell and other prominent officials who came to believe their own salesmanship. ARTBA the DC lobby group were cheerleaders.

And they were eagerly embraced by a road development crew – a motley crew of consultants, engineering firms, financiers and construction firms – who made their money in the development, design and construction and had no interest in the viability of the roads as ongoing businesses.

The Greenville Southern Connector was ill-conceived as an interstate standard expressway. Designers, engineers, lawyers, consultants and construction companies made their money in the development and construction and left the resulting mess to Connector 2000 Association a phony public-private entity without any real owners. So much for “innovative finance” as touted by ARTBA and other DC lobby groups.

Lehman Bros NY which collapsed in Sept 2008 was the principal promoter of Southern Connector bonds.




And Now: The Green With Envy Award – Washington to get $590 million for high-speed rail improvements

January 29, 2010

In BC and Canada, there is little money for railways to improve passenger service, yet there are billions of dollars for new highways and bridges. The sad fact is, in BC and Canada new highways and bridges win votes, while the railways are considered a ‘yesterdays’ transit mode. Just $500 million would buy us a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban.

Washington to get $590 million for high-speed rail improvements

By Mike Lindblom

The Seattle Times

The federal government will spend $590 million in stimulus money to improve rail travel times from Blaine to Portland.

The money represents the Northwest’s piece of an $8 billion stimulus package for high-speed rail, to be announced Thursday in Florida by President Obama.

Only two-thirds of passenger trains run on time on the 3 ½-hour trip between Seattle and Portland, and the state is trying to boost that number to 90 percent. A series of small projects throughout Western Washington — some but not all of which the stimulus money would pay for — would save an estimated 833 hours of delays annually, according to the state. Ridership peaked in 2008 with 775,000 riders.

“Anybody who travels the I-5 corridor in our state knows that we need to find new, efficient options to get commuters and commerce moving. And anybody interested in boosting our state’s economy knows that now is a great time to take action,” said a statement from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, has talked at least four times with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about funding the Pacific Northwest Cascades corridor — stressing that rail could reduce congestion on nearby Interstate 5, a spokesman for the senator said Wednesday.

Thirteen high-speed-rail lines serving 31 states will receive money, including $8 million for Oregon to improve trackways and Portland’s Union Station.

Five round-trip Amtrak trains run between Seattle and Portland each day. Only two go between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., so buses fill out the route. Delays caused by freight-train traffic, and various accidents or obstructions, are common.

Washington state had sought $1.3 billion to fund 26 rail projects from border to border, to prepare for eventually running eight round-trip trains to Oregon. Several projects already include at least partial funding from state tax increases in the 2000s.

The federal stimulus money is devoted mainly to corridors of 100 to 600 miles, in hopes the trains become fast enough to substitute for airplane and car travel.

In the Cascades corridor from Blaine to Eugene, the long-term goal is speeds in the 90 mph to 120 mph range, said the administration’s national rail plan, published last year.

Years ago, Washington and Oregon purchased Talgo trains capable of 125 mph, because of advanced suspension systems that lean into curves. But they are constrained to 79 mph because of congestion, street crossings and flaws in the trackways.

Examples of the many proposed high-speed upgrades include:

• Blaine: a siding track where freight trains can be inspected at the Canadian border without blocking passenger trains.

• Blaine to Everett: reconstruction of tracks, ties and ballast to improve ride quality.

• Seattle King Street Station: seismic retrofits.

• Tacoma: new and upgraded trackways through the city, so Amtrak trains can head directly south instead of looping around Point Defiance. (This will seem like a drawback to many Amtrak riders who love the Puget Sound views and passage beneath the Narrows bridges, but the new Tacoma route also would shave six minutes from the trip and allow a Sounder commuter-train extension to Lakewood.)

• Kelso: a new siding track where grain trains entering the nearby Port of Kalama can wait without obstructing the mainline.

• Vancouver, Wash.: bypass tracks to avoid a large freight yard, moving passenger trains through 2 ½ times faster.

The $8 billion in federal spending is only a fraction of last year’s $787 billion stimulus plan, and several regions have rail desires that far exceed the stimulus money.

For instance, California voters in 2008 approved $10 billion in bonds toward a $45 billion bullet train from the Bay Area and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego, to be a public-private partnership. This week’s award adds $2.25 billion, leaving a huge gap. California had asked for twice that much stimulus, arguing that its project is the only one aspiring to world-class, 220 mph train speeds.

Florida is getting $1.3 billion to start a line between Tampa and Orlando that is supposed to reach 168 mph, a White House project list says.

The administration will add $1 billion for each of the next five years, calling that money “a down payment to jump start the program,” said a statement, which notes that the interstate highway system took four decades to complete.

From the Georgia Straight – Transportation activists mobilize to thwart South Fraser Perimeter Road and Broadway SkyTrain

January 14, 2010

Athens tram - note simple on-street construction

Charlie Smith has another good article in the Georgia Straight about transit and transportation in the region and of course the comments are well worth a read.

Please attend the meetings.

The January 16 meeting will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Sundance Banquet Hall (6574 Ladner Trunk Road). It’s served by the C76 and C87 buses.

January 18, TransLink is hosting a stakeholder meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. on a proposed rapid-transit line to UBC. It will take place at the Plaza 500 Hotel at 500 West 12th Avenue.

From the Surrey Leader – Rapid transit extensions frozen under TransLink budget

December 22, 2009

It seems TransLink’s bureaucrats think that the METRO region taxpayer has very deep pockets; while I have a news flash for TransLink, they don’t. To save money, more and more of the region’s car drivers are filling up with gas South of the 49th, encouraging the business of US gas stations. One can save $0.25 to $0.30 a litre for gas in Blaine and when people travel South to buy gas, they also buy groceries, etc., thus increasing much needed savings from tight budgets.

Zweisystem predicted many years ago that TransLink’s insatiable need for tax monies will force consumers to shop elsewhere, yet the regional politicians remain oblivious as they OK more and more TransLink expenditures on ill preforming transit measures. What we see with TransLink is an extremely expensive bureaucracy who can not seem to grasp the basics of operating a transit system, instead insist on building vast ‘Ivory Towers’ to shuffle paper in. What is worse, civic, provincial, and federal politicians are woefully ignorant on the issue of public transit and fully believe that the more one spends on public transit, the better it will be.

We can’t spend ourselves out of TransLink’s current financial debacle, yet this message is lost.

Again, Zweisystem repeats the key for success for 21st century public transit: “To be successful, public transit must be seen as a product and if the product is good, people will buy the product. But if the product is poor, people will reject the product and the product fails.” Sorry to say that most people in the region give TransLink very poor marks and will take the car where possible. Raising taxes and increasing fares doesn’t improve transit, rather it just keeps the current transit system doing the same thing it has always done, plan for more metro lines and hope for different results in the future.

The message for Rail For The Valley is clear, to get a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban service in operation, we must either avoid TransLink altogether or better yet, get rid of it and start anew.

Rapid transit extensions frozen under TransLink budget

By Jeff Nagel

TransLink will extract an extra $146 million from transit users and taxpayers in 2010, but don’t expect to see service expand as a result.

The 2010 budget calls for more belt-tightening at the transportation authority and advances no major spending towards the long-promised Evergreen Line to Port Moody and Coquitlam, nor for other rapid transit expansion in Surrey or along Broadway in Vancouver.

The more than $1.2-billion budget is in line with the 10-year plan approved by Metro Vancouver mayors in October, along with fare and tax hikes to avert huge deficits in future years.

“We’ve avoided service cut backs that would have been a real blow to Metro Vancouver’s sustainability and quality of life,” TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said.

TransLink and the mayors intend to seek new revenue sources from the province for expansion.

“Our challenge is to build consensus around how we can make the road and transit investments needed to support our region’s growth,” Jarvis said.

TransLink is to collect $673 million in taxes next year – $100 million more than in 2009 – due to rising property tax, fuel tax and parking sales tax rates.

Motorists will pay three cents a litre more to TransLink when they gas up, and three times as much in sales tax on pay parking lots.

Transit fare revenue is also forecast to climb 11 per cent to $423 million as TransLink raises prepaid fares in April and adds a surcharge to take the Canada Line to the airport. The projection also counts on a 7.4 per cent increase in ridership.

Golden Ears Bridge tolls are forecast to generate $29 million in the first full year of operation, but more than that will be paid out to the firm that built and operates the new bridge.

Despite the increased funding, TransLink still expects to draw down its reserves by $79 million in 2010.

That’s because almost half the new money coming in will go to rising debt costs to pay for TransLink’s latest megaprojects.

Between the Canada Line, Golden Ears Bridge and the purchase of 48 new SkyTrain cars, TransLink’s annual debt repayments rise from $183 million in 2009 to $251 million next year.

The Olympics are the main challenge ahead for TransLink as the transit system ramps up handle up to a million passengers a day.

But some of the improved service won’t last long.

A just-launched third SeaBus will increase sailing frequency to every 10 minutes, but service will be cut back to two vessels once the Games end.

“That third one is in service because Vanoc is paying for it,” TransLink spokesperson Judy Rudin said.

West Coast Express service will also nearly triple during the Games, but be largely unwound afterwards.

Overall, Rudin said transit service in 2010 will be maintained at 2009 levels.

The Transit Police budget is to be frozen at $28 million.

And TransLink administration costs are being cut 18 per cent, with 23 staff positions to be eliminated.

Money will be spent on road work, with $10 million earmarked for the widening of the Fraser Highway in Surrey and Langley, $6 million for the Coast Meridian overpass in Port Coquitlam and $9.1 million to help build overpasses over the Roberts Bank rail corridor through Delta, Surrey and Langley.

Also on the to-do list is finding a buyer for TransLink’s two decommissioned Albion ferries, which stopped running when the Golden Ears Bridge opened.


December 20, 2009

From the Zweisystem and the rest of the Rail For The Valley Gang

A very merry Christmas and a very happy and safe New Year!

A Darmstadt tram plowing through a snow storm.

Global Warming, Copenhagen, & Light Rail – The Solution That Is Ignored

December 17, 2009

When one looks past the European street theater of riots, the embarrassment of Canada, the intransigence of the USA, China and Russia, what will Copenhagen climate conference accomplish? Probably very little. The world is not ready for global warming and if a few island nations submerge due to rising sea levels, no one will really care.

Much of CO2 contributing to global warming is coming from burning fossil fuels and much of it comes from gas and diesel motors, yet no one seems to think reducing auto and truck use should be a top priority. Premier Campbell points to the newly completed RAV/Canada Line as an example of taking 200,000 car trips off the road per day, but can’t show any believable statistic to support his claim as the RAV Line has yet to show that a modal shift, from car to transit,  has taken place.

Unlike the new Karlsruhe tramtrain service which saw an over 423% increase in ridership in a few short weeks, RAV’s new ridership seems to be elderly Asians from Vancouver shopping in Richmond and older gamblers going to the River Rock Casino to be relieved of their savings; there is absolutely no evidence of the all important modal shift from car to transit. Have we spent almost $3 billion to attract people to malls and casinos?

The SkyTrain light-metro system is force-fed 80% of its riders from the bus system and in almost twenty-five years of operation, BC Transit and now TransLink have never claimed any modal shift from car to transit. This is dismal news, as the taxpayer has now invested over $8 billion in a light-metro system that has failed to attract the motorist from the car. Regional transit planners, abetted by politicians, seem to be doing the same thing over and over again, without achieving a different outcome.

Rapid transit does not reduce congestion or pollution.

It is an ongoing myth that rapid transit reduces traffic congestion and pollution and the cliché’ “Build it and they will come”, is now used to masquerade poorly implemented transit schemes, like Seattle’s Link Light Rail. What does reduce auto congestion and pollution, is a transit system that is designed to suit the needs of customers and what customers want is a ‘seamless’ of no transfer journey from home to destination. Modern light-rail, being much cheaper to build, is better able to achieve the all important seamless journey than much more expensive metro and light-metro. Modern LRT can provide the rail network that can achieve the all important modal shift from car to transit, yet it is largely ignored.

Even though the SkyTrain light-metro system carries a large volumes of customers every day, most (over 80%) are bus passengers forced onto the metro not former car drivers. This certainly makes for impressive ridership numbers and bureaucrats can pat themselves on the back, but in reality, SkyTrain has achieved very little because it hasn’t provided the transit network that will attract the all important motorists. The SkyTrain lobby, of course, continues the myth that the light-metro has reduced congestion and pollution, but ignores that SkyTrain’s ridership has just kept pace with population growth. Too expensive to extend (Langley is said to get SkyTrain by 2030), SkyTrain continues to constrain both public transit policy and public transit development.

With the spectre of ‘Peak Oil’ and ‘Global Warming’ looming, the METRO region will find it difficult to cope with increasing public transit demand and will be forced, kicking and screaming,  to consider much cheaper LRT; in fact, in a few short years the SkyTrain light-metro system will be seen as a combined curse of dated technology and operational philosophy. 

Vancouver and the Fraser Valley needs 300 km to 400 km of ‘rail‘ transit to provide the transportation network that will attract the motorist from the car, thus creating the all important modal shift. The question is do we build with modern LRT, with costs as low as $4 million to $7 million (track sharing) or SkyTrain with starting costs now well over $100 million km. By building with LRT, the region could create a large, user friendly transit network that would go a long way in achieving the all important modal shift. Continuing our present course of only planning for light metro will create financial chaos resulting in a very expensive, disjointed and very user unfriendly transit system.

One has little hope for any successful outcome from the Copenhagen conference and very few people in the METRO region have the foresight to provide the real solutions to mitigate a looming environmental catastrophe. Building modern LRT and creating a large light rail network would go a long way in reducing both auto congestion and CO2 pollution which, strangely, is something local environmental groups seem afraid in endorsing, as they prefer to jet about pretending they are achieving something.

Sadly in BC, it is business as usual, with planning continues for very expensive, politically prestigious light metro built on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain them and building highways, in transit starved areas to cater to the auto.

21st century transit planning has never seemed so far away.

Post number 300 and many more to come.

November 17, 2009

This post marks the 300th posting on the Rail for the Valley Blog and congratulations to (now) Dr. John Buker for all his efforts with the valley rail project. When John asked me to post for the RFV blog, I don’t think he expected such a “stormy petrel“. I have tried hard to keep the blog current on rail projects around the globe, as well, inform local enthusiasts of the history and application of modern public transit.

The Seattle’s monorail versus LRT debate – Same story, different players!”   remains the number one post, with “The SkyTrain lobby – “Pixie Dust planning””  and  “Is LRT becoming the new Light-Metro?”  second and third respectively. The large daily viewing of Seattle’s monorail scheme, certainly shows we has as many readers South of the boarder as we do here.

Our readers responses to the various posts are informative and very welcome.

The RFV blog is just not a local blog, but we also have many international readers and not just in the USA, but in the UK, Finland, Russia, and elsewhere, which continues my task to keep postings interesting.

There is going to be some changes in the New Year, with more posts from guest contributers, to give a different opinion on transportation in the region. As well, the new year will bring some very interesting events, which will make Rail For The Valley front and centre for the Return of the Interurban debate in the Fraser Valley. 2010 will be a good year for valley transportation.

From the Gaurdian UK – Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower

November 11, 2009

Some sobering news from the U.K. If the article is true, then Campbell’s gamble on Gateway and the new Port Mann Bridge will be a colossal mistake; again the same is true of the RAV/Canada Line and the yet to be built Evergreen SkyTrain Line, which are far too expensive to expand to meet demand.

If ‘Peak’ oil happens much sooner than anticipated, we (the taxpayer) will not be able to afford the ‘rail’ network needed to provide a regional transportation alternative to the car. Earlier, I predicted that the region needs 300 km. of ‘rail’ transit to make public transit an attractive alternative, yet if oil supplies dry up, we well may need 400 km. or 500 km. of rail transit to be able to keep the region mobile.

So, again the hoary old question is asked of regional and provincial politicians; “Do we continue to build $125 million/km. or more, SkyTrain light-metro or switch to modern light-rail with construction costs starting under $10 million/km. (TramTrain)?

The lower mainland will have hundreds of kilometers of deluxe highways that the average resident will not be able to afford to use and a very expensive, yet pygmy metro network, that is just too expensive to extend.

Will this be the lasting legacy of the  BC Liberal party, their costly mantra of metro and highway construction?

UK – Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower

Watchdog’s estimates of reserves inflated says top official


  • Terry Macalister
  •, Monday 9 November 2009 21.30 GMT

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.

Now the “peak oil” theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. “The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year,” said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. “The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.

“Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources,” he added.

A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was “imperative not to anger the Americans” but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. “We have [already] entered the ‘peak oil’ zone. I think that the situation is really bad,” he added.

The IEA acknowledges the importance of its own figures, boasting on its website: “The IEA governments and industry from all across the globe have come to rely on the World Energy Outlook to provide a consistent basis on which they can formulate policies and design business plans.”

The British government, among others, always uses the IEA statistics rather than any of its own to argue that there is little threat to long-term oil supplies.

The IEA said tonight that peak oil critics had often wrongly questioned the accuracy of its figures. A spokesman said it was unable to comment ahead of the 2009 report being released tomorrow.

John Hemming, the MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on peak oil and gas, said the revelations confirmed his suspicions that the IEA underplayed how quickly the world was running out and this had profound implications for British government energy policy.

He said he had also been contacted by some IEA officials unhappy with its lack of independent scepticism over predictions. “Reliance on IEA reports has been used to justify claims that oil and gas supplies will not peak before 2030. It is clear now that this will not be the case and the IEA figures cannot be relied on,” said Hemming.

“This all gives an importance to the Copenhagen [climate change] talks and an urgent need for the UK to move faster towards a more sustainable [lower carbon] economy if it is to avoid severe economic dislocation,” he added.

The IEA was established in 1974 after the oil crisis in an attempt to try to safeguard energy supplies to the west. The World Energy Outlook is produced annually under the control of the IEA’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, who has defended the projections from earlier outside attack. Peak oil critics have often questioned the IEA figures.

But now IEA sources who have contacted the Guardian say that Birol has increasingly been facing questions about the figures inside the organisation.

Matt Simmons, a respected oil industry expert, has long questioned the decline rates and oil statistics provided by Saudi Arabia on its own fields. He has raised questions about whether peak oil is much closer than many have accepted.

A report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) last month said worldwide production of conventionally extracted oil could “peak” and go into terminal decline before 2020 – but that the government was not facing up to the risk. Steve Sorrell, chief author of the report, said forecasts suggesting oil production will not peak before 2030 were “at best optimistic and at worst implausible”.

But as far back as 2004 there have been people making similar warnings. Colin Campbell, a former executive with Total of France told a conference: “If the real [oil reserve] figures were to come out there would be panic on the stock markets … in the end that would suit no one.”

From the Vancouver Sun – Metro Vancouver mayors vote for an extra $130-million for TransLink. As Barnum Observed, There Is a Sucker Born Every Minute.

October 23, 2009

Metro mayors caved in to TransLink’s slick propaganda campaign, to bad because TransLink and the provincial government will forever treat municipal politicians as mindless patsies. It was time to draw a line in the sand, but regional politicians just didn’t have the stomach for it and continue to be just tax and spend politicians who don’t care about the future.

It was time to say just NO and let the chip fall where they may! The problem with TransLink isn’t money, it is an ineffectual bureaucracy stuck in the past, squander millions of dollars following a largely discredited transit philosophy based on a few expensive light-metro lines being force fed by buses. Doesn’t work – doesn’t attract the all important motorist from his car. But, no fear, TransLink will continue with this drivel until the public finally compel politicians to change it of be forced out of office.

Doing the same thing over and over again and wishing for different results has been defined as madness.

Knowing that they are dealing with rubes, TransLink will be back demanding more money faster than you can say sucker!

What $130 million buys you in planning!

What $130 million buys you in planning!

Metro Vancouver mayors vote for an extra $130-million for TransLink

By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver SunOctober 23, 2009 3:14 PM

Metro Vancouver mayors “reluctantly” voted for a $130 million supplement plan for TransLink today saying it would give them some breathing room while they tried to find more money to run the transit system.

The so-called stabilization plan will see a three-cents-a-litre increase in gasoline taxes as well as transit-fare increases, starting next year. TransLink also plans to resurrect its parking stall tax. The fare increases come into effect April 1, pushing up the price of a one-zone farecard from $73 to $81 or adding 10 cents to a fare-saver ticket.

Despite a high level of frustration, mayors would not support a suggestion by Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan to vote against the plan and use impending cuts to force the province to help with funding.

Corrigan had suggested the province would respond in such a crisis situation especially before the 2010 Olympic Games.

But other mayors argued the price of the cuts would be too high for their communities and said they will take Transportation Minister Shirley Bond at her word that she will work with them.

Although Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said ther is “no guarantee the provincial government will listen to any of us,” the $130 million will help keep the transit system limping along.

“I don’t think it’s responsible to throw up our hands, cut the system into shreds and force the government in a corner,” she said. “It’s a very tenuous situation as it is.”

TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast said the decision has staved off drastic cuts which would likely have occurred following the Olympics.

But he said TransLink now faces finding the money to expand the system and honour its commitment to building the Evergeen Line connecting Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini, who voted against the plan, had suggested mayors defer the vote until it could find out if road pricing was an option. His motion was defeated.

More to come.

Is it time for the Valley to ditch TransLink? Would it lead to better regional transportation?

September 7, 2009


Martin Crilly’s report on TransLink came as no surprise, TransLink is in deep financial trouble and needs a major infusion of cash to keep it in operation. The question should be asked: “Should the Valley Municipalities walk away from the transportation agency and let the chips fall where they may?”

TransLink, despite all the revisionist history, was cobbled together by then GVRD Chairman George Puil and the Glen Clark NDP as a last ditch attempt to secure a SkyTrain Millennium Line. The icing on the cake for Mr. Puil was that the province would pay two thirds of SkyTrain only construction West of Commercial Drive. Translation: Puil secured an agreement for expensive subway construction on Vancouver’s West-side at the expense of the region.

Now fast forward to 2009, the RAV/Canada Line, the first of Vancouver’s desired subways has opened; the Evergreen line to the Tri-Cities is in deep jeopardy; and there is ever increasing talk of a $4 billion UBC subway or the ‘Campbell Line’. TransLink needs vast sums of taxpayer’s money to complete its pie-in-the-sky metro and subway planning, which now may come in the form of road pricing or congestion charges. Again, Greater Vancouver politicians see Fraser Valley taxpayers as a ‘milch-cow’, or rustic rubes with deep pockets to pay for Vancouver’s grandiose subway plans.

Vancouver’s politicians and planners are flirting with bridge tolling and road pricing; trouble is, road pricing and/or congestion charging will only success if there is a viable public transit alternative and buses are not a viable public transit alternative, nor are three truncated metro lines. But one doubts that our band of civic politicians will sacrifice their political careers advocating road tolling or bridge tolling and the same can be said for their provincial counterparts, especially when one sees what has happened to English politico’s who supported road pricing, in the UK.

Projects like Rail for the Valley’s ‘return of the interurban’ need funding, but no funding will be made available for the projects unless the ‘valley‘ ditches TransLink and forms its own tax base to fund its own transit projects. Let Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Richmond taxpayers fund expensive SkyTrain or RAV  metro and let the valley taxpayer fund much cheaper light-rail. I would wager that the Tri-Cities would abandon the SkyTrain Evergreen line in a shot, if they were offered (or should I say their taxpayers were offered) much cheaper light rail projects.

The TransLink model for regional transportation planning is broken and TransLink’s planners are stuck in the 1950, planning for more subways and expensive metro systems. Roads must be kept clear for the car and ‘rubber on asphalt’ transportation planning reigns supreme. The provincial government, abetted by the ‘roads lobby’ happily forces new metro construction on regional taxpayers and its time for Fraser Valley mayors to stand up to TransLink and the provincial government and say “Enough is enough, we are leaving TransLink and forming out own Valley Transportation Authority, investing in transit projects that meet our needs.”

Let Vancouver taxpayers pay for expensive subway projects forced upon them by ex-Vancouver mayors!