Mayor Gregor Robertson warns a "no" vote in the transit referendum would be "brutal" for Vancouver

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      An Elections B.C. mail-out this week includes a map showing what Metro Vancouver citizens will get if a majority votes “yes” on a new 0.5-percent regional sales tax.

      For Vancouver, there’s a Broadway subway. Burnaby gets new B-Line routes plus more frequent SkyTrain service. There will be additional Canada Line cars for Richmond commuters. Surrey and Langley are promised light-rail lines. And North and West Vancouver get new B-Lines. The region will see a 25-percent increase in bus service and 2,700 kilometres of enhanced bikeways.

      What happens if the plan is voted down? Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson describes that potential situation as “dire”.

      “Nobody knows where we’ll be set back to,” he said in a telephone interview. “The population is growing by 40,000 people a year, and there will be no new transit service.”

      Robertson suggested a “no” vote would not reset the region’s transportation ambitions to the day before the mayors unveiled their 10-year plan, but take plans for public transit back even further.

      “A ‘no’ also sends a damaging signal about people’s willingness to invest in transportation and infrastructure more generally, which has brutal consequences for us as a city,” he said.

      Robertson emphasized that for most of the plan, and especially its improvements in Vancouver, “there is no Plan B.”

      “Some say the default is we go back to ad hoc projects that, hopefully, we can stitch together,” he explained. “But it’s very difficult to envision one-off projects succeeding without TransLink. And TransLink can’t operate new systems without new funding.”

      In the week’s preceding the start of the vote—a nonbinding plebiscite via a mail-in ballot from March 16 to May 29—the list of those supporting the “yes” side has swelled to include labour organizations, business associations, environmental groups, and the majority of the region’s mayors, city councillors, and MLAs. The push for a “no” vote has been led by the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

      Robertson described the latter campaign as a “knee-jerk, anti-tax response from people probably not realizing how critical this investment is”.

      “The consequences of a ‘no’ vote winning is more traffic for years to come,” he said.

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      31 Comments

      critical thought

      Mar 18, 2015 at 10:24am

      As I indicated in a comment about yet another GS article endorsing Mr. Robertson's opinion, perhaps Gregor Robertson should reflect on the real possibility that his lobbying efforts in favour of a Skytrain extension to UBC in the months leading up to the plebiscite created a millstone hung from the neck of the YES proponents. Judging from the comments posted on the GS and on other sites even many of the YES supporters do not regard a Skytrain extension on Broadway as a wise use of the limited funds available for transit. According to the 2012 Steer Davies Gleave Phase 2 study commissioned by the Translink and the provincial government (and partnered by CoV and UBC), this project would AT BEST produce a 0.3 % mode shift from cars to transit in the regional and a 3.1% mode shift in the Broadway corridor by 2041. So, for the billions spent on this vanity project which will disproportionally benefit condo developers who have likely been assembling property along Broadway in anticipation of a yes vote, in 26 years time if we're lucky for every 1000 trips, we shift 3....THREE....people onto transit.

      If the goal is to shift people from cars to transit - and I think that should be the primary objective of any proposed transportation project in the region - then the $ 3.010 billion (in 2010 dollars) capital cost estimate for the UBC line is better spent on projects in other regions of Metro Vancouver.

      By pushing the Broadway Skytrain extension, Mr. Robertson is demonstrating that he prefers development/density along Broadway to a greater mode shift from cars to transit in the region.

      Already Brutal

      Mar 18, 2015 at 10:39am

      Given what Gregor's already accomplished there's every reason to believe things will only become more brutal under his watch.

      Gregor...

      Mar 18, 2015 at 10:52am

      ...is in this for Gregor. "No new transit spending" Gregor? Come on, stop fear mongering. If Gregor and the other mayors really cared about a yes vote they would detail what they COULD afford and how inadequate that would look like vs. the proposed plan. If they really cared they would explain what they plan to do to get both the Provinicial and Federal government to pony up their share of these ambitious plans. (BTW, on pure ideology alone the Harper government will be a tough sell with Robertson and Corrigan leading that charge)

      However, the first commenter nailed it. All Gregor cares about is an excuse to increase density and thus make developers rich. I am curious which development company boards Gregor gets appointed to when he is finally turfed out of office.

      An up vote isn't enough

      Mar 18, 2015 at 10:52am

      Critical thought absolutely slayed it. The repercussions for not building the Broadway line are minimal. It's the most expensive aspect of the Transit plan, yet offers the least benefit. The ROI is disgusting for the taxpayer. If it's really that important to Gregor and his cronies there are many ways it can be financed that don't rely 100% on the taxpayer.

      J.M.T.

      Mar 18, 2015 at 10:56am

      Yeah, brutal for himself and his career.

      J.M.T.

      Mar 18, 2015 at 11:00am

      I know I've said this before, but I like reiterating myself. Be prepared for a "Yes" victory no matter how many "No" votes may be counted. The game is rigged folks.

      Vancouver2020

      Mar 18, 2015 at 11:35am

      Robertson emphasized that for most of the plan, and especially its improvements in Vancouver, “there is no Plan B.”

      BS. There is a secret Plan B, he doesn't want to say it publicly. It will be a cheaper plan that doesn't extra sales tax.

      Mayors have stated that new bridge to Surrey will be built regardless of vote result and financed by tolls just like port man and golden ears bridges.

      The subway extensions to UBC and Langley require extra funding from province and federal government. They will get built just like the lines to Coquitlam, Richmond and airport.

      Mostly likely, the extra express bus routes and other options planned will be reduced or eliminated if new tax is not approved.

      Critical Thought?????

      Mar 18, 2015 at 12:51pm

      @critical thought

      Let me guess, you're a VV and high density hater. Am I right?

      I'm sorry but you must have a filter turned on because I've been reading the same forums and the Broadway subway is rarely mentioned in discussing the plebiscite. It's much more general than that, with the No side concentrating on Translink and immigration control (ie zero growth) and the Yes side talking about dealing with population growth and the environment. And this is where you totally miss the entire point regarding population growth. Civic governments in Vancouver have been talking about increased density along rapid transit lines long before Skytrain was even first put to paper. Long range thinkers knew there was going to be growth, and given our geographical location, we need to build upwards not outwards....unless you're in favour of transforming all of the agricultural and forested lands in to housing developments. Humans have built settlements on transportation lines since the beginning of time. Rapid transit is no different and in this case the Skytrain is the major variable deciding where density increases will go. Just go to the top of a tall building in Vancouver and look east. You'll see large groups of towers popping up at Skytrain stations in Burnaby. Burnaby would still be a bedroom community if not for the Skytrain, but they chose instead to create city centers at key locations around the stations. New Westminster, Surrey, Richmond and Coquitlam are all either currently doing the same thing or planning this for their proposed transit projects. Vancouver needs to do the same thing and Broadway is the natural choice since it is the main east-west connector and the 2nd largest commercial district in Vancouver. Naturally it's going to densify and those people who live there will be switching from cars to transit.

      Metro Vancouver is going to grow and if someone is against it then you'll probably need to move somewhere else, because you are not going to stop it. I would suggest Regina since they are growing at a snail's pace.

      Fool me once...

      Mar 18, 2015 at 1:32pm

      Translink and their mayoral board need to change from their core first. Who in their right might would give more money to accessorize a leaking ship before fixing the leak that is causing it to sink.

      This vote is as much about trust as anything else and these people at the helm have not given a reason to trust them. They continue to ask for more and then waist what they are given, like a spoiled child--when are they going to learn? Maybe when we all stand together and say 'Enough is Enough'.

      "Fool me once..." Don't be fooled into thinking they will do the right thing with OUR money. They will abuse the privelige.

      Translink MUST be absolutely transparent and be governed better.