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.