When Derek Corrigan was elected chair of the TransLink Mayors' Council, he endured some cheap shots from the media.
One wag said this "could threaten" the Broadway subway, overlooking the Burnaby mayor's long history of transit advocacy dating back to the 1990s.
A Glacier paper in New Westminster said that Corrigan's election to chair the Mayors' Council "raises questions" about the region's 10-year transportation plan.
Today in a major announcement at Waterfront Centre, Corrigan proved the naysayers wrong and offered a monumental benefit to bus riders.
He proudly declared that the region will be getting a Broadway extension to the Millennium Line, two light-rail lines in Surrey, and a whole lot more with a fully funded second phase of the $7-billion regional transportation plan.
"This is a huge win for transit users, drivers, cyclists, and for pedestrians," Corrigan said. "In fact, this is the largest transit funding announcement in B.C. history and one of the largest ever across this nation."
It was a triumph of impressive proportions, buttressed by the NDP government's earlier decision to cover the full cost of a new Pattullo Bridge.
This has freed up more money to improve bus service.
That's a life-saver for low-income residents and students being pushed into the outer suburbs by high housing costs.
Two other factors made it possible: the Trudeau government's decision to pick up 50 percent of the funding for rapid-transit projects, up from 33 percent under the Stephen Harper government.
The former B.C. Liberal government promised to match a $2.2-billion federal contribution for rapid transit announced in the 2017 budget.
At the time, this lowered the regional contribution to phase two from 33 percent to approximately 20 percent.
Corrigan graciously praised the partnership of the region's mayors for devising a plan that could be sold to senior levels of government.
And he singled out Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson for her role, describing the former Coquitlam councillor as a "good personal friend".
The Mayors' Council chair also emphasized that it wouldn't have been possible without Premier John Horgan's support.
"Premier Horgan, as we know, is from Vancouver Island but he has put the Lower Mainland and transit first on the agenda of his government," Corrigan said. "In discussions I've had with him, he's never lost sight of the fact that this is one of the most important issues for all of us."
Expect massive boost to bus service
Make no mistake: Corrigan most certainly played an instrumental role in dramatic improvements to the bus system.
He called this "the backbone of our transit network".
"Phase two—along together with the phase one plan we announced a little over a year ago—will add 900,000 more hours of bus service per year in our already extensive bus network," the mayor said. "We're adding almost as much bus service as delivered in total by B.C. Transit in this province."
This is the genius of this plan: the Mayors' Council can legitimately go into every municipality in the region and point to specific areas where there are transit improvements.
This plan is not simply a benefit to Vancouver, which gets a subway, or Surrey, which will have light rail going from Surrey Centre to Guildford and Newton.
Every municipality will see positive effects.
There's also a smart approach in the funding. It's widely dispersed, making it difficult for any one thing to be highlighted as unreasonable.
About $1.6 billion of the $2.5-billion cost of phase two will come through higher fare revenues. This will result from higher service levels.
There will be a two percent hike in transit fares over two years, starting in 2020. But by that time, the public will have already started to see improvements.
For parking that costs $5 per hour, there will be a 15 cent per hour increase. That's around the rate of inflation and only something that the most unreasonable person would oppose.
Homeowners will have to spend an extra $5.50 per year, on average, starting in 2019. That's less than the cost of two Starbucks lattes.
Then there will be a $300 to $600 per unit development cost charge on new residential developments. It's not ideal, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.
In return, the region's economy will get a boost from moving more people over transit, leaving more road space available for the movement of goods and services.
This, in turn, could lead to more revenues flowing into the provincial and federal treasuries.
"When you talk about teamwork, this is probably one of the greatest examples of coming together—the federal government with the provincial government with local governments right across the region—to achieve a result that is in the best interests of growing a healthy and sustainable city," Corrigan declared. "So I think there's a lot to be very proud of today."
If this were the only thing on Corrigan's agenda, he could take satisfaction in a job well done and not run for reelection in October.
But there's still one other major issue of concern: stopping the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion through Burnaby.
As everyone who attended last weekend's demonstration knows, Corrigan still has a long way to go before he can declare victory on that front.