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TransLink bus service over the Port Mann bridge, pictured here, will not be as frequent as originally expected. (DARRYL DYCK For the Globe and Mail)
TransLink bus service over the Port Mann bridge, pictured here, will not be as frequent as originally expected. (DARRYL DYCK For the Globe and Mail)

TRANSPORTATION

TransLink halts improvements Add to ...

Expecting to miss its revenue forecast by nearly half a billion dollars over three years, TransLink has announced it will halt a plan to increase services – and the Metro Vancouver transportation provider warns there could be significant cuts if a $30-million property tax is ultimately repealed.

TransLink held a news conference at its Burnaby headquarters Monday to release its draft transportation and financial plan for 2013 to 2015. It said revenue for that period will be $472-million lower than forecast, because of slumping returns from fuel taxes and fares, among other things.

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The organization said it has identified $294-million in efficiency measures, and also plans to draw from its reserve fund. While it vowed to proceed with projects such as the Evergreen Line and SkyTrain station upgrades, it also scrapped several planned improvements.

“Over the next three years, we will live within our means and only deliver those services for which we have the necessary funding,” said Nancy Olewiler, the TransLink board’s chair.

Though there will be an increase of 109,000 hours of annual transit service – some of which started in April – a further increase of 306,000 hours to reduce overcrowding on key routes will not go ahead.

For the first time in 25 years, TransLink will provide bus service over the Port Mann bridge. The bus will run every 10 minutes during peak hours, every 30 minutes during off-peak hours. The plan had originally been to have the bus run every 10 minutes during off-peak hours, too.

Plans for a station upgrade to North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay have been scrapped, as has expanded SeaBus service on Sundays and holidays not in summer. Restoration of $26-million in funding for major road and cycling upgrades will not proceed.

Robert Paddon, Translink’s executive vice-president of strategic planning, said during the news conference that transit users will feel the impact. He said some bus routes will see less service.

TransLink’s plan includes $30-million in property tax in 2013 and 2014, despite Lower Mainland mayors’ vote to withdraw the tax in April.

“At the time of that meeting ... none of us knew the magnitude of the fuel-tax declines in expected revenues,” Ms. Olewiler told reporters Monday. “So there’s new information that has come forward since then. The mayors have that information now.” We’ll wait and see, with consultation with them, what they want to do.”

Fuel-tax revenue is expected to be $144-million less than forecast from 2013 to 2015.

Richard Walton, mayor of North Vancouver District and chair of the TransLink mayors’ council, said in an interview that he takes no issue with Ms. Olewiler’s comments.

“The fact that they’re asking that we reconsider the $30-million – as far as I’m concerned it’s prudent that they, as an independent board, do that and I have no problem with that,” he said.

Mr. Walton said the mayors’ council will discuss the request, though he offered no hints on which way it would rule. He said the $30-million might well prove to be legally binding, since it was initially approved by the mayors.

TransLink will now engage with government officials, stakeholders and the public to discuss its plan of action. It will be completed by November 1, then submitted to the transportation commissioner.

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