Mayors in the Vancouver region say they're willing to raise property taxes by $3 a household, increase transit fares by 2 per cent, levy a new fee on development projects and dedicate $100-million-worth of public land-sale profits to come up with the local share for 10 years' worth of transit improvements.
But they said the province has to put them in charge of running TransLink, give the regional transportation authority $50-million a year from local carbon taxes and make a serious commitment to tolls and other forms of mobility pricing.
And they say the province also needs to set a guaranteed contribution to all 10 years of transit improvements, not just what it will contribute to the initial three-year phase that would be matched by federal funding.
"We want to ensure they'll do their share of the entire 10-year plan," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Thursday, as the mayors' proposal was discussed at the TransLink mayors' council meeting. "We're willing to put new tools on the table."
The mayors' offer was the most concrete plan the public has seen for how to fund regional transit improvements since a plebiscite on a half-per-cent sales tax, aimed at funding a $7.5-billion, 10-year mayors' plan, was defeated soundly last year.
The proposal is also the latest salvo between the province and cities as they figure out how they will come up with the $370-million needed to tap into the matching $370-million on the table from the federal government.
Both sides say they need to come to an agreement within weeks or they risk going to the end of the line behind other cities and provinces that have put together their agreements faster.
On the provincial side, Community Minister Peter Fassbender also made an announcement Thursday that the province would commit $246-million for its part of the first phase.
Although that works out to only a third of the $740-million for the first phase, which seems like the same percentage the province has been promising for more than a year, Mr. Fassbender said it's actually $130-million more than what the province would normally give.
Mr. Fassbender claimed that the province typically provides one-third of the funding only for major projects, such as the Broadway or Surrey rapid-transit lines, not buses, rail cars and station upgrades.
But since the federal government is going to share those costs for the first phase, the province will too, he said.
"I talked to the federal government this morning and informed them of our increase," the minister said.
He didn't respond to any of the other demands in the mayors' proposal, saying only that he and the mayors "are going to roll up our sleeves" and work out an agreement. And he said the province would talk about committing money to the second phase only when the federal government has more information available.
In the mayors' council meeting, the offer from the province produced a lot of frustration and disappointment.
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote said the province seems to be unwilling to promise what it did last year – that it would fund one-third of the full 10-year mayors' plan – "so they're committing less today than last year."
The numbers the two sides are talking about are difficult to explain easily, because the mayors' proposal for new property taxes, fare increases, and developer charges includes how much cities will be paying for the operating costs of any improvements. That includes maintenance and staff.
The $370-million for the first phase that the cities and province need to come up with to match the federal dollars covers only the capital costs of improvements – items such as actual buses, rail cars or pre-construction work needed for the two big rapid-transit projects planned in Vancouver and Surrey.
But staff say, generally, the new revenue the cities are willing to provide will cover $100-million of a total $150-million gap per year for the $7.5-billion, 10-year plan, counting both operating and capital costs.
Some of the details of the new revenue sources still have to be worked out.
The new regional cost charge on development would likely be in the range of $1,000 per residential unit, said Mike Buda, the executive director of the TransLink Mayors' Council Secretariat, at Thursday's meeting.
That would generate about $15- to $20-million per year from the roughly 17,000 units completed in the region each year.
Some mayors expressed concern about every new unit having that new fee added on, saying it wouldn't be fair for buyers in units far from transit to have to pay extra for services they don't get.