RELEASE: Coalition worried Metro Vancouver’s plan may end up in funding gridlock

Better Transit and Transportation Coalition worried Metro Vancouver’s plan to reduce traffic gridlock may itself end up in governmental gridlock over funding as Mayors’ Council meets Thursday to discuss negotiations with province

VANCOUVER – Could Metro Vancouver’s plan to reduce traffic gridlock, reduce air pollution and improve transit and transportation end up itself stalled in government gridlock over funding issues?

The Better Transit and Transportation Coalition is concerned it might as Metro Vancouver’s Mayors’ Council is slated to meet Thursday to discuss ongoing negotiations on the multi-billion dollar 10-year plan with the provincial and federal governments.

The Coalition is comprised of more than 140 organizations from a wide variety of sectors, including labour, business, environmental, public health, anti-poverty, student associations, professional groups and more – all committed to improved transit and transportation.

And Coalition Chair Peter Ladner is worried.

“There is no status quo with traffic gridlock in Metro Vancouver – it will only get worse if it is not addressed and the region is at a turning point,” Ladner, a former Vancouver city councillor says. “The Mayors’ Council’s 10-year plan requires the full cooperation of all levels of government – we simply can’t let this critical work get stalled over funding disputes when we are so close to an agreement.”

Ladner says both the Mayors’ Council and BC government should take notice that when it comes to transit and transportation, there is wide agreement on the need for major improvements.

“From business to labour to environmental to health to student groups and more – everybody wants to see the Mayors’ Council plan fully implemented – this is an unprecedented consensus that should not be ignored,” Ladner said. “It’s time to fix transit and transportation for the next generation.”

Unifor BC Director Gavin McGarrigle, a Coalition director, says time is running out on an agreement between the three levels of government.

“We know the federal government’s infrastructure program can provide the funding needed for LRT in Surrey and Langley and the Broadway subway extension and a 25% increase in bus service – but without a provincial and municipal funding agreement those trains and buses won’t leave the station,” says McGarrigle. “And if we can’t get an agreement, the federal money will go to other projects in other Canadian cities.”

David Crawford, Vice President of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and a Coalition director, says the importance of transit to business are sometimes overlooked.

“The number of workers who take transit to work in Metro Vancouver jumped by 43% over the past 10 years, more than anywhere else in Canada,” Crawford said. “Metro Vancouver per capita annual transit trips rank fourth of all the cities in North America, behind only New York, Montreal and Toronto.”

Ladner says the Coalition is encouraging the Mayors’ Council and provincial government to ensure this unique opportunity to make the most significant transit and transportation improvements in the province’s history are not lost due to minor disagreements.

“We have negotiated and pleaded for federal and provincial money for decades. Now it’s there, waiting for us to make a simple decision on how to close a very small funding gap for the next phase – about $80 million a year,” says Ladner, also Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation.

“For our economy, our mobility, our health and environment we simply have to get this deal done and get moving. The time is now.”

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