Vancouver Olympic Village likely won’t be the only shock
Charlie Smith on the Georgia Straight’s politics blog this morning (isn’t having a Twitter feed wonderful?) speculates on a number of Olympics related budget items which are also not performing as planned. He cites the Vancouver Convention Centre (the broadcasting centre for the games) the Sea to Sky Highway (which will not be quite the real estate boon Kack Poole hoped for) but mostly the Canada Line.
Urban-affairs writer Jane Jacobs once described the Canada Line as a “pork barrel” and “black hole” that will consume limited transit funds.
The Canada Line will result in rerouting of the bus system.
This will shock merchants on north-south streets such as Fraser, Oak, and Granville when they learn that they no longer have people using the bus to reach their stores.
Some might even cite this and ask for a break on property taxes.
But the biggest risk of all is if the Canada Line fails to attract more than 100,000 riders per day.
It will be a difficult challenge, given the cost of transit in this region and the percentage of households in Richmond that own cars.
If the line doesn’t generate sufficient ridership, TransLink will have to provide a whopping operating subsidy to the private operator.
How will that be financed? Probably by cutting back on bus service and jacking up fares.
Well he may be right about the impact on retailers but that is going to be hard to determine. Retail is in trouble already – everywhere – becuase of the recession. So the additonal impact of losing north south bus service is going to be hard to determine. The retailers that I had to deal with when the Richmond Rapid Bus proposal was working its way through public consultations were decidely unimpressed with buses and refused to accept then that people who ride the bus might have money to spend. Their main concerns then were about parking – and the visibility of their store fronts to passing motorists. That was one of the main reasons that the architect designed new bus shelters had to be all glass. And while I am not privy to the bus plans post Canada Line I would expect that there will be some service. After all there has been a long running campaign to try to get trolley buses reinstated on Cambie – so there is obviously going to be some local bus service on the these north-south routes. Probably much les frequent than they are now.
The threat of service cuts and fare hikes is already on the table due to major financing concerns. Either the region’s Mayors agree to a new source of funding for Translink or those cuts will be implemented in order to balance the books. And that happens whether or not the Canada Line hits its magic number of projected riders.
Actually my prediction right now is that the big shock may be the P3 financing for the Port Mann Twinning and Highway 1 expansion. Which, of course, is not Olympic related. BCTV last night passed along a story it had picked up from Project Finance Magazine – which is only available by subscription on line. They are reporting that the deal that was supposed to have been signed by now hasn’t been. The January 8 deadline has passed but there are still expectations that it will close by early February. Or not if market rumours about the banks’ credit retraints and doubts about the debt pricing structure are true. The deal is hideously complicated and discussed in language only understood by those with much financial expertise. Which in itself raises my eyebrows, since that has often the technique used in the past to get dubious deals through without too much scrutiny. Of course, with recent revelations about Ponzi schemes, everyone is being a lot more careful these days. Which translates to yet more risk transfer – back to the taxpayer, of course, who is always left holding the bag, just as is now happening with the athlete’s village.