Mayors suggest Evergreen Line switch to save money
The on again, off again saga of the Evergreen Line gets stranger and stranger. The Mayors – those people that the Provincial Government thinks are not competent to run local transit in Metro Vancouver (although they do everywhere else in BC) – have made a very sensible recommendation. Since there is now not enough money to build the Evergreen Line as a SkyTrain extension, why not go back to Translink’s original plan and build it as light rail? This would save $400m – which is pretty much the shortfall currently needing to be filled.
But provincial Transport Minister Shirley Bond will not hear of it – and neither will the federal government. And, of course, it is the provincial government that is refusing to allow Translink the new funding sources that they need to pay for their share of the capital cost of the project – plus of course its on going operations and maintenance.
TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast told the board he has heard suggestions Ottawa might pull its funding for the Evergreen Line if federally preferred SkyTrain technology was abandoned or if the project takes too long to move forward.
If they put this in a tv sit com it would stretch credibility. Actually, I would not be at all surprised to hear that the feds are going to start looking for ways to get out of some of their commitments, given the unprecedented size of the deficit – but so far that has not happened – and all we have are “suggestions” from an unidentified source. So the reality may be different.
The process by which LRT was originally chosen for this line – and its route – was actually very unusual for BC. It was a completely objective, technical review run by staff (actually Clark Lim, who is now at UBC) and there was no political interference. Until the decision was announced, which is when the amazing, and actually tendentious, claim was made that the SkyTrain premium was not significant and the benefits of not having to change trains at Lougheed were well worth paying extra for.
If there was any objectivity in this process, or any respect for local democratic decision making, then the senior levels of government would say, yes we recognize that there is a funding problem which we cannot resolve so we agree that a scope reduction to LRT is a reasonable way to get this thing built. But that is not the case, as is obvious when you read the blethering that Jeff Nagel is now reporting.
It is a very good illustration of that old saw “the best is the enemy of the good”. The most likely outcome of this disagreement is that nothing at will get built and the arguing about whose fault that is will continue interminably. Heaven forbid that we actually do something with rapid transit in this region that not only fits in with the agreed regional strategy but actually makes some sense.