TransLink plans may mean higher taxes 

Sea to Sky corridor to become part of Lower Mainland transportation authority

The Sea to Sky corridor will eventually become part of a vastly expanded TransLink under restructuring plans for the Lower Mainland transportation authority unveiled by Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon Thursday.

The details of what that will mean for transportation and for taxpayers in the corridor have still to be revealed, but one of the key considerations in the restructuring of TransLink is funding for capital projects and services in the Lower Mainland.

A review of TransLink for the provincial government found that the authority will need $200 million annually by 2013 to build the Evergreen SkyTrain line, an extension of the Millennium line, add a third SeaBus, expand bus service, improve SkyTrain stations and add bike routes.

Increasing property taxes is one of the recommendations for funding these priorities. The report includes a suggested scenario of increasing property taxes one to two per cent every year from 2008 through 2025 to cover one-third of the $200 million needed annually.

Whether Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton would be part of this proposed tax increase is unclear.

The province has indicated it will provide one-third of the $200 million through provincial fuel tax money, but only if higher property taxes are also part of the equation. The final third would come from a combination of higher fares and revenue from property development around rapid transit stations and other TransLink facilities.

Other restructuring plans for TransLink include eventually expanding east into the Fraser Valley and more provincial government control over the long-term “vision” for the authority.

Whistler’s transit system, WAVE, is a three-way partnership, funded by the Resort Municipality of Whistler and B.C. Transit and operated by Whistler Transit Ltd. The system has one of the highest riderships in the province, outside of Vancouver and Victoria, with more than three million riders a year.

In recent years Whistler’s transit system has expanded to include limited service to Pemberton and Mount Currie. A winter-only transit service connecting Squamish and Whistler has been funded by the two towns for the past several years.

Federal and provincial officials recently announced an $89 million program to provide 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses and a fueling station in Whistler by the fall of 2009.

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