Agenda Index City of Vancouver

ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT

TO: Vancouver City Council
FROM: General Manager of Engineering Services
SUBJECT: Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Act - Bill 36
 

INFORMATION

POLICY

The basic directions for transportation in the City were set with Council's adoption of CityPlan and the Livable Region Plan in 1995, the Regional Transportation Plan (Transport 2021) in 1994, and City Transportation in 1997.

Council supports a governance and finance structure for transit which would be more responsive to the needs of the City and Region, for example, which would provide a guaranteed source of revenue for acquisition of buses and LRT vehicles, and for operating the system in a timely way in response to increases in demand for service - Action Item T12 of the Transportation Plan.

PURPOSE

The purpose of this report is to generally describe the new legislation Bill 36, which will establish the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority. Of particular interest is the impacts on the City of Vancouver and the expected changes to the provision of transportation services within the City.

BACKGROUND

In February 1998, the Greater Vancouver Regional District Board and Provincial Government ratified a set of principles establishing regional control over transit, major roads, Transportation Demand Management (TDM) and Aircare programs. The principles outlined in the negotiated agreement on Transportation Funding and Governance in Greater Vancouver were reviewed by City Council on February 17, 1998.

At this time, Council approved addition to the Governance Agreement, including expanding the Purpose to include supporting economic development, improving pedestrian and cycling facilities and support for a major road network to improve the movement of goods and services. Further, Council recommended amending the public consultation process to include stakeholder committees.

These have been incorporated into the new structure.

In support of the general principles, the GVRD Board also endorsed a series of principles for the administration and funding of a Major Road Network. These principles addressed the devolution of Provincial highways and included local control over the Major Road Network, while providing for a regional coordinating function. City Council will be receiving a parallel report, outlining the process for establishing the Major Road Network within Vancouver.

A joint regional/municipal/provincial staff transition team was established to assist in the drafting of the legislation for the new Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority. It was intended that the new legislation would reflect the principles previously reviewed and approved by the GVRD Board. The legislation entitled The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Act - Bill 36 has now been tabled in the legislature and is expected to be approved during the current legislative session. In addition to the legislation, there is a Memorandum of Understanding, which incorporated many implementation provisions not appropriate in the legislation due to their transitional and specific nature. The legislation and accompanying MOU largely reflect the principles previously agreed to by the parties.

DISCUSSION

The proposed legislation and accompanying MOU represent a fundamental restructuring of the delivery of transportation services in the Lower Mainland. Through a total reformation of funding and governance, it delegates a greater degree of responsibility to local municipalities through the GVTA for transportation services.

The legislation and MOU are comprehensive detailed documents which are difficult to summarize in a concise way. The attached document prepared by GVRD staff entitled Recommended Agreement on Transportation Governance and Funding for Greater Vancouver compares the items previously approved by the GVRD and Province with the current Bill 26 and MOU. Similarly, attached is a comparison of the GVRD Board's motions of February 27, 1998 and Bill 36 and the MOU. There is very good correlation noting that the Provincial legislation and MOU were drafted jointly by a Transitional Team using Provincial, regional and municipal resources.

The following is a brief overview of some of the key provisions of the legislation, with particular emphasis on how they impact the City of Vancouver. (It is not intended as a full synopsis of the Act and MOU.)

Purpose of the Authority

"The purpose of the Authority is to provide a regional transportation system that:

a) moves people and goods, and
b) supports

Responsibilities of the Authority

The GVTA will be responsible for managing and operating a regional transportation system including a transit system, support of a Major Road Network, development and implementation of Transportation Demand Management programs and administration of Aircare. This includes giving commentary on the implications of the regional growth strategy, official community plans and major development proposals on the transportation system. The Authority is also required to prepare a strategic transportation plan for the region which must be consistent with the regional growth strategy. This would likely reflect and build upon the principles in Transport 2021.

For Vancouver, this means that the Authority will be providing commentary on the implications of major development proposals and rezonings on the regional transportation system. What constitutes a major development proposal still needs to be defined.

Powers of the Authority

The Authority has the "capacity, rights, powers and privileges of an individual of full capacity". This enables the Authority to undertake responsibilities beyond those defined specifically in the legislation. More specifically, the legislation includes the ability to expropriate land, raise revenues by means of taxes, levies, project toll charges, user fees and motor vehicle charges, make bylaws consistent with the legislation and develop and operate a rail transportation system (LRT) within the municipalities.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors of the Authority consists of 15 members, with 12 appointed by the GVRD and 3 appointed by the Province. The GVRD appointees will be Mayors within the GVRD or GVRD Board members with subregional representation as follows:

The members appointed from Vancouver include Councillors Puil, Clarke and Price.

The Provincial appointees will be MLAs who's constituencies lie within (or substantially within) the GVRD or the Minister Responsible for Municipal Affairs or Transportation.

Transit Services

The GVTA will be responsible for the operation of BC Transit within the Lower Mainland including the bus system, Skytrain, Seabus and the West Coast Express. They will also be responsible for contract services such as the West Vancouver bus system and Handidart. The assets and real property of BC Transit will be transferred to the GVTA.

The Transition Team is presently undertaking a study to examine the current organization of BC Transit and to recommend appropriate changes. A consulting team has been retained to do the study and they will be shortly consulting with the various interest groups, including Council and staff representatives from the City of Vancouver.

The purpose of the study is to examine the current bus operations and maintenance functions in terms of their ability to best meet local as well as broader regional needs within an integrated transit system. The options that will be assessed include one subsidiary, one subsidiary with distinct operating units and separate subsidiaries.

Over the years a number of concerns have been raised with the delivery of transit services within the City of Vancouver. Some preliminary areas of concern which can be used as input into the consultant's transit organization study include:

A need for a transit system which is more flexible and can quickly respond to different needs arising from changing conditions and markets.

A system which is closely linked to the community and its neighbourhoods in the planning and delivery of services.

A system which achieves a greater customer orientation in the delivery of transit services, including greater consultation in the development and provision of service.

A system which responds quickly to changing technology in all areas, but most particularly in communication with the customers.

A recognition of the air quality concerns within the City and the importance of electrical trolley service in meeting those objectives.

This may give rise to a separate operating company within the City of Vancouver which is more in tune with local needs, yet responsive to the needs of a fully integrated network.

Under the legislation, the City of Vancouver will also be able to establish independent transit services with the approval of the GVTA. Approval is required in order to ensure that the independent services do not reduce the effectiveness and financial viability of the regional system. The GVTA cannot provide financial support for an independent transit service, but it can contract with third parties to provide transit services on its behalf. Presumably it can contract with the City of Vancouver or private companies for some transit services.

The issues of independent transit services, contract services and a City of Vancouver operating subsidiary are ones which need to be explored in more detail with appropriate reporting to Council.

It is expected that no major policy or operating changes (beyond Skytrain) will be made by BC Transit prior to the takeover by the GVTA. During the transition period, it is expected that BC Transit will accelerate the purchase of additional buses and introduce additional bus shelters and customer information services.

Light Rapid Transit

Under the agreement to establish the GVTA, the Province is obliged to construct the entire "T" LRT line. On this basis, the Government may plan, acquire and construct the Rapid Transit Project, although the Authority and the Government must agree on design, scope and cost of the project. The legislation also provides that the Provincial Government contributes 60% of the capital cost and the Authority contributes 40%. The Rapid Transit Project is defined as the LRT from Broadway and Granville in the City of Vancouver, to the general vicinity of Coquitlam Centre connecting to the Skytrain Station in New Westminster. The estimated cost of this "T" line in the Agreement and used as the basis of financial projections was $1.15 billion in 1994 dollars.

The recent Provincial announcement to build Skytrain has major implications on future costs and the ability of the GVTA to finance its share of the costs. This requires considerably more information, study and discussions with the Province before the impacts of the Skytrain decision can be fully understood and addressed.

The GVTA also has the power to plan, acquire, contract, maintain and operate a rail transportation system within a municipality. This means that the GVTA can override municipal objections in the development of an LRT system, although they are required to consult with the municipalities prior to finalizing the plans.

Major Road Network

The Authority must establish, before December 31, 1998, a Major Road Network within the region. A separate report is being prepared on the implications of MRN designation and on a process to establish the Network in Vancouver. Before a road can be added to the Network, agreement must be given by both the Authority and the municipality.

Ownership of any major road, as well as all maintenance and construction activities, will be undertaken by the municipality in which it lies. The Authority may establish standards for the management, operation, construction and maintenance of the Major Road Network. It is uncertain what these standards will be and how they will be applied. I expect they will largely reflect present maintenance and design standards. Clearly though, the standards will not require municipalities to reconstruct roads that do not meet existing design standards or widen roads to increase the people carrying capacity.

If a roadway section is part of the Network, it is expected that funding will be provided by the Authority for maintenance operations and rehabilitation. It is also expected that limited funding will be available for capital improvement projects.

A municipality must not reduce or limit the people carrying capacity of any part of the Major Road Network.

The Authority also takes on responsibility for the designation of truck routes within the transportation service area. All existing truck routes and prohibitions which are in existence prior to the Act, will remain in effect. This means that the City of Vancouver's existing truck route system is established, but any changes must be approved by the GVTA. The relationships and process for managing truck routes needs to be further addressed by the GVTA and municipalities.

The Authority also has responsibility to administer the movement of dangerous goods, as well as the truck weights and dimensions that can operate on the Major Road Network.

Strategic Transportation Plan

The Authority is required to prepare and adopt a Strategic Transportation Plan which addresses the following issues:

Major actions the Authority plans to undertake.

The relationship between major actions and the regional growth strategy and air quality objectives.

Long range capital and financing plans.

The Authority must gain approval from the GVRD Board for its Strategic Transportation Plan. This will ensure that there is close coordination between land use planning and the provision of transportation services on the regional and municipal level.

Consultation

There are several areas with which the Authority must undertake public consultation before approving plans and actions. Some of the key areas include:

Public consultation including municipalities, GVRD and the Province in the preparation of its strategic capital and major service plans.

Consultation with the public, municipalities and other organizations before increasing its borrowing limits, or increasing vehicle charges, property and other tax rates.

Collaboration on Transportation Demand Management provisions, designation and use of high occupancy vehicle lanes and towing policies and collection technology.

While the Act enables the GVTA to establish advisory committees, it does not require it for legal reasons. It is intended that more public consultation will occur than in the past on development and provision of transportation services within the region.

A key issue to be explored is the roles and relationship between the City and GVTA in the public consultation process. This is expected to be defined during the early stages of the GVTA.

Funding

The funding provisions in Bill 36 and the MOU are extensive and reflect the financial analysis and agreements in relation to the "Negotiator's Agreement on Transportation, Governance and Funding in Greater Vancouver". Compared to other transit properties throughout North America, there is an extensive listing of revenue opportunities provided in the legislation which is expected to fund the projected capital and operating requirements previously established.

The legislation and MOU provide for the following:

Access to all the revenues currently collected by the Vancouver Regional Transit Commission, including transit fares and other system sources, four cents per litre motor fuel tax, $1.90 charge per residential BC Hydro account, and nonresidential property tax.

The current surplus accumulated by the Commission is transferred to the Authority.

In addition, the following are new sources of revenue available to the GVTA:

A regional transportation levy replacing the Greater Vancouver Regional Hospital District's share of hospital costs.

Increases in the motor fuel tax within Greater Vancouver, rising from four cents per litre in April, 1999 to six cents per litre in April 2005.

Transfer to the Authority, the parking sales taxes collected within the boundaries of the Authority.

The Authority will have the ability to raise funds from residential property tax and parking taxes.

Vehicle charges can be set in accordance with the criteria established by the Authority.

Project tolls on Authority funded facilities.

Property taxes on benefiting area basis.

Profits from the purchase and sale of land and other assets.

There are several areas of potential concern with respect to the funding capabilities given to the GVTA. One concern is the opportunity given to the GVTA to raise funding through property tax levies. The residential property tax, in particular, has not been traditionally used as a source of funding for transit services in Greater Vancouver. A second concern relates to the use of parking taxes as a means of raising revenues. This was previously proposed as a means of generating revenues within downtown Vancouver from parking sources. This was resisted by Vancouver and the downtown business community as a growth concentration charge. If parking taxes are to be employed, it is important to ensure that they are applied equitably across the region.

A continuing area of concern is the adequacy of the funds to meet the projected needs of an expanding transit system. This issue is aggravated by the selection of Skytrain technology.

It is also expected that the Authority and Provincial Government will negotiate appropriate cost sharing arrangements on major capital projects, including extensions to the Light Rail Transportation system.

Finally, Council has previously expressed a need to use Provincial administrative structures (ICBC) to collect vehicle charges. While not specifically provided in the legislation, this option for collection of vehicle charges will need to be pursued with the Province.

CONCLUSION

The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Act - Bill 36 is a major piece of legislation restructuring the Regional Transportation Governance and Funding arrangements. It hands over responsibility for regional transportation services to the region and its municipalities. The provisions in the legislation and accompanied MOU were largely agreed to through negotiated agreements approved earlier this year.

It is apparent that there are many unresolved issues which need to be addressed in the early stages of the GVTA. These will be reported to Council as they arise.

NOTE FROM CLERK: ELECTRONIC COPY OF APPENDIX "A" NOT AVAILABLE -ON FILE IN THE OFFICE OF THE CITY CLERK.

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