Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Evergreen Line delay feared

with 10 comments

Vancouver Sun

Joe Trasolini is worried: he is the Mayor of Port Moody and he has already seen this project deferred, delayed and reconfigured more than once. It was supposed to have been the region’s number one transit priority until the Liberals got into power and the Richmond line took over that slot. Charlie Smith has more on the politics in his Straight blog.

The reason is that the whole thing depends on private sector participation, and that is doubtful because of the present market. Moreover, Richmond has been faced with developers not conforming to the timetable set for a major development on the Canada Line that would have seen another station built at Capstan Way. Currently they have decided to defer a decision but it is also complicated by the fact that Translink is also relying on its new property division to produce new revenue to cover some of its commitments.

The present problems are the result of the previously over heated property market. The sudden drop in the US economy was initially brought about by subprime mortgage backed securities – but the spreading ripples of that disturbance have had severe effects on the way the private sector gets finance. We have covered that ground here more than once, and its potential effect on P3 fund raising. The property market in this region is now seeing a long overdue correction – buyers are few and far between and prices have started dropping as few deals are being completed. A number of development projects are being put on hold. Although Craig McInnes is saying that this is still a good way to go for transit.

The great push has now been to get governments to ride to the rescue. All of a sudden, there is a line up of capitalists with their hands out – the banks and the automotive industry being just the first in line. The great wisdom of the hidden hand of the market is remarkably absent from these discussions. Though tax cuts remain popular with conservatives – and are in the Obama package to ensure Republican support to speed its progres through Congress. The reality is that tax cuts have not worked in the way they were supposed to – and do not produce a dollar for dollar rise in GDP. Public spending on capital projects is favoured because it has a multiplier effect. But that is also based on the ability of governments to produce money out of thin air. And that also seems to be a less certain proposition – because the people who used to be willing to lend the US government money are becoming much less willing to lose money on dollar denominated deals. Canada is perhaps not in quite such a desperate position but it is noticeable that the US dollar is now stronger than the Canadian dollar again. Which is a bit odd but perhaps off topic for this post.

If we did not have a shaky, minority Conservative government in Ottawa and a rigidly doctrinaire conservative government in BC (even if it does call itself Liberal and likes to think its is green it is neither) then now would be the time for both to do a straightforward deal to get this project rolling. But as long as there is the commitment to a P3, that is not possible. Unfortunately conservatives have made a virtue out of sticking to policies that no longer match  the circumstances. The recent shift in the matter of deficits in Ottawa is a notable exception.

Is it too much to expect some further shifts at both federal and provincial levels? The Evergreen Line is long overdue – and would be a very good way to show that there is a serious commitment to transit investment and public investment as a way of fighting the recession.  I am with Joe on this one. Alarms do need to be be raised – because procrastination is always the easier path than commitment. Until governments start to take positive steps, the private sector will continue to hold back. Fear is what is now ruling the market place and the most common piece of current wisdom is that it will get worse before it gets better.

UPDATE Friday January 9, 2009 6:39pm

Coquitlam mayor Richard Stewart is wholly confident that the Evergreen Line will soon break ground.

“This is the one that is going ahead next and I have no hesitation in staking my reputation,” Stewart told the Straight in a telephone interview. “This one will be next, the funding will be in place this spring, and we are working on it right now.”

Written by Stephen Rees

January 7, 2009 at 11:00 am

Posted in transit

10 Responses

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  1. I think that the circumstances of the Evergreen Line and the transit oriented development at Capstan Way (and elsewhere) will depend on different factors. A private partner participating in the Evergreen Line is buying into the line itself and expecting to have some return on investment from the line, whereas a developer providing station funding is only doing so as a “perk” to the City that is ancillary to the primary purpose of profiting off a real estate development. While the problems in the financial markets will impact both types of projects, the Evergreen Line is not as dependent on a buoyant real estate market in the same way that a transit-oriented development would be i.e. passenger demand will exist whether or not real estate prices are high. Ridership growth may not occur as quickly if real estate development slows, but that could be factored into the funding formula with the private partner.
    So hopefully the Evergreen Line will proceed.

    BTW – another “future” station – Woodlands Station on the Millennium Line – hasn’t been mentioned in ages, despite the adjacent redevelopment of the Woodlands lands. I suspect that the building of the future stations largely depends on efforts from the applicable municipality. i.e. New Westminster didn’t push for station funding from developers of the Woodlands sites, while Richmond did (and continues to do so) for the Capstan Way lands.

    Ron C.

    January 7, 2009 at 12:46 pm

  2. The Evergreen Line is another foolhardy attempt to ‘reinvent the wheel’, with the doctrinaire that rapid transit must spur development.

    Public transit is to move people efficiently and effectively, which sadly TransLink is not doing. The RAV/Canada Line is proving how silly TransLink is trying to pretend that people will flock to the metro. Just where are Kevin Falcon’s 100,000 cars that RAV will take off the road daily? They never existed. the same is true for TransLink’s predicted 10,400 riders per hour that will use the Evergreen Line.

    Sadly we are being laughed at with our transit endeavors and I’m afraid that we will never learn.

    As for the record, the Evergreen line, whether LRT or metro doesn’t have the ridership to support it.

    A note: I sent a letter to the Sun about this and have been requested to send a copy of Gerald Fox’s letter, ‘shredding’ the so-called TransLink business case. Transit P-3’s in BC are a ponzie scheme, similar to the Nigerian E-Mail scam.

    Malcolm J.

    January 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm

  3. The evergreen line is already been delayed a decade,unless the feds pay for the evergreen it will never happen,Campbell only cares about developers,developers are not going to make money in this market,Canada line was about developers and olympics.
    Campbell is a proven liar,Campbell just wants to steal the next election with more lies and spin.

    Ron C –When will you admit that the Canada line is NOT A P3,when will you concede that the Canada line is a billion over budget?

    Translink is broke,BC Ferries is broke,BC Hydro is on the road to being bankrupt!

    Campbell has added billions to our BC debt and has added 70 billion in long term debt. Campbell has been the worst money money manager in BC history! Campbell had record high commodity prices for years and a housing boom and he has been selling assets left ,right and center–Now we are a broke province.

    here is a link you should all read,it is about P3s and long term credit card debt

    Grant G

    January 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm

  4. “The reason is that the whole thing depends on private sector participation”

    It’s a good thing that the HW1/Port Mann project doesn’t have the same problem and is definitely going ahead no matter what!

    Andrew Eisenberg

    January 7, 2009 at 4:23 pm

  5. is B.C still in Canada? how did Toronto then Montreal managed to build their decent transit systems? Not every year was prosperous in the past 50-60 years and some of us “old timers” remembers the 1980s when both mortgages and interest on loans were sky high. So what gives? Could it be that the politicians and businessmen over there actually believe in transit and find the money to finance it? (and yes I know that people in Toronto sincerely believe that their transit system is woefully inadequate..we should be so lucky)

    Red frog

    January 7, 2009 at 10:15 pm

  6. Thanks for this, I could just about follow everything, but all this economics/transport blogging is helping me see local schemes through fresh eyes

    Andy in Germany

    January 8, 2009 at 8:37 am

  7. Mr. Frog, the reason that Montreal and Toronto have decent transit systems is that they designed the transit system to suit the customer, not so in Vancouver, where transit is designed and built to suit the politicians.

    A strange coincidence that the original SkyTrain Line and it’s extensions were designed to fit in Social Credit election windows.

    The West coast Express was called the Re-election Express for years. The Millennium Line was built to suit NDP election objectives and the Canada Line was built so LRT would not be used on the Arbutus Corridor a former LRT/Interurban route, to satisfy Vancouver NPA/Liberal politics.

    The customer has been conspicuously left out of the equation and that 11% regional transit ridership figure has not changed for years. The Evergreen Line just continues our ‘rapid transit’ planning nonsense.

    Malcolm J.

    January 8, 2009 at 8:40 am

  8. Malcolm J….I am once again impressed on your listener line comment today on CKNW and on your PUBLISHED LETTER in today`s Vancouver sun.

    Keep up the good work MR. J

    your freind Grant g

    Grant G

    January 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm

  9. I agree that the timing of which line gets built when is highly political – but if you examine the Livable Region Strategic Plan you will see that the lines that have been prioritized and de-prioritized by the politicians are those that have been long planned by planners for the region. The customers that the LRSP doesn’t account for are those in Surrey and Langley. The updated / replacement for the LRSP being worked on by Metro Vancouver should do so.

    I think that there’s currently a lot of debate out there as to whether Toronto’s transit system functions well.

    Ron C.

    January 9, 2009 at 5:34 pm

  10. BTW – if you think the Canada Line isn’t P3 because BCIMC is equivalent to the BC Government, then you must think that the BC Government is building a 26 storey office tower in downtown Toronto:

    Where’s the public outcry!!??

    Ron C.

    January 9, 2009 at 5:40 pm

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