Mayors reeling from ‘sticker shock’ over LRT paperwork costs

LRT business report cost $3.1 million; business case expected to top that at $5 million, says B.C. Transit

In a scene straight out of a classroom, Manuel Achadinha grabbed a marker and headed for the whiteboard at the front of the room.

Members of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission and B.C. Transit staff watched Tuesday morning as B.C. Transit’s president and chief development officer drew three lines on the board, accompanied by a few key words, to plot out steps in the proposed $950-million light-rail rapid transit project.

That’s when members learned the LRT business report, now in the hands of B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, cost $3.1 million, which has already been spent by the ministry and the commission.

“It’s basically an application to get in the door,” said Achadinha, noting the report is a critical step in getting the province on board as a light rail cost-sharing partner, which, in turn, could help secure federal financial support.

The next phase of the LRT project, which has not yet begun, will feature the development of a $5-million business case that will include legal, engineering, accounting and other project details. In addition to divvying up that cost between the commission and the province, B.C. Transit hopes the federal government will contribute.

A third-party review will be conducted during that phase.

But some commission members balked when they heard the tally of the paperwork costs.

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who sits at the commission table, called their reaction to the news “sticker shock.”

Commission members and taxpayers should not be finding out about expensive LRT reports during a whiteboard lesson, said Victoria Coun. John Luton, who sits at the commission table.

“It’s not fair,” he said.

“I understand and share the frustration. But for me, it’s like how do we work through this rather than get indignant and walk away.”

This is a reminder of how imperative it is that the LRT numbers be in the public domain, so taxpayers remain confident in the rapid-transit plan and the process, Luton said.

It also highlights the need for a new transit governance authority, said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, who serves on the commission. The push is on for the Capital Regional District to take over from the commission.

“I think there are some decisions being made at the B.C. Transit board that should be shared with the commission members, and preferably before the decisions are being made,” he said.

Frank Leonard couldn’t contain his disappointment and growing frustration at the meeting.

The commission was told in 2008 the report would cost $700,000 to $800,000, not $3.1 million, said the Saanich mayor and commission member.

Since the expenses only came to light on Tuesday, he said it points to the need for more transparency in the way B.C Transit does business.

“It’s like dealing with the Wizard of Oz,” said Leonard. “It’s all behind the curtain. There’s no transparency.”

Despite the hefty price tags, it’s important to keep those report costs in perspective, said Oak Bay Mayor and commission chair, Christopher Causton.

While Causton said the $7.1-million cost of planning a billion-dollar LRT service is expensive, it’s comparable to other big-ticket regional items.

“You’ve spent $10 million on a billion-dollar sewage treatment plan,” he said.

 

 

Just Posted

Studies for E&N corridor still on track after BC Transit investments

Recent investment in bus fleet expansion doesn’t slow studies into alternative transportation routes

Single parent resource centre continues operations in partially-condemned building

Victoria’s 1Up Single Parent Resource Centre moves back into heritage home

Townhouses on the rise in popularity in Greater Victoria

A report finds 152 townhouse units in the construction pipeline and coming onto market in 2020.

Annual Oak Bay Collector Car Festival expects 15,000 spectators

July 28 show features a pair of super cars that won prestigious awards at the Detroit Autorama show

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Most Read