SeaBus saga strands taxpayers and commuters - Metro US

SeaBus saga strands taxpayers and commuters

It’s hard to believe, but a long-held plan to improve the popular SeaBus service after the 2010 Winter Olympics is sinking fast.

For years now, we’ve been hearing from TransLink and regional politicians about the addition of a third SeaBus to the current two-boat fleet — which would reduce wait times for people travelling across Burrard Inlet.

But in the wake of TransLink’s well-publicized cash crunch, we are being told a much different story. Our regional transportation authority is still taking delivery of a newly built passenger ferry. But whether it will do what was originally intended — to bolster the under-served fleet, and improve overall service — is very much in doubt.

As Metro’s Kristen Thompson reported exclusively last month, TransLink says it’s too pricey to refit the boats currently in operation. Instead of doing a refurbishment of the vessels, it now plans to replace at least one of them outright. But that takes more money and more time. We’re not just talking months here, we are talking years.

So for the time being, the much-hyped three-vessel service is lost at sea, leaving commuters stuck with the underwhelming status quo.

Some optimists might ask if TransLink is, to be blunt, just crying wolf. Earlier this summer, municipal politicians were hearing that a third SeaBus sailing could be pulled if TransLink’s $450-million expansion plan wasn’t approved this fall. Perhaps that would have been enough of a threat to garner support in the notoriously taxation-averse North Shore.

But that storyline is irrelevant now. With government coffers in the red —and B.C. taxpayers seeing the same colour as a result of the proposed HST — the gold-plated funding proposal is now in the ditch.

TransLink will likely hobble along with a more modest budget.

But that shouldn’t mean a new SeaBus paid for by taxpayers should become a replacement instead of what it was promised to be, an expansion.

This February, at least, we’ll be able to see the original plan fully realized. VANOC is paying for a third sailing during the Winter Games.

But after that? Perhaps, like the fast ferries, we’ll watch a discarded SeaBus collect dust on the North Vancouver waterfront.

Better yet, let’s recapture the spirit of Expo 86 and convert it into a floating McDonald’s.

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