Gateway Gazette

Calgary Group Proposes Alternate Option to City Council Funding Models

New model proposes no tax hike; to provide one-third of Green Line funding

Calgary, Alberta (May 19, 2015) — LRT on the Green (LRTOTG), a Calgary-based not-for profit organization, believes the City of Calgary should consider an alternate funding model to the new forms of taxation shortlisted in the Transportation Funding Capital Mechanisms Report that will come before the City’s Transportation and Transit (T&T) Committee this week. LRTOTG’s proposed model would extend the 10-year, $520 million property tax allocation currently designated for the Green Line Transitway to a 30-year commitment, resulting in $1.5 billion in funding for the project.

“Calgary has been one of Canada’s fastest growing cities for decades, which makes the need for reliable, modern public transportation all the more pressing,” said Jeff Binks, President of the LRT on the Green Foundation. “What we are proposing is a long commitment from City Council, no doubt, but in 30 years if the Green Line LRT isn’t built, it is still going to be Calgary’s biggest infrastructure need. The sooner we build this, the less effect inflation is going to have on the final cost, and the greater impact it can make on the growth plan for the city.”

First proposed by City Council in 2013, the $52 million annual allocation towards the Green Line used existing property tax room vacated by the Province to jump-start work on the project’s initial phase. This initial phase will see the construction of a bus-only transitway that will connect Calgary’s southeast communities to those along Centre Street N via the downtown core. By extending the annual tax allocation an additional 20 years, Calgary City Council can move towards the first phase of LRT on the Green Line while ensuring no new taxes would be required to fund the project.

By adopting LRTOTG’s proposal, Calgary City Council would demonstrate the political and financial will to make meaningful progress towards building the Green Line LRT. Nearly 300,000 Calgarians live along the proposed route and eight employment hubs are also planned for the corridor. Increasing the scope beyond the currently funded transitway will help connect the city in new and exciting ways and has a number of Community Associations quite excited at the prospect.
“Like many established communities, Thorncliffe-Greenview is on the cusp of generational change,” said Marvin Quashnick of Ward 4’s Thorncliffe-Greenview Community Association. “Full, exigent, & intelligent execution of the Green Line with requisite funding could prove pivotal to our future vitality & success.”

Binks will speak at Wednesday’s T&T Committee meeting, officially putting forward the Foundation’s model as a viable alternative to the increased taxation methods, such as a new sales tax, that are discussed in the upcoming report. He and the group hope that the proposal will serve as a catalyst to generate discussions about additional funding for the Green Line LRT from all orders of government.

“The federal government has made a commitment with their upcoming budget to developing a national transit strategy with the proposed Public Transit Fund. We can’t say for sure how that will get divided between Canada’s big cities,” added Binks. “But I think showing up with $1.5 billion of city-raised capital before asking the federal government for assistance makes a big statement. And hey, fortune favours the bold.”

About LRT on the Green:
Formed in 2014, LRT on the Green is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to unite Calgarians in the desire to have LRT operating on the Green Line in both the North Central and South East corridors by the year 2021. Our members represent various business, developer and community stakeholders who have an interest in seeing LRT on the Green Line sooner, rather than later. They provide us with ideas and feedback to help us shape the direction of the Foundation and our advocacy efforts.

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