THE Phibbs Exchange may get an upgrade - if TransLink can afford it or if the District of North Vancouver is willing to help pay for it.
The subject of the District of North Vancouver chipping in with TransLink for a $3-to $5-million improvement on the isolated Lower Lynn transit station was broached at a committee of the whole meeting May 13.
TransLink is currently mulling the prospect of adding a park and ride lot, improving crossings at Oxford Street, and adding better lighting and weather protection to North Vancouver's transit hub.
The current facility is not big enough and while it is not dangerous it "certainly feels unsafe," according to TransLink project planning manager Jeff Busby.
The overhaul is intended to raise the feeling of security while easing access to the station, according to district transportation planner Tegan Smith.
The notion of the district paying for a TransLink project was divisive, and according to Coun. Roger Bassam, amounted to downloading.
"If we do come to the table with a contribution . . . how do we get credit for that, or is that simply a contribution in addition to road pricing, bridge tolls?" he asked. "The bigger issue here is that TransLink isn't funded properly. They have too much responsibility for regional infrastructure . . . they should be providing bus services and exchanges."
Coun. Alan Nixon backed up Bassam's stance, but Couns. Lisa Muri and Mike Little were less convinced.
"I hate downloading, but at the same time I want to see some things happen," Little said. "For our 87,000 people that's our one station."
Since joining council, Little said he's participated in numerous discussions about upgrading Phibbs, none of which have amounted to any substantial changes.
When a developer designs a building that features more height or density than the district customarily allows, the municipality sometimes asks the developer to pay a sum called a community amenity contribution. That money could be used to pay for the Phibbs overhaul, according to Little.
"I don't think our community would be offended if we were doing upgrades in and around that site with community amenity contributions," he said.
The discussion was mostly in general terms, because exactly how much the district may be asked to pay was never mentioned.
Council's challenge is in determining whether paying something is worse than seeing nothing done, according to Muri.
The process is also made difficult by the district's relationship with TransLink, a point made by both
Bassam and Muri.
"Frustration always is we can never get the numbers from TransLink on what the actual costs are for funding bus service for the North Shore," Bassam said.
"The challenge obviously is that we pay a huge amount as residents to TransLink and we get very little back," Muri said.
Muri's claim was disputed by Mayor Richard Walton, who also serves as chairman of Translink's Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation.
"As for us getting our share in North Vancouver . . . North Vancouver District is right in the middle of the pack," he said.
District residents will pay for the Phibbs Exchange, Walton said, reasoning that both provincial taxes and district taxes come from the same taxpayer.
Discussing downloading, Walton said those funding decisions are made by a handful of bureaucrats who work with the premier.
"The decisions are made in Victoria," he said. "That's where the policy is made, we can't change that by stamping our feet."
Like Little, Walton said he would consider chipping in under certain conditions.
"If the deal makes sense, sometimes you have to hold your nose and take the deal."
TransLink is also working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to improve the Trans-Canada Highway on-ramp used by buses coming from Phibbs Exchange, which has "quite limited visibility and sub-standard merging distance," according to Busby.