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CUPE members in BC have been fighting to keep a new rapid transit line from the airport to Vancouver from becoming a P3. The proposal for the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) line would see a private corporation operate and maintain the line through a P3 contract of up to 35 years, as well as designing and building the link. SkyTrain operators, members of CUPE 7000, argue the project should build on their solid experience running the world-class public transit system since it opened in 1986.

Instead, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority and the provincial Liberals worked to squelch legally required public consultations on the $1.5-billion project. As well, the transit authority failed to look at what it would have cost for the public sector to operate and maintain the line and refused to release information that would let the public do the comparison. Analysis from CUPE and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) showed a transit P3 would likely lead to higher costs and risks. One estimate, done by the city of Burnaby, showed an extra $17 million cost for private operation.

While there was strong opposition to the project, the Greater Vancouver Regional District chaired by the same person who was a driving force behind the water P3 that CUPE helped kill in 2001 rammed through the RAV P3 in late May. But the fight isnt over yet. CUPE 7000 is planning a legal challenge, arguing the GVRD didnt provide proper public consultations required by law. The local is also backing municipal allies who are working to have the RFP restricted to just the design and construction of the new line, keeping the operation public.

For more background on the RAV P3 and the problems with transportation P3s at home and abroad, download Public derailment?, a brief by CUPE 7000, from http://www.cupe.bc.ca, and High Risk from the CCPA, at http://www.policyalternatives.ca (under the CCPA-BC section).