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The price tag for the RAV, a P3 Vancouver transit project, continues to grow – and the public is picking up the tab.

In early August, the final deal to build the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) transit line was unveiled, revealing costs had risen by $180 million. RAV promoters said the increase wouldn’t cost the public a penny more, pointing at two new partners who’ve agreed to help shoulder the costs. Problem is, the two partners are tapping public pension money to make up the difference.

RAV winning bidder SNC-Lavalin has signed up the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, which manages mainly public sector pension money and the Caisse de dépôt, which does the same in Quebec. Ultimately, as Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer points out, “SNC-Lavalin has found a way to disperse some of the private sector share of the risk back to the public sector.”

The public is also likely on the hook once the majority of the risk shifts more directly to taxpayers. That will happen when the line is up and running, and relying on riders’ fares to cover costs. B.C. media are reporting on a new Danish study of rail transit mega-projects that warns ridership is often overestimated, creating funding shortfalls.

Several redesigns and scaling back the project also mean the public is paying more for less of a system than originally promised. CUPE BC waged a persistent and well-researched campaign against the RAV, predicting that it would cost transit users and taxpayers dearly.