BC government commits $2.4 billion for TransLink's new SkyTrain and electric buses

May 27 2022, 8:47 pm

Just one day after the Mayors’ Council provided TransLink’s 2022 Investment Plan with its final approval, the provincial government is backing the plan financially with a commitment of $2.4 billion.

The funding announcement made early Friday afternoon follows the previous funding formula of the provincial government covering 40% of public transit expansion and improvement costs. Under the formula, the federal government would commit another 40% and TransLink with the remaining 10%.

This 2022 plan spans three years through 2025 when the next investment plan update is scheduled.

It includes an affirmation of the entire 16-km, eight-station Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension of the Expo Line. Last year, the federal government announced it would provide $1.3 billon towards the cost of the project, which is now pegged at $3.95 billion based on major construction beginning in 2024 for an opening in 2028.

The newly approved plan also provides TransLink’s first major investments into transitioning toward a battery-electric bus fleet, including the acquisition of about 500 new additional battery-electric buses to replace 34% of the diesel bus fleet as the vehicles reach the end of the lifespan, the construction of major bus depot and charging facilities required to handle the battery-electric bus fleet, and the complete replacement of the aging trolley bus fleet with new trolley models. All of this is planned through the end of this decade.

“We’re making investments to support a better future for people throughout Metro Vancouver with more affordable and convenient travel options, cleaner air, and less climate pollution,” said George Heyman, BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Minister Responsible for TransLink.

Other projects within the approved plan entail launching the new R6 RapidBus in Surrey and Delta, planning the new R7 RapidBus between Richmond-Brighouse Station and Metrotown Station, and increasing HandyDART service by 3%.

As well, there would be a $216-million overhaul and technology update of the Compass fare system by 2027, which is subject to creating a favourable business case and further approvals, along with new public washrooms at six major transit hubs starting in 2024, and investments in regional roads and active transportation.

TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn says the provincial government’s new funding also serves as a bridge for the public transit authority for the next three years — stabilizing the public transit authority’s funding over the short term, as TransLink continues to recover its ridership and revenues — and sets it up for a historic expansion over the long term under the previously approved 30-year Transport 2050 plan and the forthcoming consideration of the first 10-year priorities for Transport 2050.

“TransLink has bold ambitions for the future, but the first thing we need to do is to stabilize our finances after pandemic-related ridership losses, and this investment plan is what will get us there,” said Quinn during today’s press conference.

TransLink is projecting its ridership is expected to further recover from 70% this month to 80% of pre-pandemic volumes by the end of 2022. Metro Vancouver’s public transit ridership recovery is a leader amongst the major public transit systems across Canada and the United States.

“In the short term, we’re really focused on this investment plan, over the next three years… we’re stable, and that’s a very enviable place that a lot of North American transit agencies absolutely cannot say. It will be a great place to say, ‘We’ve stabilized our finances and service levels for three years.’ That’s fantastic,” continued Quinn.

“In the long term, we have some work to do. We will be working with the province and federal governments on additional revenue sources, but for the short-term right now, we want to see what happens with ridership return.”

Quinn adds that he is confident sufficient funding will be made available from all three levels of government and TransLink to cover the cost of the plan.

The Mayors’ Council 2022 Investment Plan approval should not be confused with the body’s forthcoming consideration of the first 10-year priorities under the 30-year Transport 2050 plan, which was approved by the body early this year. TransLink’s proposed 10-year priorities include nine bus rapid transit (BRT) routes across the region, additional RapidBus routes, and building UBC SkyTrain and SFU Burnaby Mountain Gondola.

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