SkyTrain reaching UBC and Langley at risk without federal funding, Mayors' Council warns

Sep 24 2019, 4:31 pm

With less than a month to go until the federal election, Canada’s federal political parties have been light on their promises for public transit infrastructure funding, and TransLink’s Mayors’ Council is now warning that SkyTrain extension projects reaching Langley and UBC in Metro Vancouver’s Phase Three plan could be at risk of being delayed if the uncertainty continues.

The Mayors’ Council, accompanied by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, made an attempt today at the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention to rekindle federal campaign attention towards the region’s transit issues and for a continuous scheduled stream of federal funding for public transit infrastructure over the decades to come.

Through the Cure Congestion initiative, the regional body is calling for permanent, predictable federal funding of $34 billion for the 10-year plan between 2028 to 2038, with $30 billion in allocation-based funding and at least $4 billion for complimentary merit-based stream funding. This would be funded consistently over the span of the period with $3.4 billion per year.

Without federal commitments through a permanent, predictable transit fund, our most critical transit projects are at risk of delay, and we face a future where traffic congestion and overcrowding on transit gets worse,” said New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote, chair of the Mayors’ Council, in a statement.

“One million more people are coming to Metro Vancouver in the next 20 years – that means expanding our transit system is absolutely critical if we’re going to protect our environment and quality of life, and keep our economy growing.”

Committed federal funding from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for transit projects across the country — spanning through 2027 — so far only covers TransLink’s Phase One and Phase Two transit expansion plans, which includes big ticket projects such as the $2.8-billion Millennium Line Broadway Extension to Arbutus Street and $1.6 billion for the first phase of the Expo Line Fraser Highway Extension reaching Fleetwood from federal funding previously allocated to the now-cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT.

TransLink believes it can build the first phase of the Fraser Highway Extension — seven kms of new track and four new stations — with existing funding by 2025, but it ideally wants to extend SkyTrain all the way to Langley Centre in one go. The full cost of the 16-km-long, eight-station extension from King George Station to Langley Centre is $3.1 billion.

The seven-km-long Millennium Line extension from Arbutus Station to the UBC campus is expected to cost about $4 billion.

The public transit authority also wants to add five additional RapidBus lines as part of the Phase Three Plan, beyond the five RapidBus lines that will launch in early 2020 under Phase One funding.

There is also a desire to fulfill a rapid transit service on King George Boulevard in Surrey, connecting Guildford, Surrey City Centre, and Newton.

Additional secured federal funding would also be used to begin the implementation of projects that will be identified as strategic priorities in Transport 2050, beginning in 2022. This could potentially include a North Shore SkyTrain line, which is currently the subject of a provincial technical analysis and a federal economic analysis.

“With a rapidly growing population in Metro Vancouver, transportation needs are constantly changing,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.

“In just three years since the beginning of the Mayors’ 10-Year Investment plan, we’ve seen ridership grow an unprecedented 18%. Long-term commitments for consistent and reliable investments in public transportation are the best way to help assure a sustainable and prosperous future.”

Various public surveys conducted this year indicate there is strong support amongst Metro Vancouver residents for strong federal funding for local public transit; a Mustel Group survey found that 80% of residents support a new permanent transit fund, while an Abascus Data survey indicated 96% of residents believe governments should prioritize better public transit.

According to the Mayors’ Council, at this stage of the federal election campaign, only the federal NDP have included in its election platform a commitment to creating a permanent funding mechanism for public transit infrastructure investments.

Voters across Canada head the polls on Monday, October 21.