Metro Vancouver mayors requesting permanent federal transit fund to be expedited

Nov 13 2020, 6:57 pm

TransLink’s Mayors’ Council has submitted a formal request to the federal government to expedite the launch of the permanent transit fund promised by the Liberal Party during the 2019 election.

Such a fund would be used to enable a predictable funding source to help cover the cost of long-term transportation expansion and improvement plans.

However, the fund was previously proposed to begin in 2028, when existing infrastructure funding programs expire, with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimating such a program would allocate $34 billion across the country through 2037. It is estimated that the fund would provide $3.75 billion to TransLink over 10 years or $375 million annually.

Instead of waiting seven years, the Mayors’ Council wants to see the new federal funding begin sooner over the next four to five years to support COVID-19 recovery and match the commitments from the new BC NDP majority provincial government for already approved, shovel-ready capital projects.

This includes the additional $1.6-billion needed to build the remainder of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension between Fleetwood and Langley Centre — a completion of the entire 16-km-long, eight-station project in one phase from King George Station.

Another $450 million would be for the Low Carbon Fleet Strategy of transitioning to electric-battery buses starting in 2023, $965 million for refurbishment and upgrades to the transit fleet and systems, $550 million for SkyTrain station and bus loop upgrades, and $75 million for project planning and studies to support the Transport 2050 process of creating the region’s new 30-year transportation plan.

Federal funding will ensure these capital projects can continue even with TransLink’s revenue shortfalls for the foreseeable future.

“Although the pandemic has reduced TransLink’s ridership and revenues, this setback is temporary, and we must continue looking to the future knowing that transit will remain a critical component of our region’s economy and quality of life. Continued long-term, predictable federal partnership is a key piece to our path ahead,” wrote Jonathan Cote, the Mayors’ Council chair and New Westminster mayor, in his letter to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Infrastructure Catherine McKenna.

“Our region has a track record as one which integrates land use and transportation planning decisions, follows a long-term, region-wide integrated transportation strategy that maximizes its investments and drives ridership growth, and delivers projects on time and on budget.”

Last month, the federal government announced a $1.5 billion national fund over three years to support the acquisition of new electric-battery buses for public transit systems across the country. TransLink is expected to receive a share of this fund.

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