TransLink's Mayors' Council renews calls for expedited federal funding

May 10 2023, 6:24 pm

A delegation of 11 mayors from Metro Vancouver will be descending on Ottawa next week to request the Government of Canada to fast-track funding for public transit.

Representing TransLink’s Mayors’ Council, they are calling on the federal government to start its previously announced annual permanent federal transit fund in 2024, a few years earlier than planned, to enable TransLink and other public transit authorities in Canada to improve their services sooner.

For Metro Vancouver specifically, by starting the permanent transit fund in 2024/25 instead of 2026/27, this will help keep TransLink’s $20-billion, 10-year priorities of expanding and improving transit on track, which runs on a timeline of between 2025 and 2035.

“We want the voices of our residents to be heard in Ottawa and Victoria. Metro Vancouver’s population is growing fast and essential services like public transit are not keeping up,” said Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who is the chair of the Mayors’ Council.

“Just like other core utilities that keep our region going — electricity, water, roads — public transit is key to our quality of life in Metro Vancouver and we urgently need to expand transit services as we add more people to the region.”

The trip to Ottawa will also be accompanied by a public information campaign launching on May 15, including a website, public engagement, and media placements to inform the region’s residents.

The multi-billion dollar plan includes double bus service, rolling out new networks of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), RapidBus, and Express Bus routes, and building the SFU Burnaby Mountain gondola and the SkyTrain Millennium Line extension to UBC.

The Mayors’ Council also reiterates TransLink is leading North America’s public transit ridership rebound, and the federal government’s heightened immigration targets will put pressure on transportation in major urban centres.

As well, they are calling on the federal government to launch a national commission comprised of provincial governments, public transit authorities, and local governments to create a new funding model for public transit that is less reliant on fluctuating, unreliable, demand-driven revenue streams such as fares, as well as property taxes.

“It’s important that residents across the region have access to reliable and efficient transportation options,” said Ken Sim, mayor of the City of Vancouver. “Access for Everyone will improve transportation links in every corner of the region, helping people get where they need to go. In the spirit of collaboration, we ask the federal government to renew its partnership with our region and province to ensure this plan can be fully funded.”

To date, senior governments have also provided TransLink with a total of $1.3 billion in pandemic-time financial relief, including $644 million in initial joint provincial and federal subsidies in September 2020 for forecasted revenue shortfalls in 2020 and 2021, $176 million in joint funding from senior governments in January 2022 for revenue shortfalls in 2022 and 2023, and $479 million from the provincial government in March 2023 to cover forecasted revenue shortfalls between 2023 and 2025. The latest infusion from the province avoids major service cuts.

While ridership is rebounding towards pre-pandemic volumes, passengers are using cheaper fare products — such as single-trip fares, instead of monthly passes. Ridership in certain areas, such as city centres typically buoyed by office workers, remains lower than before the pandemic.

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