The TransLink Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation made a formal request to the Canadian Federal Government to renew its partnership with the region and the Province, to ensure Metro Vancouver’s transit system can sustain and expand services in the face of increasing ridership amid ongoing post-pandemic financial challenges for TransLink.
In a pre-budget submission to the Minister of Finance, the Mayors’ Council is specifically calling for emergency relief funding of $250 million — to be matched by the BC government — to help offset the ongoing financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to accelerate the delivery of the federal Permanent Transit Fund from 2026/27 to 2024/25, to keep TransLink’s new 10-year expansion plan, the Transport 2050 Ten-Year Priorities, on track.
“Reliable and efficient transit is crucial to our residents, businesses, and economy,” said Kevin Quinn, CEO of TransLink. “Metro Vancouver is expected to grow substantially in the near future, which will bring increased pressures on our public transit services. TransLink will need sustainable and dependable funding to both maintain our current levels of service and prepare for critically needed expansion.”
The population of Metro Vancouver is estimated to increase by more than one million people by 2050. This growth will be supercharged by new federal immigration targets, critical to addressing Canada’s labor shortage and economic growth. It is estimated that 1.45 million people will immigrate to Canada between now and 2025, one of every eight of whom are forecast to end up in Metro Vancouver.
Pressures on the transit system are compounded by the rapid ridership growth across Metro Vancouver, with transit boardings already at 82% of pre-pandemic levels — the highest among North America’s big cities, according to TransLink. Overcrowding on the system, especially South of the Fraser and other fast-growing communities, is approaching levels not seen since before the pandemic when TransLink was struggling to keep up with surging demand.
The Mayors’ Council is calling on the federal government to:
- Provide $250 million in Emergency Transit Relief Funding to TransLink, to be matched by the Government of BC, to protect existing transit service levels in 2023-25.
- Accelerate the delivery of the Permanent Transit Fund (PTF) by two years from the original commitment of 2026/27 to 2024/25 to avoid delaying the transit service expansion needed to meet national and provincial GHG emission targets, respond to the housing affordability crisis and serve quickly growing ridership.
- Permanently double the Canada Community-Building Fund (formerly known as the Gas Tax Fund) as was done in 2019, 2021 and 2022, and increase its annual escalator to 3.5% to better reflect construction cost inflation.
- Launch a tri-partite national commission together with provinces, transit agencies and local governments to develop a new funding model for public transit that is more resilient and equitable by avoiding overreliance on regressive sources such as transit fares and property taxes.
The 10-Year Priorities, the plan that was re-endorsed unanimously by the Mayors’ Council on Jan. 26, 2023, includes doubling of bus service region-wide, nine new bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, expansion of active transportation infrastructure, and SkyTrain service expansion to meet forecasted population growth and ensure more residents have easy access to transit.