At Canada’s Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Annual Convention, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation warned that time is running out for the provincial and federal governments to commit new funding for public transit expansion amid surging ridership in the Metro Vancouver region.
With all levels of government working together to accelerate the development of affordable housing, the Mayors’ Council is urging the provincial and federal governments to commit funding for the Access for Everyone transit expansion plan, which will enhance access to new affordable housing developments throughout the region and better serve existing communities where transit ridership is already overcrowded.
The plan will double bus service over the next decade, build nine new bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, and increase funding for active transportation infrastructure by a factor of 10.
New data from TransLink shows overcrowding on its system is rapidly worsening. By 2025, almost four in 10 rush hour bus trips will be severely overcrowded, leaving tens of thousands of commuters every day watching full buses pass them.
Metro Vancouver leads all major North American cities in post-pandemic rapid transit ridership recovery. Transit ridership in Surrey and Langley is at 120% of pre-COVID levels with some routes in these fast-growing communities seeing ridership more than double over the past four years.
Transit service was frozen at 2019 levels due to the pandemic, while since then the region’s population has grown by more than 200,000, with 50,000 more people arriving every year. The region’s transit service levels, per capita, are now back to 2016 levels and this metric will continue to decline given rapid population growth, unless new service is urgently added, according to the Mayors’ Council.
Charging Ahead on Transit Growth
The TransLink Mayors’ Council is in the process of finalizing the projects and initiatives to be included in the first phase of TransLink’s new Access for Everyone plan. The plan will need funding commitments no later than June 2024 to stay on track to begin expanding transit service in late 2024 in line with population growth and to support new housing targets.
A public opinion poll from August 2023 shows that four-in-five (79%) of Metro Vancouver residents agree it is crucial that governments are proactive in building transit in response to population growth. The data further shows that 73% of residents support the Access for Everyone plan and believe it will have a positive impact on them personally.
“TransLink is leading North America in ridership recovery,” said Kevin Quinn, CEO of TransLink. “The Access for Everyone plan will support this strong growth, while tackling issues of affordability and supporting provincial and federal climate goals. By investing in better bus service and cost-effective rapid transit technologies, better roads, and active transportation, we can provide people with more options to move around this region.”
The public opinion survey was conducted in August 2023 using an online panel.