Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Proposed spending of Federal Gas Tax Fund by TransLink

The Government of Canada introduced the Federal Gas Tax Fund in 2005 as a way to support local infrastructure in Canada. In 2013, the fund was made permanent with funding increasing by 2% per year.

In all provinces but BC, provincial governments are responsible for the management of the funds. In BC, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities is responsible for the management of the funds. In Metro Vancouver a special agreement is in place to send 95% of the funds to TransLink. These funds can be used for roads and public transit.

In 2014, TransLink will be getting $114 million from the Gas Tax Fund. As parts of the funding agreement, TransLink must get approval from the region to spend these funds via Metro Vancouver (the coalition of local government in our region.)

TransLink uses these funds to keep our transit system in a state of good repair. Earlier this year, I posted that some mayors were grumbling that the funds weren’t being used for transit expansion. Without new, stable operation funding for TransLink, funding transit expansion with the Gas Tax Fund would be foolish as there would no funding to actually provide service.

Funding new infrastructure without funding the maintenance and replacement of existing infrastructure is bad news. It results in the degradation of existing service, increased operation expenses, and may result in the failure of existing infrastructure.

Portland used most of their funding to build light rail at the expense of their bus network. They basically ran their currently buses into the ground which increased operation costs and negativity impacted the reliability of bus service. Portland’s TriMet is finally allocating funding to start replacing their old buses.

In Chicago, the speed of its rapid transit system continued to slow due to a lack of ongoing maintenance. Chicago’s CTA is now rebuilding much of its existing rapid transit infrastructure, but has needed to shut down whole sections of their system at a time to do this.

In Metro Vancouver, we have stable funding to ensure that our current transit infrastructure is in a state of good repair. This means that the quality of both rail and bus service can be maintained while operating costs can be kept as low as possible. This leaves more money available to expand transit service in the future.

Earlier this month, TransLink submitted its list of projects that it would like to fund out of the Gas Tax Fund to Metro Vancouver’s Transportation Committee. The list includes:

$100.4 Million of the Gas Tax Fund for Bus Replacement
-26 Articulated hybrid buses
-52 Articulated buses (fuel technology tba)
-54 Conventional buses (fuel technology tba)

$4.7 Million of the Gas Tax Fund for Trolley Bus Overhead Power Rectifier Replacement
-Replaces equipment that provides power to trolley buses near Metrotown

$4.5 Million of the Gas Tax Fund for Automated Train Control Equipment Replacement
-Replaces 29 year old equipment that controls the Expo Line.

$4 Million of the Gas Tax Fund to Retrofit the Surrey Transit Centre
-Allows compress natural gas buses to operate in the South of Fraser.

While none of these projects are particularly sexy, they will allow the continued reliable operation of transit in Metro Vancouver.

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