Thursday, February 16, 2023

Metro Vancouver mayors ask feds to double-down on transit investment to keep our region’s economy going

Reliable and fast transit helps keep our region’s economy going. It gives us an affordable travel option and a way out of congestion.


In Metro Vancouver, transit ridership continues to recover, but it will take a few more years to recover region-wide fully. At the same time, ridership has recovered in some parts of the region, such as the South of Fraser. Some bus routes are overcrowded, and some bus routes are getting bogged down in congestion today. We also know that a million more people will move to our region over the next 25 years, and the only way to keep Metro Vancouver moving will be by doubling down on transit service investments.

The federal government is asking for formal feedback to help shape its 2023 budget. Yesterday, TransLink’s Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation called on the federal government to take four concrete actions.

  1. Provide $250 million in Emergency Transit Relief Funding to TransLink, to be matched by the Government of B.C., to protect existing transit service levels in 2023-25 and enable TransLink to begin improving and expanding transit starting in late 2024 to meet urgent and growing needs.
  2. 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 starting in 2024 to meet national and provincial GHG emission targets, respond to the housing affordability crisis and serve quickly growing ridership. A permanent, predictable transit funding program will enable TransLink to begin delivering the expanded transit services and active transportation projects outlined in TransLink’s Transport 2050 10-Year Priorities. The need for this accelerated timeline is particularly acute in Metro Vancouver, which has already utilized its share of funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan (ICIP). An accelerated PTF should also:
    1. Ensure complementary provincial contributions.
    2. Include an annual cost escalator of 3.5% and be enshrined in legislation.
    3. Direct funding support to transit projects that are identified in region-wide, long-range transportation plans that are developed through extensive public engagement and consultation, align with land-use plans, and include actionable objectives and targets that meet key national, provincial and local objectives, in particular to address climate change targets and the affordability crisis, and which minimize transportation projects’ adverse impact on local communities and businesses.
  3. 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. The Canada Community-Building Fund provides direct, reliable infrastructure funding to local governments, including for public transit.
  4. Launch a tri-partite national commission together with provinces, local governments and transit agencies 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. A new funding model will ensure that transit agencies have the resources needed for the increased operating and capital requirements to meet national, provincial and local expectations of public transit services.

As a note, the federal government announced the permanent public transit fund in 2021, to start in 2026. Today without the permanent fund, the Mayors’ Council, province and TransLink need to negotiate with the federal government on a project-by-project basis. This process is slow, inefficient and subject to election cycles. The permanent public transit fund would provide stability, supporting the Mayors’ Council 10-Year Vision, allowing these much-needed projects to get started quicker.

No comments: