Monday, March 27, 2023

March TransLink Mayors’ Council: Provincial and Federal Policies Put Pressure on Transit System

On Friday, I attend the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation meeting. The Mayors’ Council is one of the two governing bodies of TransLink. TransLink’s CEO Kevin Quinn provided his monthly update on the transportation agency. He noted that ridership continues to rebound and is at 84% of 2019 levels. He also announced “Transit for the Planet” for Earth Day on April 22nd, where there will be giveaways at major SkyTrain stations.

TransLink staff presented at the meeting that the transit system faces uneven pressure due to provincial and federal government policies that are helping to transition to a clean future and ensure we have a growing job market.

These pressures include higher than expected immigration levels to Metro Vancouver, with people settling in the South of Fraser and areas well served by transit. The South of Fraser also has lower levels of work-from-home than over parts of the region. Transit ridership is well above 2019 levels in the South of Fraser, and some routes are now overcrowded.

2021 census tracts where recent immigrants comprise a high proportion of the population. Green is around 5%, Light Blue is between 5-10%, and Dark blue is above 10% of the population. Select the map to enlarge.

The rapid uptake of electric vehicles as part of the CleanBC Plan is reducing the revenue TransLink needs to provide transportation services, as gas tax revenue is declining as people adopt EVs.

The provincial government announced $479 million in stopgap funding to keep our transportation system running as we work towards new stable funding for TransLink, which will take the provincial government’s support to replace the gas tax.

The federal government’s immigration policies support our economy, but also strain local and regional infrastructure. The federal government should speed up the implementation of their permanent transit fund to help build transit to support our growing population.

Later in the meeting, the Mayors’ Council approved sending an official submission to the provincial government on their BC Clean Transportation Action Plan. The mayors asked the province to:

  • Incorporate the already approved regional goals, targets, strategies and actions from Transport 2050, Climate 2050, and Metro 2050 into the BC Clean Transportation Action Plan.
  • Collaborate with TransLink and Metro Vancouver to implement these approved regional plans, focusing on funding and implementing Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities.
  • Work with TransLink and Metro Vancouver on the Driving Down Emissions project to identify and evaluate viable regulatory and policy tools to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector.

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