Mayors’ Council urges federal parties to commit to permanent transit funding to avoid project delays

Mayor Jonathan Cote
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote

Metro Vancouver mayors joined by Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Union of B.C. Municipalities in asking parties to commit to transit investment ahead of election

THE Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation on Tuesday renewed its call for political parties to commit to a permanent transit fund during the federal election campaign – warning that rapid transit projects including SkyTrain to Langley and to UBC and other Phase Three Plan projects will be delayed if there is uncertainty about federal funding beyond current commitments.

Representatives of the Mayors’ Council, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) gathered at the annual UBCM Convention in Vancouver to underline the importance of the next federal government establishing a permanent federal funding allocation to transit agencies, to expand service in order to keep up with growing public demand.

“Without federal commitments through a permanent, predictable transit fund, our most critical transit projects are at risk of delay, and we face a future where traffic congestion and overcrowding on transit gets worse,” said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote, Chair of the Mayors’ Council. “One million more people are coming to Metro Vancouver in the next 20 years – that means expanding our transit system is absolutely critical if we’re going to protect our environment and quality of life, and keep our economy growing.”

Current funding commitments to TransLink from all levels of government – including federal funding up to 2027 – have been almost fully allocated to approved projects that are part of the 10-Year Vision.

With transit ridership in Metro Vancouver growing faster than anywhere else in North America and the region’s growth in population and economy certain to add even more riders, moving forward with the next wave of transit expansion will be key to meeting public demand, reducing congestion and avoiding transit overcrowding.

Through its Cure Congestion campaign, the Mayors’ Council has joined FCM in calling for a permanent federal funding allocation that would deliver $34 billion for the 10-year plan (2028-29 to 2037-38) with $30 billion in allocation-based funding and at least $4 billion for the complimentary merit-based stream, with consistent funding of $3.4 billion each year during the 10-year period.

FCM has also called for immediate funding to accelerate the adoption of electric buses and other low-to-zero emission transit and municipal fleet vehicles.

Permanent funding would enable TransLink to complete the 10-Year Vision and accelerate planning for future transit projects to be identified as part of the Transport 2050 plan. Projects at risk of delay without funding commitments beyond 2027 include:

* Extending SkyTrain from Surrey to Langley in one phase

* Extending Skytrain all the way to UBC

*  Adding all five rapid bus lines that are part of the Phase Three Plan of the 10-Year Vision

*  Rapid transit on King George Boulevard

* Beginning implementation of projects to be identified in the Transport 2050 plan, starting in 2022

Metro Vancouver voters agree that it’s time for a permanent transit fund from the federal government. The recent VoteLocal survey by Mustel Group found that 80% of the region’s residents support establishing a permanent transit fund. From May through September, more than 7,000 emails were sent by Metro Vancouver voters to candidates and MPs as a result of the Mayors’ Council Cure Congestion campaign.

An Abacus Data survey conducted in March 2019 for FCM found that 96% of Metro Vancouver residents polled believe building better transit is a priority that governments should focus on. Of those, 51% say it is a “top” or “high” priority, compared with 41% across Canada.

The Mayors’ Council launched its Cure Congestion federal election platform in May 2019 – in partnership with local stakeholders including the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, UBC, SFU, BC Chamber of Commerce, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, HUB Cycling, BC Healthy Living Alliance, David Suzuki Foundation and others.

Prior to the October 21 election, the Mayors’ Council will release a Voters’ Guide detailing the four main federal parties’ positions on transit funding. To date, the NDP has included in its election platform a commitment to establishing a permanent funding mechanism for public transit.

“This election is about building better lives, and one way we do that is when we build better transit,” said FCM President Bill Karsten. “The surge in public transit expansion we are seeing across the country is a clear sign that reducing commute times, and contributing to a cleaner environment, can massively improve Canadians’ quality of life. That’s why we’re asking each party to make a clear commitment in this campaign—to keep Canada on a reliable, uninterrupted path toward fast and accessible public transit.”

“As British Columbia’s urban regions continue to grow, they need reliable investments from federal and provincial governments in order to keep up with public demand for transit,” said Mayor Maja Tait, First Vice-President of UBCM. “UBCM is pleased to join the Mayors’ Council and FCM in calling on federal leaders to make long-term commitments that will help communities deliver more sustainable transportation options for Canadians.”

“With a rapidly growing population in Metro Vancouver, transportation needs are constantly changing,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “In just three years since the beginning of the Mayors’ 10-Year Investment plan, we’ve seen ridership grow an unprecedented 18 per cent. Long-term commitments for consistent and reliable investments in public transportation are the best way to help assure a sustainable and prosperous future.”