Metro Vancouver’s mayors are appealing to the federal government to include a $34-billion permanent public transit fund in its 2021 budget.
The fund, which was a promise the Liberals made in the run-up to last year’s federal election, is something the TransLink’s Mayors Council and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities had initially wanted to see in place by 2028. It would provide an estimated $375 million per year to Metro Vancouver’s transit authority.
The mayors say that having it in place seven years sooner will help with the next four-to-five years of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which decimated TransLink’s ridership and finances, and provide funding for approved projects and longer-term planning.
“Although the pandemic has reduced TransLink’s ridership and revenues, this setback is temporary, and we must continue looking to the future knowing that transit will remain a critical component of our region’s economy and quality of life,” Mayors Council chairman Jonathan Coté wrote in a letter sent this week to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna.
“Continued long-term, predictable federal partnership is a key piece to our path ahead.”
The B.C. government and the Government of Canada have already provided $644 million in emergency relief funding to TransLink so that transit service can be maintained at existing levels. It’s expected that money will get the authority through 2020 and 2021, but there could $100-million-to-$300-million shortfalls each year between 2021 and 2030.
Coté said in his letter that in the short- term, to complete TransLink’s COVID-19 rebuilding strategy, build projects like the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain and complete the development of a 30-year regional transportation plan, more federal funding is needed.
For the long-term, the mayors want to have a guarantee of federal funding to execute projects that will help expand the system further as the region grows.