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Mayors approve ‘stopgap’ 2024 TransLink funding, but ‘fiscal cliff’ still looms

Click to play video: '‘Stopgap’ transit funding approved by Metro Vancouver mayors'
‘Stopgap’ transit funding approved by Metro Vancouver mayors
Metro Vancouver mayors have approved a 2024 funding plan to help ease overcrowding. But they're warning both the provincial and federal governments more money is needed to keep TransLink afloat beyond 2025. Richard Zussman reports. – Apr 25, 2024

Metro Vancouver mayors have approved a 2024 funding plan for TransLink aimed at easing overcrowding.

TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn described the investment plan as a “stopgap” measure to address congestion on the system as work continues to secure stable, long-term funding.

“TransLink is facing an extremely problematic structural deficit, caused by lower fare revenue due to previously projected, due to the after-effects of the pandemic, declining fuel tax as we electrify our vehicles and increased costs due to inflation,” Quinn said.

“By the end of next year we hit a fiscal cliff, and the stark reality is that without additional funding we won’t have enough revenue to cover the costs of keeping the current system running, let alone funding much-needed expansion we know this region needs.”

Click to play video: 'TransLink gets infusion of provincial funding'
TransLink gets infusion of provincial funding

Quinn said the transit system is facing growing pressure as the region grows, with 90,000 new people moving to Metro Vancouver last year.

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At peak times, one-third of transit trips in Surrey, Langley and Vancouver are already overcrowded, he said.

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TransLink’s funding sources are limited by legislation to fare increases and property tax hikes.

The 2024 investment plan incorporates an already planned July fare increase of 2.3 per cent, along with a 10 cent increase to cash fares in 2025.

It will also result in a 2024 property tax increase of about one per cent, amounting to about $3.08 per month for a median home, according to TransLink.

The provincial government has further announced $300 million in capital funding for new buses.

The plan will see service increased on 60 bus routes, extended evening hours on 11 bus routes, SeaBus sailings begin 15 minutes earlier on weekdays and HandyDart service extended in the evening.

It also includes increased train frequency on the Canada Line, Expo Line and Millennium line and more capacity for the West Coast Express.

Click to play video: 'Metro Vancouver mayor calls for overhaul of TransLink governance'
Metro Vancouver mayor calls for overhaul of TransLink governance

TransLink Mayors’ Council chair Brad West said the plan will “begin” to address some of the system’s problems, but that long-term stability remains at risk.

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He called out the federal government for its failure to add any new funding to the system in its 2024 budget.

“That is simply not good enough for this region,” West said.

“Particularly when so many of the decisions that are made in Ottawa are having a significant effect on our transit system.”

Ottawa has pledged to create a new federal Permanent Transit Fund that would disburse $3 billion nationally every year, but not until 2026.

TransLink has also yet to secure funding for its ambitious 10-year, $21-billion Access for Everyone plan, which includes a number of big-ticket projects such as extending the Broadway subway to UBC, multiple Bus Rapid Transit routes and a gondola to Simon Fraser University.

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