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Infrastructure, service cuts possible if ‘fiscal cliff’ not avoided, TransLink warns

Click to play video: 'TransLink warns of looming funding shortfall'
TransLink warns of looming funding shortfall
TransLink is warning that without more funding from the provincial and federal governments, it won't have any money for small-scale projects like bike lanes and road maintenance work. Janet Brown reports. – May 30, 2024

Metro Vancouver’s transit and transportation agency is highlighting a slew of smaller road, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure projects it says are at risk if its long-term cash crunch isn’t fixed.

TransLink and the region’s mayors have been sounding the alarm for months about an approaching “fiscal cliff” that could result in major transit service cuts if it isn’t resolved by next year.

At the Thursday meeting of the TransLink Mayors’ Council, it also pointed to millions of dollars the agency provides to local governments for smaller-scale road infrastructure projects.

Click to play video: 'Transit funding commitments'
Transit funding commitments

“They are so important, they are about connecting communities through biking paths, sidewalks, pedestrian infrastructure and that infrastructure to help buses get through traffic faster,” TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn said.

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“While they may be small they have tremendous impact.”

In 2024, TransLink is providing $144 million to municipal governments to support 104 projects and the ongoing maintenance of the major road network.

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The funding went to several dozen walkways, bikeways and multi-use pathways, along with projects to maintain and upgrade key roads.

“A lot of people don’t know that TransLink really funds sidewalks, bike lanes and roads in communities throughout Metro Vancouver,” City of Langley Mayor Nathan Pachal said.

“Without TransLink funding, there would be no bike lane expansion, maintenance of the major road network would start to deteriorate, even things such as culverts for rivers that go under roads.”

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

Pachal estimated about $800 million worth of municipal projects in Metro Vancouver had been funded this way in the last five years.

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In April, the mayors’ council approved a “stopgap” 2024 funding plan to help relieve congested bus routes that includes a July fare increase and a property increase.

The provincial government has also provided $300 million in capital funding for new buses.

But TransLink says it will be without stable funding starting after 2025, amid a structural deficit driven by lower fare revenue, falling fuel taxes and inflation.

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

Click to play video: 'TransLink fares increasing amid $4.7-billion funding gap'
TransLink fares increasing amid $4.7-billion funding gap

Beyond the municipal road projects TransLink helps fund, Pachal said without solving the long-term funding problem the region could see transit service cuts of 40-60 per cent.

“Our ability to raise money is really limited to property tax, and that is not going to be enough to fulfil all the need that TransLink has,” added New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone.

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“If we start talking about significant cuts to service in 2025, the region is going to look very different.”

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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