Metro Vancouver mayors asking federal government for big cheque to fund transit expansion

An artist's conception of what a future Surrey-Langley SkyTrain station could look like. TransLink

Metro Vancouver mayors are heading to Ottawa and they want one thing: money.

A delegation of municipal leaders are set to meet with cabinet ministers, party leaders and MPs on Wednesday.

Before heading to the nation’s capital, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation joined business, health, transportation and environment groups in calling on Ottawa to fund a share of the next phase of Metro Vancouver’s transit expansion plan.

“Transit expansion has been a huge success story in Metro Vancouver, and it is clear that our communities want governments to continue investing in order to improve service,” Mayors’ Council chair and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan X. Coté said.

Click to play video: 'Historic agreement to get SkyTrain all way to UBC'
Historic agreement to get SkyTrain all way to UBC

“Our region is united in supporting the 10-Year vision transit expansion plan because we all know what is at stake. If we want to grow our economy, tackle climate change, connect our regional business hubs and post-secondary institutions, and ensure better access to affordable housing, we need to expand our transit system.”

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Historically the federal government covers 40 per cent of the bill for major transit projects, the province covers 40 per cent, and municipalities pay the remaining 20 per cent.

The mayors have a long list of projects in need of funding.

The formal submission to the federal government includes a request to establish a $375-million-a-year permanent transit fund to support future regional transit expansion.  In advance of the permanent transit fund, $685 million is required by mid-2021 to cover the third phase of TransLink’s 10-Year Vision. In addition, $225 million is to accelerate conversion of TransLink’s bus fleet to emissions-free battery electric technology.

“The Mayors’ Council appreciates the government’s commitment to long-term approaches to funding and emissions reduction, but the fact is we can’t wait seven years to move forward with the next phase of transit expansion in Metro Vancouver, otherwise we will face severe overcrowding on our system and worse,” Mayors’ Council vice-chair and Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese said.

The mayors’ council recently finalized the business plan to extend the SkyTrain from King George station in Surrey to Fleetwood but funding is needed to continue the line to Langley.

Current projections tag the project at $1.5 billion. The mayors’ council originally supported light rail, which would have gone all the way to Langley within the current budget. But Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum campaigned on SkyTrain and pushed the mayors’ council to support his vision.

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Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has been pushing for funding to extend the Broadway Subway line from Arbutus Street all the way to the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus. The mayors are also asking for funding to support a gondola at Simon Fraser University.

The provincial government has not committed yet to the next phase of funding.

“We have put 40 per cent support to the mayors’ Phase 2 and we are waiting to see what comes up for the next phase of the vision,” Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said.

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