B.C mayors seek federal transit funding commitments

SkyTrain, rapid bus projects could be at risk without stable funds: mayors

Mayors’ Council of Regional Transportation chair Mayor Jonathan Coté of New Westminster has called on federal political parties to provide permanent funding for transit projects | Photo: Jeremy Hainsworth

Transit projects such as the Langley and UBC SkyTrain might not happen without commitments of funding from Ottawa, the Mayors’ Council of Regional Transportation said Sept. 24.

The mayors have called on electioneering federal political parties to make funding commitments for transit expansion not only in B.C. but also across Canada.

“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,” council chair Mayor Jonathan Coté of New Westminster said.

He said the Lower Mainland is going to see an estimated population boom of up to one million people in the next 20 years, making transit expansion critical.

The mayors have joined with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to call for Ottawa to provide $34 billion over 10 years.

Coté said he’s lobbied the major parties and received a commitment from the NDP. He’s had no response from the federal Liberals or Conservatives, he said.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said transit in the Lower Mainland has not grown to meet expanding land use with a system already seeing 1.4 million boardings of transit per day.

“We need predictable, consistent funding from all levels of government,” Desmond said.

The council said permanent funding would enable not only the SkyTrain expansions but also allow for rapid bus line additions and rapid transit on Surrey’s King George Boulevard. All are part of TransLink’s 10-year plan. Funding would also allow for future projects to be identified as part of the Transport 2050 plan.

FCM president Bill Karsten said surging transit use across the country is part of building better lives for people as commute times dwindle and transit contributes to a cleaner environment.

“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.”

The Union of B.C. Municipalities added its voice to the funding call to deliver “sustainable transportation options.”