B.C. unveils $300M to expand Metro Vancouver transit after federal budget snub

B.C.’s finance minister says TransLink riders will notice “significant service improvements” as early as September, with the help of $300 million in new funding.
Rob Fleming announced the new cash Wednesday, a day after the federal government unveiled a 2024 budget with no new money for the region’s transit.“We will have better and longer hours of service so people aren’t bypassed on full buses, especially south of the Fraser, we will have better and longer hours of SeaBus so people can get back and forth to the North Shore more efficiently, and we will buy and procure new buses and have them available and in service much more quickly,” Fleming said.

TransLink fares increasing amid $4.7-billion funding gap

The money will allow TransLink to buy 185 new buses, and expand the hours and frequency of service on 60 routes. Story continues below advertisement

The funding comes as TransLink grapples with surging ridership and overcrowding on multiple key routes. Metro Vancouver’s transit system as seen the fastest ridership rebound in North America since the COVID-19 pandemic.

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TransLink Mayors’ Council Chair Brad West applauded the new provincial funding but didn’t pull punches with the lack of federal investment in this year’s budget.Ottawa has pledged to create a new Federal Permanent Transit Fund which would disburse $3 billion nationally every year, but not until 2026.“It is obvious that so much of the demand being placed on our transit system is from the decisions that the federal government has made with respect to population growth and immigration, and those impacts are being felt in a very real way, and they are being felt now… Simply put, we cannot wait,” West said.“A hell of a lot of money leaves the metro Vancouver region every year and goes to Ottawa. We need some of that money to return here and be reinvested in services for our residents.”

TransLink Mayors’ Council’s public campaign for transit funding

TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn added that he, too, was “disappointed” in the lack of federal money. Story continues below advertisement

Quinn said TransLink’s operational funding was stable through 2025, but that the transit operator is facing multiple, long-term financial challenges.

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“We do need to have a serious conversation … around funding sources,” he said.Denis Agar, executive director of the group Movement: Metro Vancouver Transit Riders, also called on Ottawa to move more quickly with funding.“The buses are more crowded than ever, there are constantly people being left behind, and it’s really going to take all three levels of government to pitch in to make this any better,” he said. “We don’t have enough now. It takes years from when that funding is allocated to actually deliver more transit … we just don’t have that kind of time.”

Mayors’ Council lays out top priority routes, submits federal funding pitch

Moves by both the federal and provincial governments to speed up housing construction need to be matched by investments in the transit system, he added. Story continues below advertisement

“If we increase and invest in housing and not transit, that is a recipe for gridlock,” he said.The TransLink Mayors’ Council has been pushing both senior levels of government to fund its 10-year, $21 billion “Access for Everyone” plan.The vision includes several major capital projects, including extending the Broadway Subway to UBC, a gondola to SFU, and multiple new Bus Rapid Transit lines.TransLink said Wednesday’s funding announcement would help it expand its bus fleet to prepare for future Bus Rapid Transit routes, but that those projects remain unfunded.

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