Federal Budget Invests $2.2 Billion in Metro Van Transit, Cuts Transit Tax Credit

Funds could cover Broadway Subway, Patullo Bridge replacement and more.

By Andrew MacLeod 22 Mar 2017 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The chair of Metro Vancouver’s board of directors, Greg Moore, welcomed the $2.2 billion the federal budget committed to transportation in the Lower Mainland and said the focus will now shift to the provincial government.

“Our initial reaction is the numbers look very positive,” said Moore, who is also the mayor of Port Coquitlam. “It seems they’re funding all the things we’re struggling with.”

The money for transportation should cover 50 per cent of the budget for phase two of the 10-year plan from the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, Moore said.

According to the budget, federal funding will cover up to 40 percent of new public transit construction and expansion projects.*

That phase, to be rolled out between 2018 and 2027, includes the Broadway Subway line, the replacement of the Patullo Bridge and light rail for Surrey. It also includes upgrades to the existing SkyTrain system, more buses and expanded HandyDART service.

The budget included $20.1 billion to be spent on public transit across the country over the next 11 years in coordination with the provinces and territories. The provincial and territorial shares of the bill will be based on a formula that includes both ridership and population.

The new subway line was included in a list of projects expected to be built within a decade. “The Vancouver Broadway subway project, a tunnelled extension of the Millenium Line SkyTrain along the Broadway corridor, will add six stations over six kilometres of track, supporting a busy and growing corridor,” the budget document said.

With the B.C. election set for May 9, Moore said the mayors are hopeful that the provincial parties will commit to funding 40 per cent of the transportation plan. “We have to wait frankly to see what the provincial government will do.”

A spokesperson for Peter Fassbender, the minister responsible for TransLink, said he would be unavailable for interviews today. Finance Minister Michael de Jong is scheduled to speak to reporters in Vancouver at 3 p.m.

BC NDP leader John Horgan said in a prepared statement, “I’m glad to see the Trudeau government stepping up where the Christy Clark government has failed with a firm commitment to transportation and transit infrastructure.”

Moore said that so far the government has committed to funding one-third of the major projects while the NDP has said they would up the commitment to 40 per cent.

“I’m sure there’s going to be more in their platforms,” Moore said, adding that the promises will be tracked on the Local Government Matters website.

Moore said he was also glad to see the $11 billion to be spent on affordable housing as well as the focus on homelessness.

However, some transit fans won’t happy with the elimination of the Public Transit Tax Credit, which will cost someone buying a two-zone TransLink pass $223 a year.

*Story updated March 23 at 4 p.m.  [Tyee]

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