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Transit use in some parts of Metro Vancouver has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, TransLink says

A full bus is seen in Surrey in this image provided by TransLink. A full bus is seen in Surrey in this image provided by TransLink.

With transit ridership now exceeding pre-pandemic levels in some parts of Metro Vancouver, local leadership is once again asking the provincial and federal governments to fund expansion plans.

The Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation – the governing body that oversees TransLink – held a news conference Tuesday at the Union of BC Municipalities annual convention to warn Victoria and Ottawa that "time is running out" as the region's population grows.

“The region’s population is growing at a record pace while our housing affordability crisis deepens,” said Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, the council's chair, in a news release accompanying the announcement.

“As mayors, we are concerned that any delays in expanding transit service will make it very difficult for city councils and builders to expand housing in our communities as quickly as is needed. The window for the provincial and federal government to take action is getting very small.”

The mayors' council is asking for funding for its $21-billion "Access for Everyone" plan, which calls for – among other things – the doubling of bus service, the construction of nine new "bus rapid transit" lines and a 10-fold increase in funding for "active transportation" infrastructure over the next decade. 

Overcrowding in the region's transit system is "rapidly worsening," according to TransLink, which anticipates four in 10 rush-hour bus trips will be "severely overcrowded" by 2025.

"Metro Vancouver leads all major North American cities in post-pandemic rapid transit ridership recovery," the news release reads.

"Transit ridership in Surrey and Langley is at 120 per cent of pre-COVID levels with some routes in these fast-growing communities seeing ridership more than double over the past four years."

The mayors' council attributes this recovery to transit service being "frozen at 2019 levels" because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the region's population has grown by more than 200,000, with 50,000 more people arriving every year, according to the mayors.

The council says the Access for Everyone plan will need funding commitments by no later than June 2024 in order to stay on track and support new housing targets and population growth.

“Essential infrastructure like public transit needs to keep up with population growth so we can ensure new housing is accessible and residents have affordable transportation options,” said Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley, the mayors' council's vice chair, in the release.

“Time is running out. We’re asking the federal and provincial governments to commit to funding their share of the Access for Everyone plan, starting in 2024.”

The call for more funding from higher levels of government is a familiar refrain for the mayors' council.

In March, the provincial government provided nearly half a billion dollars to TransLink to help the transit provider avoid a "death spiral" of service cuts and reduced fare revenues. 

The federal and provincial governments have also provided billions toward the construction of the Broadway and Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extensions in recent years. Top Stories

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