TransLink still planning fare increases after $479M provincial funding announcement
Two weeks after it received $479 million in funding from the provincial government to help stabilize its operations, TransLink is expected to approve an increase in fares for Metro Vancouver transit users.
TransLink's Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on the modest fare increase at its next meeting on March 29, and the transit authority's staff recommends the board vote in favour of the change.
If approved, the increase would see the cost of a one-zone trip rise by five cents for all users of the system, beginning on July 1.
Adult cash fares for one-zone trips would go from $3.10 to $3.15, while Compass Card users would see the cost go from $2.50 to $2.55.
Concession one-zone fares – whether paid in cash or by Compass Card – would rise from $2.05 to $2.10.
The costs of daily and monthly passes, West Coast Express and multi-zone fares would also increase, with most products seeing increases of five or 10 cents per trip. The full proposed fee schedule can be found in the board's agenda for its next meeting.
The board's vote on the proposed fare increases is scheduled to happen exactly two weeks after B.C. Premier David Eby, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming and TransLink Mayors' Council chair Brad West announced a major provincial investment in the regional transportation system on March 15.
The trio, along with TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn, described the province's $479-million contribution as necessary to stabilize the agency's funding and prevent it from facing a "death spiral" of service cuts that cause reduced ridership, leading to reduced revenue and further cuts.
"If we did nothing, there would be fewer buses, fewer SkyTrains – in short, fewer ways to get around," said Eby during the announcement.
The officials also noted that the investment would help "keep fares stable" and ensure that TransLink can continue to fund capital improvements like the planned SkyTrain extensions to UBC and Langley.
The board's agenda indicates that the proposed fare increases are part of TransLink's 2022 Investment Plan, and are limited to an average of 2.3 per cent per year from 2021 to 2024 under the BC Safe Restart Agreement signed in September 2020.
Asked to explain the need for fare increases in light of the recent funding injection, a TransLink spokesperson pointed to these plans and limitations, characterizing the increase as modest.
"TransLink’s annually scheduled fare increase helps pay for the growing cost of transit and is far lower than the rate of inflation," the spokesperson told CTV News in an email.
"We continue to have some of the lowest fares of any major transit agency in Canada."
CTV News reached out to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to ask it to clarify the meaning of the pledge to "keep fares stable" and comment on the necessity of a scheduled fare increase in light of the recently announced funding.
In a statement, the ministry echoed the TransLink board agenda, citing the 2020 agreement that caps fare increases through 2024.
"Affordability is a top priority for this government and we are determined to keep price increases low for transit users," the ministry's statement reads, in part.
"The B.C. government continues to support public transit across the province at an unprecedented level – we made transit free for kids 12 and under, saving families hundreds of dollars a year."
The ministry said the $479 million is intended to "address TransLink's short-term operating funding needs," adding that it was necessary to ensure the agency can maintain service "while keeping transit affordable."
"Our government will continue working with TransLink to ensure equitable public transit fares – affordability is critical to encourage mode-shift from vehicles to public transit," the ministry said.
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