Restart funding to support transit services

ON Friday there was federal and provincial confirmation that TransLink, BC Transit and BC Ferries will share more than $1 billion under the federal/provincial Safe Restart Agreement announced earlier this summer, cost-shared 50-50 by both governments.

“People all across British Columbia rely on public transit as a safe and reliable mode of transportation,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “The funding announced through the Safe Restart Agreement between the federal government and the province will ensure the continued operation of this critical service. Investing in sustainable transportation is helping communities across the province build back better from the pandemic.”

The Safe Restart Agreement will see TransLink, BC Transit and BC Ferries receive one-time operating funding relief. This will protect service levels across the province and ensure services remain affordable as part of BC’s Restart Plan. TransLink will receive $644 million, BC Transit will receive $86 million and BC Ferries will receive $308 million. Funding provided to BC Transit will be used to support municipal partners who receive fare revenue as part of the provincial-municipal partnership to deliver BC Transit services throughout the province.

“Our public transit systems are vital for people to get where they need to go – to work, to school, to shop or visit friends,” said Claire Trevena, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “Efficient, effective and affordable public transit is an integral part of BC’s Restart Plan, and this funding demonstrates our commitment to that.”

All three agencies have seen significant impacts due to the pandemic. Ridership declines early in the pandemic meant revenue plummeted. While ridership is increasing as B.C.’s economic recovery continues, financial challenges remain. The agencies have also incurred extra costs for making sure there are additional safety measures in place during COVID-19. This funding will cover losses to date and those projected through the current and next fiscal years.

The Province will formalize the Safe Restart funding relief through contribution agreements with each transportation agency. These agreements will contain terms and conditions that help ensure the continuation of appropriate and affordable services that communities depend on.

“Transportation is vital to restarting our economy,” said Bowinn Ma, Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink. “I’m very pleased with the 50-50 cost-sharing funding agreement in place today that ensures our transit agencies can continue to serve British Columbians. It will continue to take a collective effort from all of us to ensure we emerge from these unprecedented times a stronger, healthier and more resilient B.C.”

The provincial government has been working closely with BC Transit, TransLink and BC Ferries to fully understand the operational and financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as determining the funding needed to help ensure service levels are maintained throughout the province and they remain affordable.

Kevin Desmond, CEO, TransLink, said: “I very much welcome this important funding relief, which will greatly assist by covering the substantial losses TransLink is incurring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It recognizes that transit is an essential service and will enable us to continue delivering reliable service levels for our region in support of BC’s Safe Restart, particularly over the coming months as our economy gradually reopens and our customers return to using transit more regularly. The funding also allows us to continue our enhanced public health and safety measures on transit and ensures that we can maintain a state of good repair across our region’s transportation network.”

Erinn Pinkerton, President and CEO, BC Transit, said: “Having access to affordable and reliable public transportation is key to maintaining sustainable communities, especially during a public health crisis. This funding will allow BC Transit and our local government partners to continue providing essential transportation services as we welcome customers back onboard who are returning to school, work and other activities.”

Mark Collins, President and CEO, BC Ferries, added: “We thank the federal and provincial governments for working with us to address the impact COVID-19 has had on transportation and on the ferry system. This investment can help us to maintain essential ferry service that B.C.’s coastal communities rely on and supports the economic recovery of our province.”