Safe Restart funding supports reliable public transportation, affordable fares

THE Province and the federal government announced on Friday that people throughout B.C. will continue to have access to safe, reliable and affordable public transportation as the province restarts. Agreements for Safe Restart funding have been signed with TransLink, BC Transit and BC Ferries.

“We British Columbians rely on TransLink, BC Transit and BC Ferries to provide us with safe, accessible and affordable transit service,” said Joyce Murray, federal Minister of Digital Government and MP for Vancouver Quadra. “Through the Safe Restart Agreement, our federal government is providing critical funding to ensure British Columbians who count on these transit services can continue to rely on them to go to work and for other essential errands and visits.”

Contribution agreements with the three transportation agencies have been finalized. These agreements set out specific details and requirements of the three agencies as they share in the $1.038 billion from the Government of Canada and Province of B.C. under the federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement.

“This significant, one-time funding demonstrates our commitment to the public transportation people rely on,” said Rob Fleming, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This ensures these essential services are maintained across the province and that fares will remain affordable – providing certainty for people as we recover from these challenging times.”

With these agreements, people will have certainty the public transportation they rely on will remain available and affordable as part of BC’s Restart Plan. At BC Ferries, this means no fare increase this fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, and future increases over the next three years will be limited to rate caps established prior to the pandemic. Minimum service levels and additional sailings to meet community needs will be maintained through at least the next three years.

Any fare changes for BC Transit and Translink are capped at affordable levels through to BC Transit’s fiscal year end of March 31, 2024, and TransLink’s fiscal year end of December 31, 2024.

“Our public transportation systems must continue to be strong, affordable and able to get people where they need to go – to work, to school, to get groceries and more,” said George Heyman, Minister Responsible for TransLink. “This funding will support these services so they are here for us as we get back to normal.”

The Province has worked closely with the agencies to fully understand the financial impacts on their operations arising from the pandemic, including additional COVID-19 safety measures and measures to keep fares affordable.

Kevin Desmond, President and CEO, TransLink, said: “We thank our provincial and federal partners for this important relief funding. This package will help cover the substantial net revenue losses we are currently incurring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and allow us to keep fares affordable for our customers during this time. This commitment shows transit is an essential part of a smooth economic recovery.”

Mark Collins, President and CEO, BC Ferries, said: “The federal and provincial Safe Restart funding will assist the long-term sustainability of the ferry system and the coastal communities that we serve. This investment in the ferry system ensures commuters get to work, children get to school, visitors get to coastal communities when safe to do so and goods get to market.”

Erinn Pinkerton, President and CEO, BC Transit, said: “The funding from the Government of Canada and Province of B.C. will allow BC Transit and our local government partners to continue providing transportation services our customers can rely on despite the impacts of COVID-19. Thank you to our customers, employees and partners for their ongoing support of public transportation in British Columbia.”