Updated: Richmond council pushes for federal support for transit

Richmond council voted unanimously on Monday to push senior levels of government for emergency funding to protect transit services – and funding announced Thursday might provide some relief.

The council motion came from Coun. Kelly Greene who explained in her rationale that public transit is needed by essential and frontline workers and to make communities “more livable and (fight) climate change.”

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TransLink reported it was losing $75 million per month early in the pandemic, a time when fares were not being collected as passengers were asked to board from the back of the bus.

On Thursday, Trudeau announced $19 billion in support for provinces, which would translate to about $2.2 billion for B.C.

In negotiations with the provinces on the federal transfer, transit was reportedly a “sticking point” but a 50/50 sharing agreement was reached in the end.

Initially, the federal government proposed a cap on transit funding but provinces with major cities, including Ontario, Quebec and B.C., argued that would have eaten up all the money without making a significant impact, explained B.C. Premier John Horgan.

Horgan said the drastic decline in ridership this year means the system will need about $600 million.

"Fare boxes have been hit hard and revenues for BC Transit, revenues for TransLink, have fallen off a cliff," he said.

Under the agreement, Horgan said the province will match every dollar the federal government spends on transit, in partnership with municipalities.

B.C. is projecting a $12.5 billion deficit for 2020/21.

The 414 bus in Richmond is back on route after being suspended during the pandemic, and the Canada Line has been restored to 92 per cent pre-pandemic service levels.

The suspension of the 480 also ended, but as it’s a university-specific seasonal route, it is not running during the summer.

  • With files from Canadian Press

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