Today’s federal budget is fantastic news for Metro Vancouver’s transit system, says TransLink Chair Dale Parker. Among the highlights in the budget tabled in the House of Commons by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is the announcement that the federal government will make its current gas tax revenue sharing program permanent.This year, TransLink is on line to receive $49.1 million and, under the old program, we could purchase $49.1 million in new buses, SkyTrain Cars or SeaBuses. As an ongoing stream of revenue, even at this year’s rate, today’s budget means that TransLink could finance half a billion dollars in improvements, says Parker.
The federal budget indicates that funding will grow in the coming years, but details have yet to be released. Under the current revenue sharing program TransLink’s share of federal gas tax revenue would have grown to $122.8 million per year by 2010, but the program was due to expire by 2015.
Parker says that having the federal gas tax as a permanent stream of revenue will allow TransLink to develop long term plans for transit improvements in the region, which in turn will help Metro Vancouver create long term plans for its growth and development.
The federal funding will be for capital, which means TransLink will need to come up with the complementary funding to cover the additional operating costs, Parker says. TransLink has increased the funding for transit operations by 93 per cent over the last seven years, adding $54 million more this year alone.
The federal budget has also included funding for the Evergreen Rapid Transit Line. Finance Minister Flaherty announced that Ottawa would dedicate $500 million for public transit infrastructure and named the Evergreen Line as one of the projects to be funded. The share of the funding allocated to the rapid transit link to Coquitlam has not been confirmed.
We need to recognize the effort that James Moore (Member of Parliament, Port Moody, Coquitlam - Port Coquitlam) and Premier Campbell have made to make the Evergreen Line a priority for federal funding. Today’s budget announcement is a signal that we are closer to a go for this important piece of Metro Vancouver’s rapid transit network. TransLink is poised to move forward once we have the results of the current public consultation, Parker says.
February 26th, 2008