Federal budget 2017: Ottawa promises to pay 40% of Broadway subway, Surrey light rail

Published on: March 22, 2017 

Metro Vancouver is expected to get $2.2 billion from the federal government to help pay for major transit expansions.

The federal budget, released on Wednesday, committed $20.1 billion to transit system improvements across Canada over the next 11 years through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, but didn’t provide a funding breakdown.

Instead, it said the government will allocate the money to provinces and territories using a funding formula based on population and ridership. It’s estimated B.C. will receive almost $2.7 billion — $2.2 billion to fund TransLink projects in Metro, and about $463 million for transit in the rest of the province.

The budget did directly list several major proposed transit projects across Canada, including the Broadway subway.

There is no schedule for the money to be delivered.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who chairs the TransLink Mayors’ Council, said it’s a “much-needed boost” for transit in the region.

“It’s a pretty historic commitment and certainly marks the largest federal investment in our region’s transport system in at least two decades,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, who is vice-chair of the TransLink Mayors’ Council.


The money will go toward major capital projects that are part of the second phase of a 10-year plan for transit and transportation improvement in the region. Those projects include constructing a light rail network in Surrey and the proposed Broadway subway line in Vancouver, which in 2014 were expected to cost just over $4 billion combined. An updated cost estimate has not been released.

The federal transit funding could also cover some of the cost of adding rail cars and upgrading stations on the existing SkyTrain system.

Other Phase 2 projects include replacing the aging Pattullo Bridge — which does not qualify for the federal transit funding — expanding bus and HandyDart services and more improvements to the roads, cycling and walking networks.

“It’s great news,” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said of the federal funding. “It continues the solid momentum for our major transit projects to really bring them to reality.”

The next step for TransLink is to continue discussions with the provincial government.

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong reiterated on Wednesday the province’s commitment to funding one-third of major projects and didn’t seem inclined to add to it.

“For these sizable transit projects, whether it’s Broadway, whether it’s Surrey, there’s now upwards of 73 per cent of the monies provided for (by senior governments). Time to get on with it,” he said. “With that amount of money committed, we’re ready to finalize the arrangements … and get on to building some transit.”

The region’s mayors, however, want more because TransLink will have to cover any Phase 2 funding shortfalls using regional sources, like mobility pricing.

“Obviously the provincial election is looming large and it’ll be crucial to see what the parties commit,” said Robertson. “I think we’ll be ramping up the pressure on all the parties to match the federal investment, now that we know what it is.”

The goal is to have Phase 2 approved by the end of this year, with construction beginning in 2018 and all projects complete by 2027.

• The budget also eliminates the 15-per-cent tax credit for commuters who buy a transit pass, a move that will save the government $150 million.

“Available evidence suggests that this credit has been ineffective in encouraging the use of public transit and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the budget states.

When asked what effect the cut could have, TransLink’s Desmond said he needs to study it further.

“I think in the larger scheme of things I would tend to doubt that it would put a dent into people’s use of the system,” he said.





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Personal Real Estate Corporation
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