COVID-19: Funding, role of transit will be key discussions for post-pandemic world

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That includes $644 million for TransLink, where estimates have put the shortfall for 2020 and 2021 between $544 million and $1.4 billion, depending on the pandemic’s progress, the depth of the economic recession or depression and how much ridership recovers.

B.C. Transit, which provides service outside of Metro Vancouver, will receive $86 million.

Funding provided to B.C. Transit will support municipalities that receive fare revenue as part of the provincial-municipal partnership to deliver the agency’s services.

Both agencies are grateful for the help, but it is short-term relief.

B.C. Transit president and CEO Erinn Pinkerton said they must now turn their attention to what life and communities look like beyond the pandemic. She said initiatives that are underway will continue and she’s optimistic.

Coté said the money doesn’t get them out of the woods or deal with long-term impacts.

“But, what it does do is it does give us a couple of years to really focus on what is going to be the future of public transit in our cities, what is the role of transit in our communities,” said Coté

Along with that, funding will be examined. TransLink relies heavily on fare revenue, which covers 58 per cent of its operating expenses and COVID-19 has highlighted vulnerabilities in that funding model. It also takes in money from fuel tax, parking tax, property tax, development cost charges and other fees.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said the dependence on fares will need to be reconsidered and they will need to work with the province and federal government on what could be done and how to close the longer-term financial gap.

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