Mayors’ Council: Public transit emerging as battleground election issue in Metro Vancouver

Data shows 14 ridings where transit commitments are likely to influence election results; local residents rate transit as higher priority for governments, compared to other Canadians

August 22, 2019 (New Westminster, B.C.) – The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation is calling on Canada’s political parties to commit to a permanent Congestion Relief Fund and respond to the Cure Congestion election questionnaire, as new data shows the extent to which parties’ commitments to public transit are likely to influence election outcomes in key Metro Vancouver ridings.

Of 23 ridings in the region, 14 were won in the last election or by-election by a margin that was lower than the total number of people using transit in those ridings, according to 2016 Statistics Canada data. The analysis shows the extent to which candidates’ positions on transit and transportation have the potential to influence their electoral success on October 21.

The ridings where a ‘transit battleground’ could be most pronounced are Burnaby South, Vancouver Kingsway, New Westminster-Burnaby, Vancouver South and Surrey Centre.

“Congestion is affecting our quality of life and we need the federal government to continue working with us to make transportation a priority,” said Jonathan Cote, Chair of the Mayors’ Council and Mayor of New Westminster. “Given the fact that public transit is so important to Metro Vancouver voters, it is critical that we hear from candidates and political parties about their commitments to providing permanent funding.”

The Mayors’ Council has joined the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in calling for a permanent federal funding allocation to transit agencies based on ridership, to expand transit service and maintain existing systems – what the Mayors’ Council has called a ‘Congestion Relief Fund’. This fund would deliver $3.4 billion Canada-wide starting in 2028 once current federal funding commitments expire. FCM has also called for immediate funding to accelerate the adoption of electric buses and other low-to-zero emission transit and municipal fleet vehicles.

With these commitments from the next federal government, TransLink would be able to complete the 10-Year Vision and accelerate planning for future transit projects to be identified as part of the Transport 2050 plan. A Congestion Relief Fund would enable the following:

  • Building the entire Surrey-Langley Skytrain project in one phase as soon as possible, and completing the Millennium Line to UBC;
  • Accelerating the roll-out of the remaining bus expansion in the unfunded Phase Three Plan of the 10-Year Vision including five new Rapid Bus lines on the North Shore connecting to Vancouver and Burnaby, in Maple Ridge and Langley, and between White Rock, North Delta and Surrey.
  • Completing the South of the Fraser rapid transit network along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue in Surrey, as committed in the 10-Year Vision;
  • Sustained federal funding would allow TransLink’s transition plans for 1,500 buses to become quiet, emissions-free battery-electric buses before 2050. Half of the bus fleet could be converted by 2030.; and,
  • Moving up the planning for new transit projects to be identified through the Transport 2050 by so that the next wave of transit expansion in Metro Vancouver can be delivered starting as soon as 2022.

In March 2019, FCM partnered with Abacus Data to conduct an online survey of over 5,000 Canadians on the role of municipalities in Canadians’ lives and their opinions of new funding tools. As part of the survey, people were asked about the value of public transit and the importance of investing in their local public transit systems. Among the findings for Metro Vancouver were the following:

  • 85% of Metro Vancouver residents polled believe their public transit system impacts their quality of life – compared with 73% across Canada.
  • 96% of Metro Vancouver residents polled believe building better transit is a priority that governments should focus on. Of those, 51% say it is a “top” or “high” priority, compared with 41% across Canada.

The Mayors’ Council launched its Cure Congestion federal election platform in May 2019 – in partnership with local stakeholders including the Better Transit & Transportation Coalition, UBC, SFU, BC Chamber of Commerce, HUB Cycling, BC Healthy Living Alliance, David Suzuki Foundation and others – calling on federal parties to respond to the following questions:

  • Do you agree that reducing congestion in Metro Vancouver — for the benefit of the region’s people, economy, health and environment — should be a priority for the next federal government?
  • Do you support accelerating completion of the 10-Year Vision?
  • If elected, will you establish a new Congestion Relief Fund – a permanent, predictable federal fund that can be invested alongside local and provincial government commitments and guarantees Metro Vancouver the transportation funding needed for our most urgent congestion-fighting transit and road investments?
  • Do you agree there is an important role for the federal government to play as a partner, providing sustained funding to local governments, to support transit and transportation improvements that keep Canadians and the economy moving?

In late September, the Mayors’ Council will release responses to the questionnaire to provide Metro Vancouver residents with information to inform their voting decisions. To date, the NDP has included in its election platform a commitment to establishing a permanent funding mechanism for public transit.


The following table shows the proportion of the population that use transit, and compares it to the margin in which the incumbent MP won their seat in the 2015 election. Ridings are included based on the number of transit users being greater than the margin of victory.

*Part of this area is outside Metro Vancouver, therefore is only is partially served by TransLink

Figures rounded to closest 10

**Source: 2016 Census Mode of Transportation (Long Form), Statistics Canada

***2019 by-election result

About the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation

The Mayors’ Council is composed of representatives from each of the 21 municipalities within the transportation service region in Metro Vancouver, as well as Electoral Area ‘A’ and the Tsawwassen First Nation, and collectively represent the viewpoints and interests of the citizens of the region. The Mayors’ Council is responsible for appointing the majority of members on the TransLink Board of Directors. It approves transportation plans prepared by TransLink, which deal with transportation service levels, major capital projects, regional funding and borrowing limits.


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