British Columbia

Report blames Metro Vancouver congestion on province's 'systematic underfunding of transit'

"Our transportation system is at the brink, and it's largely been because we've been underfunding public transportation and the infrastructure that the province itself said was required," says Ian Bruce with the David Suzuki Foundation.

A new report by the David Suzuki Foundation lays blame at feet of the province

A report from the David Suzuki Foundation says the province invested less than a quarter of what it said was needed for public transit. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

A new report from the David Suzuki Foundation links congestion on Metro Vancouver roads with what it calls "systematic underfunding of transit" and is pointing the finger squarely at the provincial government.

Ian Bruce, director of science and policy for the David Suzuki Foundation, spoke with CBC's The Early Edition Monday.

"Our transportation system is at the brink, and it's largely been because we've been underfunding public transportation and the infrastructure that the province itself said was required," he said.

The report compares the region's needs as outlined in the 2008 Provincial Transit Plan with the money spent on transit and infrastructure projects in the eight years since.

"What we found is only 23 per cent of the investment so far had been made. So about a fifth of the required infrastructure that the province said was needed to get the regions moving again," said Bruce.

"There's a lot missing."

The report compared provincial transit spending since 2008 with the spending plans made by the 2008 Provincial Transit Plan. (David Suzuki Foundation)

He points specifically to rapid transit, saying lines planned for Surrey, and Vancouver's Broadway corridor are badly needed in a fast-growing region.

"While other transportation projects like roads and bridges are going ahead without delay, transit infrastructure has been put on an uneven playing field as the province continues to provide insufficient financial support," said David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson in a statement.

Roads and bridges are an area where the province has focused spending, with upgrades to Highway 1 and the Port Mann Bridge both completed in the years since the 2008 Provincial Transit Plan was released.

Federal transit spending could help

One solution, according to the report, is to tap into some of the billions of dollars in co-funding promised by the federal government for local transit infrastructure.

The first phase of Ottawa's plan was outlined in this year's federal budget, promising to cover up to 50 per cent of approved transit projects' costs

"These new federal funds represent a crucial opportunity to turn the tide on vital transit investment in B.C.," said Bruce in a statement.

Province responds

Minister Responsible for TransLink Peter Fassbender said the province has and continues to make transit a priority, highlighting projects like the Canada Line, the Evergreen Line and the Port Mann Bridge.

"This government has invested billion of dollars — 11, to be sure — in terms of infrastructure in this region," he said. "We are working hard to meet the needs."

"I don't buy the concept that we have not seen any movement."

Fassbender also highlighted the province's $246 million commitment over the next three years to fund TransLink improvements.

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Report blames Metro Van congestion on province's 'systematic underfunding of transit'


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