The 314 Sunbury bus picks up passengers at the corner of 84th Avenue and 112th Street in North Delta. (James Smith photo)

COLUMN: Transit funding must be the foundation of our economic recovery

Delta city councillor Dylan Kruger calls for emergency funding to maintain transit service levels

The COVID-19 health pandemic has crippled the Canadian economy, putting millions of people out of work and local store owners out of business. The financial implications are far-reaching and will take years to recover from.

As the national conversation moves towards the topic of economic recovery, all orders of government must work together to keep essential services in place to aid in the transition. We can’t build a new normal if we don’t push hard now to strengthen our foundation.

In particular, I am concerned about the need for emergency funding to keep our public transit system in working order. Revenue loses and social-distancing means our public transit agency is bleeding over $75 million a month. As a result, this week we learned TransLink will lay off 1,500 workers, suspend dozens of routes across the region and reduce service levels across the board.

READ MORE: TransLink to lay off nearly 1,500 workers, cut service further as ridership down 83% (April 20, 2020)

Here in Delta, cancelled routes include the 391, 602, 603, 604, 606, 608, 614, 616, 617, 618 and 619 busses. This is a significant issue for those in our community with mobility issues who do not have access to a vehicle.

Tens of thousands of essential workers — including nurses, cleaners and grocery store workers — depend on our public transit system to get to work each and every day. TransLink is doing what they can to keep the busiest routes open, especially prioritizing routes that provide access to the region’s hospitals. Despite these efforts, more bus cancellations and reductions in service are expected in the months ahead.

TransLink has appealed directly to the premier and prime minister for emergency assistance. I understand that all orders of government have been forced to make very difficult choices in response to the ongoing crisis. On Delta council, I have had to take part in the toughest votes of my time in office.

Our provincial and federal decision makers, for their part, have the vital and unenviable task of working with health officials to keep measures in place to flatten the curve and protect our most vulnerable citizens. They are also working to ensure that those who have lost income have access to emergency funding for food and shelter, while simultaneously developing a plan to bring our economy back to life.

We cannot rebuild our economic house without first making sure our foundation is looked after — a functioning transit system is key to that. In the absence of emergency support, the TransLink Mayor’s Council will have to further discuss options to reduce transit services on bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express. We can’t afford to let that happen.

A local, grassroots organization called Abundant Transit has started a petition imploring our provincial and federal governments to fund transit as an essential service. Nearly 5,000 signed in less than one week. Please consider adding your name.

A strong local transit system is crucial for our economic recovery from COVID-19. Maybe not this week or this month, but soon, hundreds of thousands of workers and students will once again rely on TransLink to get to where they need to be across the region. A fully operational transit system must be there waiting for them.

Dylan Kruger is a Delta city councillor and chair of the city’s Community Liveability Advisory Committee.



editor@northdeltareporter.com

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