May 11, 2015
Re: Letter to local government - Transit Services
I am writing to update you on steps government is taking to ensure that B.C. continues to lead the nation in its level of funding support for transit services, and in doing so, to support stable levels of transit services over the next three years. Despite protected funding, delivery costs may challenge some communities to maintain current service levels. Therefore, ensuring that every transit dollar possible is focused on providing front-line transit service is a critical priority for the province. Consequently, I have provided direction to BC Transit to refocus its approach, in concert with local governments, to deliver on this objective.
First, on March 26, 2015 a Crown Agency Review of BC Transit began. My expectation is that this review will contribute to a dialogue amongst the partners in each community through the identification of revenue opportunities as well as efficiencies, ensuring each transit community reflects best practices. Secondly, we are working with BC Transit to develop options which will ensure it has maximum flexibility in applying provincial funding to community transit service priorities within the current service plan period. I am confident that these steps will immediately inform local planning discussions now underway, and will go a long way towards positioning participating communities in their efforts to get the most out of their transit systems.
These initial efforts by the province are only part of the story. Local governments and contracted service providers must also play their part in managing costs and optimizing revenues as local service priorities are considered. That is why I am also calling on BC Transit to work with local governments to develop broad and clear strategies based on local ideas for service innovations, cost savings (such as through administrative or route efficiencies), and increased revenues (such as through increasing marketing and advertising opportunities like bus wraps). These strategies must play an important role in ensuring both provincial and local funding contributions are fully leveraged to the benefit of those who rely on transit services.
With these steps, I am confident we can continue to build on the mutual success of our transit record. The Province of British Columbia's financial commitment to transit operations is the highest in Canada, twice the national average, and we are committed to maintaining this leadership position with investments of $312 Million in transit services over the next three years alone. In partnership with our local government partners, our record level of funding support for transit service resulted in 51 Million trips on BC Transit buses last year and a 40 per cent increase in overall transit service since 2001. Together with our partners, we will continue our commitment to environmental stewardship with investments in compressed natural gas bus fleets in Nanaimo and Kamloops, and in fact we will replace approximately half of BC Transit's fleet (500 buses) over the next five years. What makes this even more exceptional is that this is all being accomplished while keeping our promise to British Columbians to balance the budget and exercise fiscal discipline in all provincial programs.
By aggressively employing cost saving and revenue strategies, BC Transit has assured me that it will be able to stabilize service hours in your community through 2017. I look forward to BC Transit's continued progress with its partners in developing a transit service strategy that meets the needs of both transit users and taxpayers.
Todd G. Stone
Kevin Mahoney, Chair
Manuel Achadinha, President and CEO