TransLink announces $90M cost-cutting plan to address funding gap

TransLink has announced cost reductions and revenue-generating measures, totalling $90 million a year, to address what the transit authority says is an imminent funding shortfall.

Metro Vancouver's transit provider says the measures will partially address an annual funding gap of more than $600 million that begins in 2026, after provincial relief funding comes to an end.

Cost-cutting measures include corporate cost reductions and reduced staffing. The plan also identifies opportunities for additional revenue and improving debt management.

It does not include cuts to transit services for customers, TransLink says, but the authority says it's looking at what reductions to service could look like in the future if long-term funding is not secured.

CEO Kevin Quinn said in a statement that TransLink had to make "tough, but necessary decisions" to deal with the shortfall.

"The urgency of solving this crisis cannot be understated as we will be forced to look at service reductions at the end of 2025, should a solution not be found for our broken funding model," Quinn said.

Translink CEO Kevin Quinn during a funding announcement in North Vancouver, B.C on Wednesday April 17, 2024.
TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn called the funding model for the transit authority 'broken' in a statement announcing the cost-cutting measures. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

TransLink says key cost-cutting initiatives include eliminating 35 unfilled corporate roles. The authority will also reduce spending on third-party contractors, research grants, leadership training courses, and ridership development and community initiatives.

The authority also says it will increase fare evasion enforcement across the system.

TransLink says the new initiatives will start immediately, in an effort to deal with challenges brought on by increasing costs and ongoing expansion projects.

The transit authority also cited declining fuel tax revenue, and fare hikes that are lower than the rate of inflation, as reasons for the cost-cutting measures.

Earlier this year B.C. announced new funding for TransLink to reduce overcrowding.

The province said the money will go toward purchasing buses to increase future services, while TransLink will put remaining funds from $479 million the province provided last year toward immediate improvements.

CBC News found that overcrowding was one of the most common complaints listed in two months' worth of TransLink data obtained through a freedom of information request.

Brad West, chair of the mayors' council on regional transportation, commended TransLink for finding ways to close the funding gap — but said Metro Vancouver needs a transit system that keeps up with population growth.

"If there is one thing we can all agree on — it's that no one wants to see less transit in Metro Vancouver," West said in a statement.

"This Mayors' Council has been fighting for a solution that would allow for transit expansion, not reductions, for residents in our communities, but time is running out."

City of Port Coquitlam mayor Brad West is pictured during an announcement regarding funding for Translink in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, March 15, 2023.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, who chairs the mayors' council on regional transportation, says the council will continue to push higher levels of government for more funding. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The mayors' council is a body comprised of Metro Vancouver mayors who set transit policies and collectively lobby higher forms of government for more funds and projects.