The city’s Committee of the Whole voted in favour of a staff recommendation that the transit portion of the federal gas tax revenue go from 20% to 25%, with a corresponding reduction in roadway allocation from 80% to 75%. Over the years the split has varied, from 100% roads in 2005, to 70%-30% roads-transit in 2008. In 2012 the split was shifted temporarily to 80%-20% roads-transit to deal with a backlog of road repairs before roads slid from shave-and-pave into full reconstruction at up to 10 times the cost.
The gas tax money goes to capital expenses (for example new buses), not operating costs.
Over the last several budget cycles, it became apparent that funding available to the transit program was not keeping pace with capital needs. As a result of the timing of previous upper level government funding programs, a number of buses are due for replacement at the same time. Further, the federal government’s recent Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, in which the city has received a transit allocation, will primarily be focused on the expansion (not renewal) of transit assets.
As a result, the transit capital program (conventional and handi-van) is projecting a minor funding deficit in 2019. The deficit continues over the ten-year period and is projected to be $14.3 million by 2028. The annual need equates to approximately $4.2 million. Comparing this to an average annual funding of $2.3 million, results in a transit annual average infrastructure gap of $1.9 million
Changing the gas tax split for transit represents a starting point to make transit sustainable in the short term. Additional changes recommended by staff include funding transit capital assets which do not directly support growth in ridership (eg. information technology) through tax-supported capital, increasing the annual provision to the vehicle depreciation reserve fund (VDRF), and reallocating some of the provincial gas tax revenue from operating to capital.
Staff anticipates that further changes will need to take place once the transit master plan is complete, which may recommend growth in service thus additional capital needs.
The recommendation was approved by the Committee of the Whole July 9, and now heads to Council July 16 for a final vote. Residents can Register as a Delegation to speak at the meeting.
Read the staff report and Appendices here:
My Take: I fully support the increased allocation to transit from the gas tax, now that road repairs are catching up, and council has invested more in infrastructure funding across the board. I saw the shift to 80-20 allocation as a temporary move to save costly road repairs, and brought a motion this term of council, supported by the city’s Burlington Seniors Advisory Committee, to make the shift to 75-25, but council voted that down. I’m glad for another opportunity presented by the staff report to make the change now. I’d also like to thank Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit (BFAST) who’ve long advocated for a greater share of the gas tax going to transit.