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Metro Vancouver Mayors Endorse TransLink’s Emissions, Energy Goals

TransLink's goal is to reduce emissions by 80 per cent or more and use 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050.

Metro Vancouver mayors have approved TransLink’s plan to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and increase its use of renewable energy in its operations.

On Friday, the Mayors’ Council heard that the transit authority has set the goals of reducing emissions by 80 per cent or more and using 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050, and will come up with interim targets for 2030 and 2040.

TransLink may also consider buying renewable fuels when available and cost-effective, and apply for external grants and funding for the capital investments required to transition to electrification.

The plan, which mirrors a resolution put forward in June by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, will next go before the TransLink board of directors in October.

“This motion very much, and our planning, aligns TransLink with federal policy, with provincial policy, with regional policy,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “Although we may be catching up from a formal policy-making standpoint, that does not mean TransLink has not been very, very focused on environmental sustainability for a long time.”

Sarah Buckle, TransLink’s director of enterprise risk and sustainability, outlined the ways that the transit authority could meet its goals, including using renewable fuels and electrifying its fleet of vehicles, powering buildings by electricity or renewable natural gas, and designing new buildings to produce nearly no greenhouse gases.

Some initiatives, such as electrifying buses, will require significant upfront investment, which is why TransLink wants to leverage funding and grants from other levels of government. However, the transit authority would save money in the long run.

Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said that taxpayers would have to be shown that there are “good, solid economics” behind the decision and that it’s not just philosophical.

“We all know what happens when we don’t win the hearts and minds of our constituents — no matter how good the program may appear to those of us in this room,” he said.

He said that through August, overall ridership across the system for 2018 was up 6.8. per cent over the same period last year. That follows 2017’s ridership increase of 5.7 per cent and an increase of 4.8 per cent in 2016.

“As we’ve been reporting: record ridership, record ridership, record ridership. It just keeps coming,” Desmond said.

There have been “very substantial” ridership gains across all modes of service this year, with the bus system leading with a 7.3-per-cent increase in boardings, Desmond said.

“As we’ve been pouring more resources into bus service improvements throughout the region, clearly our customers are responding,” he said.

Boardings are up 6.3 per cent on SeaBus, 6.2 per cent on the Expo and Millennium lines, 5.6 per cent on HandyDart and 5.4 per cent on Canada Line.

Even West Coast Express, which saw a decline in ridership following the opening of the Evergreen Line almost two years ago, has increased more than seven per cent this year.

Desmond attributed the gains to a strong economy, high gas prices and service improvements. He noted that TransLink was an outlier in terms of growth, because systems across North America are seeing their ridership decline.

“I don’t know how long this trend will last. As I’ve said to you before, I’ve never seen a three-year trend in any of the places I’ve been. It’s extraordinary,” Desmond told the council.

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