Service will be cut on several Abbotsford bus routes, including Route 1, in order to improve the reliability for those buses that are running. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Service will be cut on several Abbotsford bus routes, including Route 1, in order to improve the reliability for those buses that are running. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Fraser Valley transit system can survive lack of bus fare revenue, mayor says

Fares normally bring in about $300,000 a month. Now Abbotsford and Mission must pick up the slack.

While Metro Vancouver’s transit system is reeling financially from the effects of COVID-19, Abbotsford and Mission’s buses should be able to continue to operate run without being a huge drain on the two municipalities’ coffers, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says.

Although ridership is down by around 50 per cent, buses continue to operate in the city. Drivers, though, have stopped collecting fares from passengers to allow for proper social distancing. That will leave the system without a key source of funding – but one that the two municipalities should be able to cover.

The Central Fraser Valley transit system cost $14.5 million to run in the 2018/19 fiscal year (figures for 2019/20 are not yet available). The province picked up nearly half that tab, with Abbotsford, Mission and bus riders covering the rest. Transit fares brought in about $3.4 million, while the two municipalities contributed around $4.3 million from tax revenues.

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That $3.4 million figure translates to just under $300,000 per month. If that money doesn’t materialize, the municipalities are left to pick up the bill. Still, it’s nowhere near the monthly $75 million shortfall now facing Translink.

“We don’t have anywhere near the cost of Translink,” Mayor Henry Braun told The News this week. While the cities could shut down the system to try to save money, and the next joint meeting of council will include a transit discussion, Braun noted that many people need the buses for transportation.

“There’s a lot of people who still rely on transit – for going to work,” he said.

That said, Braun says the city won’t be beefing up its bus fleet in the fall, as previously planned. But, he said “we will maintain what we had before, at least for now.”

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