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City of Burnaby employees to get bigger subsidy on transit passes

Three per cent of city employees used the transit incentive program last year
A SkyTrain arrives at a station in Burnaby.

City of Burnaby staff will get 40 per cent off their monthly transit passes beginning next year.

Council unanimously voted to increase the amount the city subsidizes employees' transit passes late last month.

It's part of a program intended to encourage city employees to use public transit and reduce vehicle emissions.

Staff recommended the subsidy be increased from 25 to 40 per cent for monthly passes, after CUPE 23 requested an increase to the program, according to a staff report.

The report notes the city has paid between $23,876 and $13,812 per year on the subsidies since 2018.

There was a "substantial decrease" in 2020 to the amount paid (about 40 per cent) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of city employees who participate in the program has dropped 27 per cent from 2019, from 136 employees in 2019 (five per cent of eligible city staff at the time) to 99 employees in 2022 (now three per cent of eligible city staff).

The report said increasing the incentive to 40 per cent is intended to increase ridership.

The city has $38,000 budgeted annually for the employee transit incentive program, which the report says will cover the increase to the subsidy.

The City of New Westminster has the highest employee transit subsidy at 50 per cent, with staffing levels around 1,230, according to a city document.

Burnaby's new subsidy at 40 per cent is the next highest, with staffing levels around 4,264, then Surrey with a 30 per cent subsidy with a staff of around 5,000. Vancouver's transit subsidy is 20 per cent, with staffing levels around 8,000.

Some municipalities, including Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Richmond, have no transit subsidy for employees.

Burnaby's new subsidy will take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

Coun. Alison Gu asked at the meeting about supporting a "U-pass-like" program for municipalities TransLink operates in.

She said it could be possible for TransLink to support a similar incentive program throughout the region in bulk numbers and "more substantially" support people using public transit.

Mayor Mike Hurley, also the vice-chair of the TransLink Mayor's Council, said the topic is discussed at TransLink.

"It's worthwhile pursuing," Hurley said.

City staff will discuss the matter with TransLink.