Trouble at Translink – For whom the tax tolls!



 Unhappy days indeed with TransLink as the organization has not learned a golden rule; that if you build metro on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain them, costly subsidies must be paid. When costly subsidies are paid, there is less money available to be invested in the transit system.

 Rail for the Valley and Zweisystem have taken a lot of flack with their stand on SkyTrain and metro planning, yet Mr. Crilly’s report certainly shows that we are on the right track, when it comes to our comments on SkyTrain.

The fact is no one really knows how much SkyTrain and RAV are costing the taxpayers, with their hidden subsidies, but it is apparent that it is indeed a great sum of money, as there is little left for the rest of the transit system and new taxes must be implemented.

Over and over the echoes of new taxes are being whispered, in the form of road pricing or highway & bridge tolling.

But wait, in the UK, the hot bed of road tolling and pricing, there is a massive political backlash against those who implemented the taxes. Manchester voters recently voted against road pricing on a massive scale sending electoral chills to Labour MP’s at Westminster and London’s congestion charges are now deemed as a failure as it hasn’t curbed congestion (the congestion charges are just passed on to the consumer) and are being scaled back. Spine-tingly stuff for those who want to force road tolling and road pricing on the METRO region in Greater Vancouver.

The BC liberals should worry that the taxpayers will revolt against sitting members and that Liberal MLA’s will suffer the same fate as what happened in Delta South, where an independent candidate defeated a ‘star’ Liberal candidate in what could have been said was the safest Liberal seat in the province. But the NDP should be wary also, as a lot supporters still begrudge the party for the shameful flip-flop on from LRT to SkyTrain on the Millennium Line.

The question is, which METRO mayor will show that he/she is not afraid to bell the (TransLink) cat and their expensive, yet grossly out of date transit planning.

From the Vancouver Province

Transportation commissioner will likely approve fare increase of three to 3 1/2 per cent

TransLink should forget about a deluxe proposal to dramatically expand rapid transit all over Metro Vancouver — including the long-awaited northeast Evergreen Line.

But it might get permission to hike fares by as much as 3.5 per cent next year.

Those were among Thursday’s rulings by regional transportation commissioner Martin Crilly in his review of TransLink’s 10-year plan for its Metro Vancouver operations. The plan contains four service and funding options, each with a different set of offerings and costs.

Crilly ruled against the “Cadillac” option for massive expansion — including Evergreen — because it calls for almost $500 million a year in revenue, $175 million of which TransLink has so far failed to find a source for, he said. TransLink also failed to provide enough detail for Crilly to determine if it could work, he said.

Coquitlam residents were angry that Crilly’s position might see the line delayed.

“I’m very disappointed that it could be postponed again,” said Gail Tabor, who has lived in the city for 20 years. “We would love to have the Evergreen Line. It would be a convenience for us.

“And buses out here are not that great. Occasionally, you’ll get [a bus] in 15 minutes, but that’s rare. Most of them are a half-hour or even an hour in between, and that’s very inconvenient. A SkyTrain line would be a much better situation.”

Manou Salimi said he was “disappointed” by yet another broken promise by the B.C. Liberals.

“The government in the first place promised to build the Evergreen Line, and then now they’ve put a stop or a hold on it,” Salimi said. “People are expecting the plan to go ahead. ”

Salimi said the Evergreen Line would have cut his commute time to work by 30 minutes.

“I think people should gather together from all the communities in different areas and go to City Hall to get some answers,” he said.

Carol Stewart agreed.

“They’re a bunch of liars, they’ve been lying all along,” said Stewart, who was waiting Thursday at the Coquitlam Station bus loop. “They should never have built the other line to Richmond before they built this one. This line was promised first.”

Mayors from across Metro have until the end of October to choose one of four funding options contained in the plan.

Provincial Transportation Minister Shirley Bond has ordered the comptroller general to review TransLink’s financial position and report in by Sept. 30.

Crilly said he would likely approve TransLink’s proposed fare hike of between three and 3.5 per cent a year — instead of the two per cent permitted by law — in 2010, as the agency requested.

As for service options, Crilly said:

• TransLink’s cheapest version, which would require no new funding over the present budget but would require drastic cuts to service, was “clearly unpalatable.”

• A second option calling for $130 million in new funding would minimize cuts to service and “buy time for further planning and funding.”

• A third option to “maintain and upgrade,” in part through an vehicle levy of up to $165 a year, would strengthen existing services but not expand rapid transit.

Crilly wants the second and third options to be considered, and agreed with TransLink’s push to upgrade present service before working on the Evergreen Line.

His report said that rather than improve supply by building more transit, TransLink should improve its “demand management” — in plain English, using tolls or a congestion tax to discourage drivers and make transit a cheaper, more attractive option.

Crilly’s position on Evergreen came as no surprise to Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini, who has based denser development in his city on the promise the line would be built.

Trasolini said Crilly’s report strengthens the demand by area mayors that Victoria and Ottawa help with TransLink’s annual operating costs — and not just pledge capital funds for mega-projects. Victoria has to invest in transit if it wants to talk a big, environmentally friendly game, he added.

“They want the results but they don’t want to make any of the investments,” Trasolini said.

For her part, Bond noted that the provincial and federal governments have committed $827 million to build the Evergreen Line and that Victoria was “committed” to seeing it built.

Bond said she’s optimistic about ridership on the Evergreen Line — when it’s eventually built —in light of the above-expected ridership numbers on the new Canada Line.

© Copyright (c) The Province
Even more ominous news from the Vancouver Sun:
HST sinks TransLink in $57-million hole; fare hike approved
Elimination of parking tax could result in drastic service cuts to Metro Vancouver commuters

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7 Responses to “Trouble at Translink – For whom the tax tolls!”

  1. Road pricing will be politically unpopular, but it might also be effective. « View from the 44 Says:

    […] it might also be effective. Posted by viewfromthe44 under Uncategorized Leave a Comment  Zweisystem at Rail for the Valley reads Transportation Commissioner Martin Crilly saying nice things about road pricing, and offers a […]

    Zweisystem replies: Sorry to say, road pricing will ultimately fail, taking its supporters down with it!

  2. Jim Says:

    Today Christy Clarke had the mayor of Port Moody on her show on CKNW… The impression I got was she wasn’t paying any attention to the words he said… He was saying how they could start building the evergreen line tomorrow if they went with the recommended LRT rather then the SkyTrain that was forced on them (which cannot be built because Translink doesn’t have it’s share). He said with the provincial and federal money, without translinks share, they could build with LRT, and he also mentioned Portland LRT.

    After he left, Christy was going on about how can Translink find more money, and where they should be looking. She kept saying how she didn’t think they were wasteful with their money, even though they knowingly build unsustainable expensive SkyTrain systems.

    I think you guys need to be on CKNW more often.

    Zweisystem replies: There is much dated transit planning going on and the SkyTrain Lobby have woven a nasty web of myth around SkyTrain. In fact I would say that much what we hear about SkyTrain is ‘Urban Myth’. Sadly, the ‘talk radio’ types don’t want to hear fact as they are very comfortable with the myth, transit facts at this point in the game would be embarrassing to them.

    The problem with TransLink is simple, we have built with a metro on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain it, the subsidies paid ‘under the table’ to metro has come at the expense of the rest of the transit system. At this point we don’t know how much operating the metro is costing the taxpayer on an annual basis.

    With the Interurban project, the plan is to build TramTrain from downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack, offering a basic hourly service (1/2 hourly during peak times), that can be built cheaply and can be expansed incrementally when demand warrant expansion. For LRT to work in the Northeast corridor, it must be planned for independently of SkyTrain, as a stand alone transit system, not as a ‘poor-man’s’ SkyTrain on a lesser used route.

    A Northeast Corridor LRT would network nicely with a Vancouver to Chilliwack LRT, offering direct service to downtown Vancouver, faster than using SkyTrain for the same cost as the SkyTrain Evergreen line. The planners at TransLink would never entertain such planning and still think that the taxpayer will ante up the money. And with the mainstream media in TransLink’s pocket, no one will offer air-time or articles on LRT, simply because it will embarrass many people.

  3. Dan Says:

    The problem is Campbell just want SkyTrain and nothing else.

    Normal LRT should go from the Lougheed Mall all the way to Maple Ridge if not Mission at a minimum and out to Chilliwack on the south side of the Fraser. If we are lucky we may see SkyTrain in Langley within 30 years…

    We will also never see Rail to the Valley unfortunately as long as these guys are in office.

  4. Jim Says:

    “Sadly, the ‘talk radio’ types don’t want to hear fact as they are very comfortable with the myth, transit facts at this point in the game would be embarrassing to them.”

    Well I do agree it would be embarrassing, I would suspect the red faces should belong to Campbell and Translink… I often hear discussions on CKNW about transit and think to myself, I wish the guys from the Rail for the Valley blog could call in, I myself do not have the information and knowledge on the subject you guys do.

    It might also be interesting to put together a BC transit documentary on what is, what could be, and what will likely be…

  5. John Says:

    I’ve heard Vicki Huntington strongly supports light rail for the Fraser Valley…

    With the Liberals imploding, I wonder if premier Huntington is not too big a stretch:

  6. David Says:

    I know Mr. Trassolini doesn’t want to hear this, but with the new Port Mann bridge being “LRT capable” I think the choice of the North Road route for the Evergreen Line just became an even bigger mistake.

    The route should be T shaped and go from downtown Surrey over the new Port Mann to Cape Horn. One branch would continue north along the Lougheed and/or CP rail to Coquitlam Centre and then up Pinetree Way to Douglas College creating a direct link between Surrey and Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam. A second branch would turn west and head to the Lougheed Mall area where it would collect Surrey bound travelers from the Maillardville area, deliver students bound for SFU and meet the SkyTrain network. I’ll bet the whole thing could be built for less than the $800 million already pledged to the current route.

    There are many ways to expand that T including an eastward branch to Maple Ridge that could meet up with LRT coming over the Golden Ears bridge from Langley, and a southern branch from Surrey Centre to Newton where it would join up with the interurban line. Once you’ve got a flexible rail solution that’s inexpensive to expand there are literally dozens of possibilities.

    Zweisystem replies: The new Port Mann Bridge is not LRT capable unless they lay track and they will never do this. After extensive research, I know of no road bridge built today, that had light rail added after construction. This is not to be confused with bridges that once had LRT/railway, having the service reinstated. At best the Port Mann Bridge may have lanes designated for rapid-bus, which TransLink believes is equal to light rail!

    What is needed badly is a new multi-track Fraser River Rail Bridge, then the rail possibilities increase dramatically.

  7. David Says:

    I realize that rail is unlikely to ever appear on the Gordon Campbell Bridge. My point was that he said it could, that it should and that traffic between the Tri-Cities and Surrey is significant enough to make the SE corridor the right choice for the Evergreen line. Unlike other bridges in the area, there’s no deck (or much of anything) there yet so it’s not too late.

    Certainly a new multi-track rail bridge at New Westminster is needed too.

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