From the Georgia Straight – Metro Vancouver board pushes for $450 million a year increase in TransLink funding

Is TransLink like the Titanic, sailing full steam ahead into a "financial" iceberg?

Is TransLink like the Titanic, sailing full steam ahead into a "financial" iceberg?

If one really wanted any more evidence that our regional politicians are completely out of touch on regional transit issues, this item from the Georgia Straight should put that to rest.

The financial problems with TransLink are simple:

1) It operates light-metro (an obsolete transit mode) on routes that do not have the ridership to support it. Result – high annual subsidies must be paid to sustain the light-metro.

2) Operates buses on routes that have little or no ridership, while ignoring bus routes with endemic overcrowding. Result – bus service is diverted from high demand areas to areas of low demand.  High subsidies must be paid to sustain less than marginal bus operations, while at the same time limiting revenues from high demand bus services.

3) Offers deep discounted fares while at the same time providing a very expensive ‘premium’ transit service with light metro. Result – Over crowding of high demand services and limiting much needed revenue from full fare paying customers and again demanding large subsidies needed to sustain the premium transit service.

Huge annual subsidies for SkyTrain and RAV/Canada Line, in excess of $200 million annually and a growing deficit as scarce transit monies are poured into unworkable transit solutions has created a burgeoning deficit. TransLink has run into a financial iceberg.

And regional politicians want more of this hocus-pocus planning?

Regional politicos suffer from complete ‘transit denial’ in the region, where the SkyTrain myth reigns supreme and combined with a complete lack of accountability by TransLink to the taxpayer, has left us in a regional hubris. Despite over $8 billion spent on light metro to date, for three metro lines of which one is incompatible in operation with the other two, has not created the all important modal shift from car to transit.

And regional politicians what more of this? 

Do they not  realize that with the impending HST and other downloaded provincial taxes onto regional taxpayers, there is no money left for this “pixie dust’ TransLink planning.

What should worry advocates for the return of the interurban is that regional politicians want to continue TransLink’s extremely expensive, yet grossly inept transit planning and not wanting to pursue more affordable transit solutions. To be blunt, by voting to fund TransLink, regional politicians have voted to leave South of Fraser residents out of the mix, while gladly tapping their wallets to pay for dated transit plans that have proven unworkable.

Man the lifeboats!

Metro Vancouver board pushes for $450 million a year increase in TransLink funding

By Matthew Burrows

Metro Vancouver directors voted today (September 25) to push for the best-case TransLink funding scenario.

Burnaby councilor Sav Dhaliwal was the only politician who voted against Vancouver mayor and director Gregor Robertson’s motion.

Now the board will send the message to TransLink’s private board of directors and its mayors’ council that it should implement $450 million in annual funding above current levels—the most generous of the three options presented in TransLink’s 2010 10-Year Plan to address funding constraints at the regional transportation authority.

The Metro motion originated through its regional planning committee earlier this month. At the latest meeting at Metro headquarters in Burnaby, directors also expressed concerns over the first business-as-usual “base plan” funding scenario proposed, which would lead to “drastic cuts”, according to TransLink.

TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast was at the meeting, and said he wanted to avoid the potential “chaos” the base plan would unleash on transit riders across the region.

Robertson said at the meeting that significant consultation had taken place to get to the Metro consensus. He said it was important that directors “don’t fold tents now” and “remain united”. In response,

Corrigan said he understood why people would want to avoid cuts, but said the $450 million had to come from somewhere. The former B.C. Transit chair also cautioned that “there is a limit to what the taxpayer can expect”.

He said that, like with the discussions around the previous 10-year plan in 2004, there is a temptation to be overly optimistic on the accounting side. “We keep on supporting things; then we don’t know how to pay for them.”

Surrey councillor and director Linda Hepner moved an amendment, which passed, that—in the event funding is constrained—priority be given to the northeast sector and areas south of the Fraser.

Corrigan added his own amendment, which stated: “Without additional funding any 10-year plan cannot be successfully implemented.” Corrigan’s motion passed ahead of the main motion.


Will the regional taxpayer go down with the 'TransLink' ship? Will politicians and bureaucrats get to the 'financial' lifeboats first?

Will the regional taxpayer go down with the 'TransLink' ship? Will politicians and bureaucrats get to the 'financial' lifeboats first?


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3 Responses to “From the Georgia Straight – Metro Vancouver board pushes for $450 million a year increase in TransLink funding”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    I don’t envy translink’s job – they have to serve an area larger than the service area of the TTC or STM. Perhaps that is why we have the extremes of distance and service levels needed compared to toronto and montreal.

    Zweisystem replies: Public transit can’t be all things to all people, if it tries, it will fail and fail badly. TransLink must mature and operate the transit system properly and economically. In South Delta, there are three bus routes that run hourly or better schedules, seven days a week, yet ridership on all three bus services might, on a good day, top 40 people. One just can’t run a transit system this way and our foolish politicians must also realize this as well.

  2. voony Says:

    “Despite over $8 billion spent on light metro to date, for three metro “,

    you certainly made a mistake, and was meaning $18 billion, evenen eventually $80 billion…

    Zweisystem Replies: SkyTrain, up to the opening of the Millennium Line, was subsidized by about $157 million per year; with the Millennium Line add another $80 million a year on top of that. Then add the direct costs of the Expo Line + extension to Scott Road + extension to King George Hwy. + purchasing new ALRT cars; rebuilding to accommodate Bombardier’s ART cars; + numerous computer & signaling upgrades; + Millennium Line; + new ART cars; + RAV/Canada Line; + new ART cars the total comes near or over $8 billion.

  3. Xerx Says:

    where did you find the figure for $80 million a year for the Millennium Line?

    Zweisystem replies: The $80 million figure sent to me by a transit specialist in trying to find the true cost of SkyTrain’s annual subsidy. It seems TransLink acquired the SkyTrain debt some time ago from the provincial government.

    “The capital cost of the Millennium line was covered by debt service as agreed by the Glen Clark government as a budget item under Transportation and Highways Ministry until 2005 when the cost of debt service was transferred to Translink, causing a sudden $105 million increase in spending on debt that year. As interest rates have gone down, Translink has been able to negotiate rolling reductions in debt service charges, but it’s still up around 6% or $80 million, with an expected 40-year amortization.”

    This further fuels the demand for the Auditor General to do a complete forensic audit of SkyTrain so the taxpayer can ascertain the true cost of the light-metro system. We know, via the GVRD that SkyTrain was subsidized by $157 million in 1993 and the Millennium Line subsidy fits well with this figure. Then Auditor General should audit TransLink every two years. As it stands, TransLink can claim anything they want without fear of censor.

    Most American and European transit agencies are audited at regular intervals to prevent fudging of figures by managers.

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