Archive for November 16th, 2009

TransLink – what to do?

November 16, 2009

Jon Ferry has a go at TransLink in today’s Province and proposes that METRO Vancouver run the regional transit system. Sorry Jon, that will just perpetuate the incompetence that we have all grown to hate at TransLink. The problem with TransLink, aside with provincial interference, is an extremely dated transit modal, based on building very expensive ‘spinal’ metro lines and feeding them with buses. The problem is that buses have proven very poor in attracting the all important motorist from the car, so when all is said and done, the dated ‘metro’ philosophy just gives present bus riders a somewhat longer, very much more expensive, and inconvenient trip. This tends to drive the more affluent bus customers back to their cars!

TransLink, like BC Transit before, has given us excuses, invention, and extremely questionable statistics, to keep on planning and building, what has proven not to work. Isn’t interesting, that SkyTrain and it’s brother light-metro, has been largely rejected by knowledgeable transit planners around the world who prefer to build with modern light rail (LRT) instead.

Here is the bottom line with TransLink’s transit woes. Calgary’s LRT system, which carries more passengers a day than our two SkyTrain lines, has cost under $1 billion to date. Compare this with our two SkyTrain Lines which cost about twice as much to operate annually and to date has cost the taxpayer $6 billion. We are spending at least six times more money to carry the same passenger loads and for added insult, at double the cost wiyh our driverless SkyTrain light-metro!

The RAV/Canada line is more of the same!

What is needed is a duly elected TransLink Board, with one member elected from each city and municipality, every three years coinciding with the regular civic elections. By doing so, the public would have a truly democratic organization that would be able to provide the oversight so desperately needed by an out of touch bureaucracy.

Yet, every time someone advocates having an elected TransLink Board, there are howls of protest from region politicians of “how undemocratic it is”. To make TransLink functional, we need public oversight and there is no better public oversight than a duly elected TransLink Board.


No one seems to know who is running TransLink

Responsibility should be turned over to Metro Van

By Jon Ferry, The Province November 16, 2009

The key thing in any organization, whether military or civil, is to have clear lines of command. You need to know who to call when there are problems.

The way TransLink is governed is more like a maze, similar to the one in the horror movie The Shining.

As provincial comptroller- general Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland points out in a devastating critique, our regional transportation agency has an “excessive” number of executives and suffers from a “lack of clarity” that’s “compounded by the conflicting interests” involved, including Victoria.

Who really runs TransLink is as hard to figure out as how to spell Wenezenki-Yolland’s name. It has an unelected board. It also has a mayors’ council, a regional transportation commission, a screening panel for nominating board candidates . . . you get the idea.

It’s a structure only a mother could love. And in this case, the mother was former transportation minister Kevin Falcon. He got tired of the interminable bickering of the old TransLink board and decided to replace it, with one that was worse.

So in 2007, a new board came into being, which pays itself well and likes to meet behind closed doors. As founding TransLink chairman George Puil told me: “The way it’s governed now, or has been, there’s no transparency there at all.” Did I say maze? Yes, the governance system is as confusing to me as the Mary Hill Bypass. No wonder TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast resigned after just 15 months on the job. The prospect of running New York City’s transit authority must seem like child’s play.

TransLink must get back on the democracy bus, and start being run by those who are elected and accountable . . . folks you can phone if you have to.

Puil, who was a Vancouver city councillor for many years, notes that the issue of how TransLink is set up has been batted around for a long time. I’d suggest sorting it out once and for all by turning TransLink over to Metro government.

After all, Metro Vancouver, the former GVRD, already runs our water, sewer and other utilities. And it won’t be too long, I believe, before it runs a regional police force.

In other words, it’s time for TransLink finally to throw off its provincial shackles and say hello to MetroLink. That’s the name I’ve come up with for a Metro transportation agency that’s directly answerable to the people who pay for it, through their elected regional politicians.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson agrees this idea is definitely worth considering.

“It’s neither fish nor fowl right now,” Robertson said, “and it’s not serving the region nearly as well as it should.” The next big question would be how to get MetroLink to balance its books without having to constantly dream up wildly unpopular new taxes and levies, as TransLink does now.

The first place to start would be to trim its management ranks, run a leaner and more efficient bus service and, of course, curb wholesale fare cheating.

First, though, we have to straighten out the maze.