The problem with TransLink is simple, it operates two very expensive and incompatible metro systems on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain them, which translates into higher annual subsidies (read higher taxes) and ever higher fares. The annual subsidy for just the two SkyTrain lines is over $230 million annually. As well, TransLink offers ‘social‘ bus services that are operated for ‘social‘ reasons and not for bus route demand. Again, this translates into higher annual subsidies (again read even higher taxes) and higher fares.
Sadly, it ain’t going to get better.
Our transit model is broken; we still plan for hugely expensive metro and still plan for ‘social‘ bus services ,which will only exacerbate the situation. Even if we ‘cave in’ and give TransLink more money, the behemoth will always be in financial peril as those who work in the ‘Ivory Towers’ on Kingsway, still pursue unaffordable transit dreams. TransLink doesn’t need more money, it needs to to spend what monies it gets from the taxpayer more wisely.
Where to start?
First, TransLink must stop planning for new metro/subway systems, going so far as to hire outside planners, such as LTK in the USA or Leawood Projects of the UK, to plan for the most affordable and best transit mode for the route or routes being planned for service improvements. By doing that TransLink can shed most of its vast planning bureaucracy, who have done little, except produce reams of reports that have little or no meaning.
See: Can TransLink’s business cases be trusted?
Secondly, TransLink should have each bus route it operates subject to a cost benefit analysis, to stop the hemorrhage of taxpayers money from unproductive bus routes. There are too many empty seats on buses because no one rides them or wants to ride them.
Thirdly, TransLink must put the transit customer first and plan for what the customer wants, not what politicians and academics want. Transit is to move people, not as a test tube to practice the ‘transportation theory of the month’. What TransLink has completely forgotten about is the transit customer and until TransLink starts regarding the transit customer as a consumer of transit and not a herd of compliant sheep, there will be no desire for change.
In Europe, successful transit operators realize that public transit is a product and if the transit consumer does not like the product, they will not buy. The car is a very popular alternative. Throwing more money at TransLink is not the solution for the region, rather operating a user-friendly transit system, that naturally attracts customers, especially the motorist from the car, is the key to TransLink’s survival.
TransLink on ‘life support’
But authority touts record ridership, Canada Line, toll-financed Golden Ears Bridge
By Frank Luba, The Province
May 12, 2010
After listening to the state of Trans-Link at its annual general meeting Tuesday, NDP transportation critic Harry Bains concluded the transportation authority is on “life support.”
Public transit users, according to Bains, will have to keep waiting for improvements.
The meeting was held aboard the authority’s new SeaBus.
“Even the very SeaBus we were sitting on, travelling around, there’s no money available to operate it,” said the Surrey-Newton MLA,
“The $130 million that was approved by the mayors only puts [TransLink] on life support,” added Bains. “It does not add one single hour of extra service for public transit riders.
“People were hoping for some good news. It wasn’t here.”
TransLink described it differently. Highlighted were all the year’s achievements like an increase of eight million revenue passengers over 2008, the opening of the Canada Line and the toll-supported Golden Ears Bridge.
There was also the delivery of 48 new SkyTrain cars and the brand new SeaBus, the MV Burrard Pacific Breeze on which the meeting was held. It won’t run unless the older SeaBuses need maintenance or there is an emergency.
During the Olympics, TransLink broke its records for ridership with 26 million passengers over 17 days or 1.6 million boardings a day — a 31-per-cent increase over normal ridership.
Revenues overall were higher than 2008 but lower than budgeted. With fuel prices lower, operating expenses were under-budget, so the overall deficit was $67.3 million, $35.7-million less than budgeted.
But despite the extra $130 million annually in taxation and fare increases approved by the region’s mayors, there’s not enough money to pay TransLink’s $400-million share of the proposed Evergreen Line or to expand rapid transit in the Broadway corridor to the University of B.C.
There will be some “rationalization” of service, which means routes that are crowded will get more service from routes that are under-used.
-SkyTrain car No. 308 will be named “In the Olympic Spirit of John Furlong” to honour the man who ran the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“I’m very touched by this,” said Furlong, who was a guest speaker at the meeting.
“I will treasure this.”