I had to laugh when I saw the headlines yesterday that TransLink “found” $98 million to expand transit in the region. I had to laugh, so I won’t cry because the reality is that TransLink didn’t find any new money, but basically stole from Peter to pay Paul for some key political transit projects. But first to the numbers, TransLink's draft base plan reallocates $41 million per year by basically reducing service reliability in general, and reducing service on under-performing routes while increasing service on high-performing routes. For example if the 99 B-Line or 502 is overcrowded, TransLink will reduce service on a community shuttle route or a route like the 341 to provide increased service on the "efficient" routes. Of course this will lead to even more transit inequality in our region and won’t grow transit ridership.
There are a few political transportation projects that are still going forward: the Evergreen Line, the King George B-Line, and Highway 1 Rapid Bus. While it’s good to know that the Evergreen Line is funded, the King George B-Line will be a truncated route from Guildford to Newtown, and the Highway 1 Rapid Bus will not be what was originally envisioned.
The Highway 1 Bus service will run on a similar service frequency as the 501 (10 minute peak service, 30 minutes off-peak service) and will only run from the 202 Street Park and Ride to Braid Station. This is hardly the kind of transit service that will cause a mode shift and build sustainable communities, but politicians can say a bus is going over the new Port Mann.
The cold hard reality is that transit is going to suck in Metro Vancouver with this base plan. I wonder if this is what the Minister of Transportation, the mayors, and the TransLink Commissioner were hoping for when they shot TransLink in the kneecaps earlier this year by removing its ability to raise new revenue. The kicker about this base plan is that it can actually become worse if the mayors rescind the two-year temporary property tax increase because more service will be on the chopping block.
As we stand today, our region is no longer on track to building a sustainable transportation system or meeting the goals of the Provincial Transit Plan. While politicians who don’t regularly take transit continue to play a game of chicken with transit funding, the region suffers. Transit users truly are second class citizens in BC.
The reality is that if we want to ensure the economy stability and future sustainability of our region, we need to increase transit service not optimize it to death. I’m hopeful that politicians will get their collective acts together and increase transit funding because there is going to be a lot of upset people and groups if this base plan is implemented.