Friday, November 6, 2009

Goodbye TransLink 2.0, Welcome TransLink 1.0 SP 1

Starting with the Province’s restructuring of TransLink back in 2007 to Tom Prendergast leaving the organization yesterday, it has certainly been an exciting few years for public transit in Metro Vancouver. I will be the first to admit that I was apprehensive about the arms-length structure that Kevin Falcon introduced to TransLink, but I have to say that it has really shed light on how transportation planning is done in our region. In theory, TransLink is able to take our region’s plans and deliver transit service to meet those goals. TransLink is free to choose the technology, routing, and service level to meet regional objectives without politics getting in the way.

Under the helm of Prendergast, TransLink embarked on a massive public consultation process that confirmed people want better public transit. With public consultation out of the way, they developed a funding plan that including options such as road pricing. Very progressive stuff. Added to that, they even got our mayors talking about, and evening supporting the notion of, new funding sourcing like road pricing.

If TransLink was truly the regional transportation authority on the South Coast, we would now have a fullly-funded transit plan and a sustainable future within our reach. It would have been good news for people living in the South Fraser; we would have seen massive improvement in transit service. Of course, we all know who the real transportation authority is. Sure TransLink can play with its toy buses, but when it comes to the big stuff like planning our transportation future, it’s the Ministry of Transportation that’s calling the shots. The Province’s transit plan is one of many example of how the region comes up with a plan, only to have the Province veto it. I remember a TransLink planner telling me that they are constantly changing their plans to be in line with the Province’s wishes. If the Province want to control TransLink, why not change the governance model again?

This just in... BC Comptroller General Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland's report released today recommends that the Province rename the Mayors' Council to "Transit Authority", and give the Province 20% say in all matters of the new Transit Authority. Wenezenki-Yolland recommends giving the Transit Authority more power including the ability to appoint and remove TransLink board members, and provide oversight. Also recommended was clarifying the role of the Province as it relates to transit.
We recommend the province review, clarify and update the legislation to reflect fully its intentions and objectives for the TransLink governance model (including clear articulation of regional transportation priorities) and clarify in legislation the roles and responsibilities.
Province at the table - check
Mayor at the table - check
Politicians controlling TransLink - check

It seems like we've gone full circle with transit in Metro Vancouver... Have a great weekend!

PS: One of the interesting items from the report was the notions that TransLink could implement a vehicle levy, but only after "TransLink [can] fully demonstrate that cost containment strategies are in place and existing revenue streams are maximized before exploring alternative sources of revenue. The province could consider raising the existing limits in the revenue streams currently available to TransLink in order to maintain the guiding principle of balance between the types of revenue streams (1/3 from existing vehicle related taxes, 1/3 property taxes, 1/3 other revenues such as fares, advertising, land, etc)."

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