Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Does TransLink have a bad brand?

In a little over a year, people in our region will have the chance to vote in a referendum about the future of transit. While the question and referendum framework are still unclear, it will likely be focused on a new revenue source to fund transit expansion in Metro Vancouver. This has me a bit scared. I’m not scared because people will have a choice about funding transit expansion, I’m scared because they will have a choice about funding transit expansion under TransLink.

TransLink has a tarnished brand. When I speak with people about transit, most tell me how they would be willing to pay for more transit. In the next breath, they say that TransLink is a mismanaged, bloated bureaucracy. With HST, most people in BC actually supported the tax, but didn’t like how the BC Liberals implemented it. We all know the fate of the HST. In a similar vein, I wonder if people who actually support more funding for transit will vote against expansion as a way to show their displeasure for TransLink.

TransLink has been audited twice last year, and several times in the past. The results of the audits have been that the organization is well run, but TransLink does not seem to be reminding people of this fact. As the media and some politician relentlessly beat up TransLink, it seems that the organization just stand there and takes it. The most ridiculous story about TransLink “mismanaged” was about how it buys locally-source coffee for its office. Instead of responding to the story, TransLink just dismissed it.

Dismissing these stories might be OK if you didn’t need public support, but TransLink needs public support to win the transit referendum next fall. TransLink needs to crawl out of its shell and start telling its story instead of letting others do it for them. TransLink needs to start telling people that we have a well-run, world-class transit system.

TransLink needs to build goodwill in the region because I believe that next fall’s referendum on transit will be a referendum on TransLink. If people don’t feel good about TransLink, I believe that we may not get the transit expansion that our region needs.


Kyle Zheng said...

From my perspective, Translink has really been bombarded by attacks on all sides. Many people blame (incorrectly) Translink for sky high fares, or excessive taxes on motorists, or dividing the public to pay for transit. You see this everyday, with many saying that another fare increase, and they'll drive their cars!

Other people are angry at translink for running empty buses, while downtown passengers are passed up, which wastes cash. Then Delta and Surrey mayor argue that the SOF communities aren't getting fair transit.

Note that the Mayor's Council, Translink's Commissioner, or the province, all who have denied funding, never get the blame. If the referendum is branded around transit improvements rather than more money (taxes) for a bureaucratic agency, then it has a good chance of passing.

So the question must be *specific*, like a 0.5% increase in sales tax to fund rapid transit in surrey along fraser highway, or along broadway.

Nathan Pachal said...

I agree, the question has to tie funding to actually rapid transit projects.