Monday, October 21, 2013

Reality Check: TransLink Executive Salaries

Whenever I open up a newspaper these days, there is an opinion piece about how TransLink executives are overpaid. The opinions go on to say that by reducing executive salaries, all our transit issues will be solved in Metro Vancouver. To be honest, I’m getting a bit tired of reading this because it is simply not true.

Everyone gets a little upset when they hear how much CEOs make. The CEO of Rogers, the company I work for, made around $2.75 million in base salary and short-term incentives in 2012. This is certainly more than I make, and it does make me pause for a moment. So it’s no surprise that when the people see how much CEOs of public companies make, the knee-jerk reaction is to get a little upset.

People who write opinion pieces about TransLink executive salaries are trying to exploit the public’s knee-jerk reaction in an attempt to stop dialogue about long-term funding which is required to pay for transit improvement which is desperately needed in our region. Let’s not forget that the Province of BC and the Independent TransLink Commissioner couldn’t find saving within the TransLink to support transit improvements in the region.

I’m not sure why these people are so anti-transit, but their end-game is to destroy the TransLink brand in the hopes that people will vote no to a new funding source in the 2014 transit funding referendum.

Of course, I’m also a bit shocked that TransLink has allowed the narrative that it is a poorly run and bloated organization to be told without really saying much to defend itself; TransLink hasn’t done a good job of protecting its brand. It is time for a reality check.

In 2012, TransLink’s eight (now seven) executives were collectively paid $2.48 million in salaries, benefits, and pensions. $2.48 million is certainly a large number, but TransLink had $1,430.8 million in expenses in 2012. Executive compensation represents 0.17% of TransLink’s overall expenditures.

If we are to believe the opinion pieces which state that slashing executive salaries at TransLink will be able to fund transit expansion, let take a closer look. Let’s also be harsh and slash executive salaries in half. That would yield $1.24 million annually for extra transit.

What on-the-ground service would $1.24 million get you?
Not very much; a doubling of the frequency of the 595 bus on 200th Street, or 2-3 more community shuttle routes that operates every 30 minutes.

It is important to make sure that our public agencies are well run, but going after executive salaries is a shell game to distract people from the real issue which is the chronic under-funding of transit in Metro Vancouver.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the meat of your article but still have a problem. The translink executives make more than all of their peers including cities that have bigger systems with more expensive living (Toronto, Montreal). They are overpaid. The salary difference is peanuts to operations, but it removes the moral high ground in arguments with anti-transit folks like Jason Bateman or Rail for the Valley.

Unknown said...

Let's not forget that being the CEO at TransLink not only comes with the immense duty of managing the largest transit service area in the country of Canada, but also managing the major road network, cycling infrastructure, AirCare, and other TransLink-maintained programs that other cities said to have "lower-paid" CEOs for their transit agencies do not manage at all whatsoever.