Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TransLink Governance and Bill 22

Last month, the province introduce Bill 22 to change the governance model at TransLink. This was a results of the regions mayors asking for more oversight of the agency to provide better accountability to the public. At the end of March, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and I were on BC 1’s Unfiltered talking about these changes. At the time, we both had some questions about the proposed changes to TransLink’s governance as there seemed to be pieces missing from the bill.

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation commissioned a report on TransLink’s current governance in 2013. The report’s authors compared TransLink’s governance model to “Leader Regions” and found that our governance model was “unique in the world and not in a good way.” Leader Region, such as London with its Transport for London, have clear divisions of labour between policy and implementation.

The top level is the policy level. At the policy level, elected representatives determine how public policy relates to the overall plans and goals of the transportation agency. The mid-tier management level is responsible for translating these plans and goals into action. This would be the board level. The third implementation level is responsible for the delivery of transportation services. This would be like Coast Mountain Bus in our region.

After the introduction of Bill 22, the Mayors Council had the report’s authors study the proposed changes and report back on their findings. Overall, the authors found that the proposed changes in the Bill have “the potential to move TransLink’s governance closer to best practices. However, it is our view that the new arrangements as proposed by Bill 22 will only take the region part of the way.”

One of the gaps noted by the authors is that Bill 22 does not give the Mayors Council explicit control over the TransLink board. For example under the proposed changes, the link between the long-term and implementation plans which the Mayors’ Council approves, and the annual budget which the TransLink board approves are not clearly defined. If the Mayors Council and TransLink’s board work together and develop a protocol that links the longer-term policies to the annual budget, we will move closer to the governance model of Leader Regions. This is a big if.

One of the things missing from the proposed changes in Bill 22 is the requirement for a single transportation plan in Metro Vancouver. Even with the proposed changes, the province’s transportation goals for the region and local government goals are not required to line up. This means that we could still have the region advocating for tolls to reduce congestion while the province advocates and builds bigger freeways.

For more information, I suggest that you read the full 17-page report.

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