Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

TransLink Restructuring – Amendments the GVTA Act

with 4 comments

Yesterday the BC government put out a Press Release about its plans to “make Translink more accountable”. It is pretty thin on detail, for that you have to go to the Backgrounder. That actually sets out the amendments. The important bit is

The board of directors will be appointed by the Mayors’ Council from a list of qualified individuals submitted by a screening panel. The screening panel will consist of five persons representing all key transportation sectors in the region, plus appropriate financial and business experience.

§ Each of the of the following will appoint one member to this board:

o Minister of Transportation;

o Mayors’ Council;

o Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC;

o Vancouver Board of Trade;

o Greater Vancouver Gateway Society.


What seems to me to be most significant is that the only interests represented are those of the minority. In terms of Translink spending, most of it is devoted to the transit system, yet there is no one here who represents transit users. Indeed I doubt if any of these people ever get on a bus. And why are Chartered Accountants thought to be the fount of wisdom? (A good accountant is the one who answers the question “What’s two plus two?” with the answer “What figure did you have in mind?”) Isn’t one of the critical issues in this region the development of transit to increase transportation choice? Gordon Campbell is now on record (thanks to recent broadcasts on PBS and the BBC) that he wants to see a change from business as usual, and he claims to have the boldest targets for greenhouse gas reductions in this province. Perhaps Kevin has not been listening very carefully to what his boss has been saying. Certainly we cannot expect the Greater Vancouver Gateway Society to deliver these greenhouse gas reductions, since they still believe that doubling the width of Highway 1 will somehow reduce emissions. And why does this self appointed group of special interests get a seat at the table? If they are qualified then why not BEST or SPEC? Or even BRU. Or why not COMPACT? These are people who can be expected to understand something about transit, since they not only use it but also represent views that increasing transit service should be central to Translink’s remit. They are also the least likely to buy, uncritically, into the views put forward by Translink staff.

I wonder if Ken Dobell will be too busy to take up one of these seats?

(This post has already appeared on the trans-action listserve)

Written by Stephen Rees

April 27, 2007 at 11:01 am

4 Responses

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  1. […] [via Stephen Rees’s blog] Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  2. FYI,
    the full text of Bill 36 (the GVTA Amendment Act) can be found here:


    April 27, 2007 at 3:57 pm

  3. […] councillor and director of the City Program at SFU, I came across this dead on prediction of the current TransLink situation: “The danger, as I see it, is the possible move on the part of the Province to dismantle […]

  4. Another good article from today’s Burnaby NewsLeader

    GVRD sears TransLink reform

    By Jeff Nagel Black Press

    The GVRD’s top bureaucrat has tabled a stinging rebuke of Victoria’s plan to remake TransLink.

    In a report, chief administrative officer Johnny Carline questions why the planned changes “reflect such a narrow ‘utility’ or ‘business’-based view of transportation” rather than seeing it as a “crucial dimension of public policy.”

    A more contemporary approach, he argues, would be to use transportation as a tool to shape land use and urban growth, improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Failing to apply such concepts threatens to deliver a “significant setback for the GVRD as it pursues a new vision for sustainable growth.”

    The provincial government last week tabled legislation to put an unelected board of professionals in charge of most TransLink decisions.

    While a separate council of area mayors will have some influence in selecting the new board, the panel that will draw up candidates will be dominated by the province and allied business groups.

    In his report, Carline warns making business expertise the overwhelming criteria to run the new authority “is to take a dangerously narrow view of transportation as a ‘business’ divorced from its public policy role.”

    Private sector management may be “more expedient” and could cut costs, Carline said, but warned there’s no obvious motivation for it to consider environmental impacts or broader effects on land use or transportation demand.
    The existing TransLink has been accused of parochialism.

    But Carline argued TransLink’s track record doesn’t bear that out – shifting priorities and underfunding from Victoria were to blame – and the new model will have “less political oversight and accountability.”

    Unelected directors will make critical decisions on new transportation routes and technologies, he noted, questioning how those fail to be matters of public policy.

    “Far more than amending the governance of TransLink may be happening,” Carline said. “The whole concept of what is considered to be politics and what is considered to be business may be under reconstruction.”

    Overall, he said, it appears the new model for TransLink will create a number of problems.

    “What problem will it solve?” he asked.

    GVRD directors voted last Friday to seek a meeting with Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon on the TransLink governance changes.

    They want to discuss:
    • How the province will draw up its 30-year vision for regional transportation.
    • Ways to ensure transportation and land-use policies mesh well.
    • Other funding sources besides property taxes.

    Stephen Rees

    May 3, 2007 at 12:56 pm

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