Stephen Rees's blog

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

TransLink CEO Prendergast departs

with 11 comments

Jeff Nagel on BC Local News reports that Tom Prendergast has decided to take a new job as president of the New York City Transit Authority. There has been significant coverage of changes at the MTA recently  in the New York media. The job there is much bigger and more important than his current job so although there are interesting insights in Nagel’s piece, I would think that there is as much “pull” as “push” in this decision. Prendergast did make a very good case for expansion beyond the funding provided in the current legislation, and I am sure that he was very saddened by the province’s intransigence on funding.

Being head of an expanding organisation would have been a much better job than simply keeping on at a steady state. But actually that also says a lot about the relative importance we attach to transit in this region. The next few years will see significant continued expansion of the highways in the region, which I would say have also seen more growth than the transit system in recent years. What is galling is that the spin that is put on this is the notion of “balance” in transportation investment, when of course far more is being spent – has been spent – on roads than transit. So there is clearly going to be a relative decline in transit’s importance here.

That is not going to be the case in New York’s system. Significant new projects of both new subways and bus rapid transit are planned. New York – as the recent talk by their Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan showed – is far ahead of Greater Vancouver not just in its provision but also its understanding of what the future city will need. We are comforting ourselves with the idea that we have enough capacity to charge a complete switch over to electric cars.  Not that that is going to happen anytime soon. And will do nothing at all to deal with traffic congestion anywhere. But it might allow for continued car dependency and all that entails.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 5, 2009 at 11:02 am

Posted in transit, Transportation

11 Responses

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  1. Tom wasn’t given the true authority and funding to do any real good. His successor won’t either.

    TransLink fulfills only one purpose, to act as a scapegoat for Ministry of Transportation decisions, and it does that job very well.

    The future of Metro Vancouver is already available at your local video store. Rent Wall-E.


    November 5, 2009 at 1:44 pm

  2. Sad news. Wonder if he would have taken the job if Bill Thompson had of been elected Mayor on Tuesday instead of Michael Bloomberg.

    Chris S.

    November 5, 2009 at 2:50 pm

  3. I haven’t run the numbers for anywhere else, but a back of the envelope calculation for Abbotsford where I work reveals that ratio of direct municipal investment in roads to transit is on the order of 9:1.

    I would be surprised if the ratio was much better elsewhere, especially at a provincial level.

    My point being (again) that for all the rhetoric out there, not too many in this region are walking the talk. It’s a shame about Prendy, he was at least a seasoned pro. Some of the TransLink people I meet are shocking in their ignorance about transit issues and ideas.


    November 5, 2009 at 6:04 pm

  4. Sounds like it’ll be challenging over in NYC too:

    Taking the Jay train: New MTA boss Walder on right track to better service, lower costs

    Straphangers are tapped out, and they are scheduled for fare hikes every other year. The state is a basket case, and Gov. Paterson is calling for a $100 million cut in aid to the MTA. Businesses have been taxed to the hilt to support mass transit, and the Legislature cobbled together only enough to keep subway maintenance and construction programs going for two years.

    This article says that MTA has 5 capital megaprojects on the go with 4 of them years behind schedule and all over budget.
    New boss Jay Walder says MTA must put brakes on ‘grand plans’

    Ron C.

    November 5, 2009 at 6:36 pm

  5. I suppose that Vancouver residents may be surprised to learn that Tom Prendergast may not have found Vancouver to be The Best Place on Earth. It’s the Best Place on Earth For Cars. It’s not the Best Place on Earth for career development or any hope at all of an urban future that does not involve precipitous acquiescence to the automobile.

    I don’t see any hope at all for this town. Vancouver is turning into the tarsands of cities. It’s an unstoppable juggernaut of mediocrity stupid to the last drop. What else should we expect in a city where the major industries are real estate speculation and organized crime?


    November 6, 2009 at 12:38 am

  6. I can’t say that I am surprised..a few months ago I noted in another post that he likely wouldn’t stay as Gordo refuses to fund transit the way he funds freeways.
    For all his talk about the most beautiful place on earth G.C. doesn’t even talk about funding charging stations for electric cars and bikes

    Red frog

    November 6, 2009 at 2:31 am

  7. Metro Newspaper says that he turned down the NYC position twice and took it the third time because he thought the opportunity would disappear.–translink-boss-leaving-to-run-new-york-s-transit

    Ron C.

    November 6, 2009 at 11:28 am

  8. It looks like he lost hope here in Vancouver.

    I’ve seen some media reports that mention the recent decision by the mayors as if that prompted the decision when I’m sure Tom knows the mayors had no choice. It just became clear that Victoria was never going to come through with the money to back up their grandiose plans nor would they ever accept responsibility for overruling TransLink (and common sense) on technology and routing for rapid transit.

    Really what’s the point of being the CEO when all the important decisions are being made by someone else?

    New York has funding challenges, just as all transit systems do, but he’s not going to have to worry that Albany will constantly get in his way.


    November 6, 2009 at 12:24 pm

  9. “he’s not going to have to worry that Albany will constantly get in his way”

    Really? New York City voted for a congestion charge – Albany blocked it without even going to a vote.

    Stephen Rees

    November 6, 2009 at 1:08 pm

  10. I wasn’t aware of that Stephen.

    I had assumed (and taken the risk that entails) that no senior government was as involved in local decision making as the one we have.


    November 6, 2009 at 3:09 pm

  11. Thanks to the extreme right wing Liberals, under the direction of big business, has consistanly refused to build a public transportation system which is car competitive. And Vancouver’s Mayor has done nothing to fight this trend of heavy rail, even though research has clealy shown that light rail and BRT is the way to go(as citikes across North Amercia abandom heavy rail). Why does campbell demand heavy rail?


    November 6, 2009 at 3:18 pm

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