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

Archive for June 9th, 2010

TransLink’s projected deficit turns into $24 million surplus

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The Province this morning has some good news. So in case anyone thinks I am just interested in knocking Translink, I thought I would pass this along.

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said Tuesday that, partly due to the Olympics, revenues were $7.5 million higher than budgeted for January through March.

“Transit-fare revenues are up $3.4 million and fuel taxes are up $4.3 million,” he said. “Those are the two most significant factors.”

More importantly, operating expenses fell $25.8 million below budget.

Huh? How can operating expenses have fallen when they were operating more service then? They just told us – in their responses to the Canada Line “capacity” stories that it costs more to operate more trains – and we know it also must cost more to operate more bus service hours since every bus has to have an operator! Indeed, the reduction in the number of buses operated can seen quite nicely at present by taking a look at the fleet of recently retired buses now parked at off Dyke Road near No 4 Road in Richmond.

Going nowhere

The key might be to look again at the phrase “below budget” – maybe they just budgetted more generously than they needed to?

Jarvis said that was due to reorganization, cutting duplication and chopping 100 jobs, along with lower interest rates.

But did they do that in the first quarter – when they needed more operators to run these old, now retired, buses on the additional service that was run during the Olympic Games period – which was, apparently much longer than just the two weeks of the sporting festival itself?

It also shows that the average transit fare paid per passenger was $1.79, compared to a target of $1.86.

Well, once again, knowing how these targets are arrived at – and the “average fare paid” come to that – I am not sure that means very much. Surely they should be telling us what the actual data says – say year on year average fare. I would bet too that the additional ridership generated by the Olympics had a different travel pattern in terms of number of zones and time of day – both of which are important in the Vancouver region.

See, I do my best to be positive and encouraging, but they don’t help themselves with this kind of story management.  Maybe they should simply abandon the idea of “spin” and just be much more open with real data that anyone can look at. Budgets and targets they can keep for their internal management purposes. I want to see real outturn – and data that has been collected from reliable sources. So I trust Canada Line data (since InTransitBC has passenger counters and contractual need for good data) and also SeaBus data – since the turnstiles are there for vessel safety. But tiny sample surveys, and infrequent trip diaries, do not impress me much.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 9, 2010 at 11:36 am

Posted in transit