Stephen Rees's blog

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

TransLink’s draft three-year plan freezes transit service hours

with 9 comments

This is based on something I saw on the Straight’s web page. The first thing I did was go to Translink’s page to see if I could find and read the original. As usual, I had no luck at all. It’s not on the the “press” page – not is it linked to Board reports. It’s not on the “Transportation Planning” page either. Of course not. Transit service hours never had anything to do with planning at Translink. And one can only access very outdated material if you use the site’s search engine. This is what it told me

No results were found containing “2011 Base Plan and Outlook”

Basically, Translink really doesn’t want just anyone reading its reports.

When  I spoke at the BARSTA meeting this week, I made the point that Translink cannot expand its system. They are all worried about what they see as the imminent threat of a bored tube under Broadway, thanks to some Translink meetings held in the area. But really, it cannot happen.

TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie explained in a phone interview that the plan will “keep things in a state of good repair”. But he also admitted that it doesn’t fund projects that would increase transit use, such as the long-delayed Evergreen Line.

“The base plan represents the level of services that TransLink can sustain based on its current revenues,” Hardie told the Straight.

Now it is also true that Translink doesn’t actually decide about major rapid transit projects – that’s always done by the province. They might proceed with the $2.8bn project (there is not, of course, any budgetary provision for that) but given the current state of their finances and the lack of private sector ability to fund P3s post 2008, it seems a remote possibility to me.

And, elsewhere it is noted that the extension of U Pass is going to create significant increases in transit demand, especially at peak periods.

Which is going to be met by service cuts. I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Becuase demand is going to increase, and there is no spare capacity, some places will lose some bus service so that others can get more. ‘

Although the plan maintains overall service, about four to five percent of conventional bus-service hours will be redirected by 2012. Through this, the transportation body expects to “increase the productivity of the system by just over two percent through increased revenue ridership”.

“It’s not the intention to cut service to save money,” Hardie explained. “It’s the intention to cut service to reallocate those services to where they can basically do a better job in terms of meeting demand in moving people.”

The last time I made this point some commenters took exception to my use of the words – but even Ken Hardie is now using the phrase “cut service”.

Elsewhere, like Whatcom county, matters are much worse: they are reducing transit service overall. So we could be worse off. But that is not much comfort – nor is it what should be happening. The idea that cutting public services is a good idea in a recession was shown to be bunk in the 1930’s. It did not work then in the way its proponents said it would. It is also the case that we need more transit – getting people out of cars is still one of the best ideas around for a whole range of worthy objectives – as regular readers of this blog will know. But the people we keep on electing to govern us still cannot see beyond their own short term self interest, and empty rhetoric. What saddens me is the number of people who appear to agree with this stupidity.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 24, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Posted in transit

9 Responses

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  1. I googled ‘translink 2011 Base Plan and Outlook’ and got a few hits. [1]

    It looks like the first 3 years are ‘fully funded’ initiatives from their 10 yr plan, where they use conservative existing revenue numbers, with the last 7 years up for further consultation and with some allowance for projection of revenues.


    “But the people we keep on electing to govern us still cannot see beyond their own short term self interest, and empty rhetoric.”

    but then again, let me change that quote a bit for reflection:

    ” But the people… still cannot see beyond their own short term self interest, and empty rhetoric.”

    A germaine example of this is the 2000/01 vehicle levy introduced by translink, but cancelled by Victoria due to public outcry at ‘another tax’ [2] (BTW, this link is pretty cool, made by jeff nagel)


    “[people] still cannot see beyond their own short term self interest, and empty rhetoric. What saddens me is the number of people who appear to agree with this.”

    but you also said this about bus service in richmond:

    ” I am not convinced that it makes any difference at all what I chose to do on one trip compared to what we – as a region – need to do to change millions of trips.” [3]

    I’m no paragon of virtue, but I realize that I have to try, and I take the skytrain and bus a few times a week now. it does take a little bit longer as my bus/skytrain route will never match the covenience of driving, especially when it’s raining. but it’s a compromise i choose to do, just as we as a society has to decide about raising taxes/fares/changing routes resources to get better service. although service is being ‘cut’, those service hours will be added to other routes in need. The alternative is to leave route resources as they are. This would be advantageous to me as i take the bus in surrey/langley, and i suspect service might be reduced to serve vancouver, but i also realize it serves a greater net good in the near-term.

    So I would ask you, Mr. Rees, to start taking the bus more. at the very least you will be counted in the Service rationalization initiative TL is running and your local bus might see stability and perhaps even improvment. [3]


    June 24, 2010 at 10:21 pm

  2. I think more people should ride there bikes and utilize all the new bike routes we have now and this will help to relieve some of the pressure on translink thus allowing them to handle new riders better. Who knows maybe with more people cycling the capacitys on the current system can or might improve and maybe translink could transfer any possible extra capacity to areas that really have needs of increase frequency of transit.


    June 24, 2010 at 11:03 pm

  3. “the lack of private sector ability to fund P3s post 2008”

    that is what the BC government want people to believe to justify its failure to secure a private investor for its road projects…

    but the reality is that there is plenty of cash in the private sector.

    France has took the route of the P3 for a €7.5 Billion high speed train project (Tours-Bordeaux), and was able to find private sector to finance close to half of it, his in 2010

    Here in Canada, ETR407 didn’t have any issue to raise half billion dollar money on the market for its toll road, in 2009…

    As says the article, private money exists for “worth projects”, for other like Port Mann bridge it is another story.

    On another front, the problem of Whatcom county, is that its ridership growth doesn’t seems sustainable : The more rider, the more it cost to tax payer, and a sound transit agency should rationalize its service in such a sort that increased ridership result in better balance sheet: it has not been the case either on Translink in the last years (with a degradation of the farebox recovery ratio)


    June 25, 2010 at 12:08 am

  4. […] Vancouver’s Architectural Revival [The Tyee] TransLink’s draft three-year plan freezes transit service hours [Stephen Ree's Blog] Service expansion off table, cuts possible, TransLink warns [The Vancouver […]

    re:place Magazine

    June 25, 2010 at 10:03 am

  5. I would have to disagree with you voony, that by using governemnt money judiciously about providing service before there is ridership, it would be like ‘seed money’ to start a new service that will grow with time.

    Prendergast’s move to aggressively expand bus service in south of fraser has made a big difference to me about the viability of taking transit versus driving. It is the main reason, however, why TL is running a structural deficit as per the comptroller general and in the end, we had to scramble to get funding from the region. now that sevice will be kept, but redeployed to higher ridership routes to get more revenue.


    June 25, 2010 at 10:30 am

  6. Metro is not impressed either

    TransLink was also criticized for going ahead with the $170-million SmartCard payment option and the related fare gates when, in the past, TransLink repeatedly insisted there was no business case for turnstiles.

    “Circumstances have changed,” said Jarvis, pointing to the $70-million TransLink will get from the senior levels of government in order to install fare gates by 2013.

    Stephen Rees

    June 27, 2010 at 7:17 pm

  7. Mezz: “that by using governemnt money judiciously about providing service before there is ridership, it would be like ‘seed money’ to start a new service that will grow with time.”

    That can work if Translink has the means of its ambition what is not necessarily true, but also, and foremost, if this strategy is supported by other actors:

    it is definitely not the case, as the example here show actor working against TL, which would condemn to indefinite extending service to chase opportunistic urban sprawling.

    Translink should eventually concentrate its service and effort where the urban form, and “choke point” (like G. Massey tunnel or) make transit an economically a reasonable proposition to private car and try to increase the market share there.

    …and expect that by “capillarity” it will spread on surrounding area/route (like it already does with Down Town: excellent transit there, and transit access to DT is basically the only reason why there is some people taking bus in Delta or White Rock).


    June 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm

  8. Great link, voony.

    Interesting how TL is (quite deservedly) trying to hold the development as planned in contrast to surrey council’s wishes.

    Certainly I wouldn’t want TL to waste money on trying to supply a poorly thought-out greenfield development. I would rather see some SOF b-lines along established corridors, or further stablization of the frequent transit network in SOF, or any new and improved service on a transit corridor on the LRSP as the ‘build it and they will come’ scenario.


    June 28, 2010 at 12:13 am

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