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Archive for September 16th, 2011

“Lekstrom tells mayors he’s open to TransLink reform”

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The debate on Translink funding continues to occupy the media. Today’s contribution from Jeff Nagel starts with the intriguing possibility that Kevin Falcon’s “reform” might be rolled back. Of course that won’t happen any time soon, or as a precondition for the Mayor’s signing on for a property tax increase. And, of course, it still has to win cabinet approval, and Falcon is now Minister of Finance who is bound to take a keen interest in issue like gas tax increases and so on. Lekstrom might even think it is a Good Idea – but he is not saying that and couldn’t possibly comment if he did or not.

There is also some good stuff from some of the Mayors.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie is one of several others in the region who won’t back the plan because he opposes any property tax hike and won’t take the risk of getting stuck with one.

He also wants to know exactly what new source is proposed before he votes on it.

“A vehicle levy or road pricing can mean a hundred different things,” Brodie said. “There’s no certainty as to what they’re talking about.”

Brodie added he would support a two-cent gas tax alone to build the Evergreen Line immediately while work continues to flesh out other funding options.

I am not sure that option is actually on the table. It is also means that every other pet project has to wait – and, by the way, the Evergreen Line will have some impact on operations and maintenance spending and there’s not a lot of room for that. But it is rare that I find myself in agreement with Malcolm Brodie, and seems to point in the probable direction of an interim settlement that sees the Evergreen Line started and everything else stay the same until the funding and governance can be worked out. Diane Watts on the current professional board/ Mayor’s council arrangement “Very early on we realized there are pieces of this that just don’t work,” looks like she is increasing the distance between herself and the BC Liberals.

Corrigan, of course, gets the best quote in: on the notion that the province will approve a controversial vehicle levy –

“They’re stupid,” he said of the government. “But they’re not that stupid.”

Meanwhile the other, related, big story is the prospect of a 12% fare increase in 2013. This comes from Martin Crilly, the Translink Commissioner.

“We will want to satisfy ourselves the increase is justified and can’t be deferred and not reduced in amount.”

Which is – as usual – not saying very much at all. I doubt very much the assertion that a 10% increase in revenue will result from a 12% fare increase. For one thing, we have not had fare increases this far ahead of inflation for a while. For another, there will be a lot of new road capacity coming on stream as the new Port Mann and widened Highway #1 will be completed around then. There will be a few months when that new capacity will look under-utilized. Without some form of tax deal Translink will be even harder pressed to cope with demand which has been rising faster than expected. While people might swallow a big fare increase if there is plenty of good service, when people are already stretched by tough economic times (we have heard the word recession a lot more often recently) they get more sensitive to fare changes. And paying more for a more overcrowded system will look like a very bad deal indeed to those who have a choice.

If there is going to be a change in governance the office of the Commissioner seems to me to be one for he things that could easily be chopped. The idea was a sop to those who protested the lack of accountability in Falcon’s new arrangements. If the Mayors start to play a more significant role, why do we need a Commissioner? Actually why do we need him now, come to that. It’s not as if he has any real power. If he can’t say a flat “No” then he’s not much more than a rubber stamp. Nothing personal against Martin Crilly – but he has been pretty useless at protecting BC Ferries users too. Not his fault – it’s the job description – but he did sign on for a thankless, and largely pointless, role.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 16, 2011 at 10:13 am

Posted in regional government, transit

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