Stephen Rees's blog

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

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

with 16 comments

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

Tagged with

16 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The cynic in me sees that Translink is having a “success problem” because it’s having difficulty meeting rapidly-increasing demand (some of which has been mandated by the provincial government through it’s expansion of the U-Pass program), and that one way to deal with that is to reduce demand by imposing a substantial fare increase.


    September 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

  2. Did you read about TransLink latest great idea? “Turnstiles may limit flow to future riots: TransLink”

    They would shut off the fare gates to prevent people to enter the system at certain stations… First of all just because you enter at Metrotown or King George or….doesn’t mean you are going to a game. Secondly, unless the gates are 6ft tall, people will jump over, as they often do in London, Paris etc. .

    And what about the rest of us that have the right to use the system (work, school, shopping, movies etc.), have no interest whatsoever in attending a hockey match, and shouldn’t be forced to wait and wait and wait..?
    Wouldn’t it better to shut the game instead or to have the game take place in an empty stadium??

    Red frog

    September 17, 2011 at 12:06 am

  3. Until TransLink and the Metro Vancouver boards are elected directly by voters, and until they secure permanent senior government funding, they will continue to be used as convenient scapegoats. The provincial government was smart in placing TransLink between the public and themselves. Though I often marvel at how intelligent the voters are, they (and some media) are often at the opposite end of the intelligence scale when blaming TransLink for the failures of chronic underfunding and crowding.

    Until the feds step in, we’re hooped, and no amount of Corrigan witicisms against his ideological opponents will correct deeply embedded car dependence that exists nation-wide. We may well witness stupidity and worse, wilful ignorance, right up to the point senior governments are forced to rescue our cities from the successive price shocks the petroleum industry will impose on the world.

    The solution doesn’t have to bankrupt senior governments. Fare increases of 2% a year will have a cumulative postive effect. A 10-year federal transit, energy and food security program with steady, sequential financial interjections (balanced with cuts in oil industry subsidies and highway projects) and with new revenue from a simple carbon tax will do much to statiate the economic hunger for stability.

    The solutions are not difficult.


    September 20, 2011 at 10:37 am

  4. How many transit systems boards around the world are actually directly elected by voters? Not that many I would bet.. In many of the cities I am familiar with, the transit board is made of representatives of elected governments (municipal, regional etc. In some cases businessmen and union reps are also on the board)

    It would be hard to argue that the following transit systems are not well managed..
    The VBB (Verkenhrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg ) is the regional public transportation authority for the Berlin-Brandenburg district. A private limited company established in December of 1996, the VBB is comprised of representatives of the Federal government, the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, 14 separate districts, and four cities. The VBB ensures fluid and cohesive movement of people throughout the region, mediates between policy makers and operators, plans and executes a unified fare card system, supports operators, and promotes public transit in the region. This agency manages 42 private transit operators that serve approximately 3.4 million passengers every day. All of the represented states, cities and districts contribute to the financing of the regional public transit system managed by the VBB.

    TfL (Transport for London) is under the direct control of the Mayor of London, as he has chosen to chair the TfL Board. With him on the board are another 15 non-executive members. The Commissioner of Transport for London heads TfL and is responsible for operational issues. The full list of Board members can be found at

    STIF (Syndicat des transports d’Île-de-France) is the authority which organizes public transport in the greater Paris area. Its board is chaired by the President of the Île-de-France region. The 29 other members of the board are: 15 councilors from the Île-de-France regional council. 5 councilors for the town of Paris. 1 representative for each of the 7 departements (counties.) 1 representative of the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris – Île-de-France (CRCI). 1 representative of the EPCI (Public Institution for Inter municipal Cooperation) for the Île-de-France.

    for smaller systems:
    Greater Montreal transit system: check click on board of Directors
    SYTRAL is the transit authority of the Rhône County and the Lyon metropolitan area. Its Urban Transport Zone (PTU) is made up of the 57 towns of Greater Lyon, plus 7 adjacent towns. 613 square km. 1.3 million inhabitants.
    Le Comité syndical is SYTRAL board of governors. It is made of 16 elected members of the Greater Lyon and 10 elected members of the assembly of the Rhone Region. A staff of 85 implement the board decisions.

    Red frog

    September 20, 2011 at 9:21 pm

  5. @ Red Frog. Good points.

    However, TransLink has had its authority and structure steadily eroded and monkeyed with when they dared to vote against one or two pet provincial projects, and didn’t like the critical comments by some board members. Campbell and Falcon were particulary thin-skinned and vindictive, and your links (don’t have time to read them all) may not elucidate such blatant political interference in local control.

    As far as I know the federal government is not represented on the TransLink board, like with the VBB, but is expected to assume a major funding burden. Moreover, TransLink manages transportation in greater Vancouver, whereas Metro Vancouver manages all other regional issues, like water, sewers, regional planning, etc. It seems overly bureaucratic to break out transportation from the rest of it whereas one elected board could take more responsibility with greater efficacy.


    September 21, 2011 at 10:45 am

  6. MB, I mostly agree with your last post. I can’t talk about Japan but in Europe the mayors of big towns and regional politicians are expected to take an active part in planning the transit (what new lines are needed, what type of transit etc.). They don’t do it in total isolation, obviously.
    For starters they are familiar–as ordinary citizens before becoming a politician–with long distance and commuter trains, with metros and trams etc. in their whole country at least, if not in other euro countries.

    How many politicians-at all levels– in B.C.are familiar with various types of transit?
    Falcon did have a look at London tube, as he discovered turnstiles, which means he had never been to Toronto before or never used the subway there if he did. Too bad he didn’t stay in London long enough to notice that some would-be riders jumped over them to avoid paying..

    Perhaps Euro politicians are more efficient? for example the current mayor of Bordeaux-France is also the current Minister of Foreign Affairs. He definitely doesn’t neglect the town as he is involved in several big projects in Bordeaux.
    The mayor of Paris, President Sarkozy, the mayor of London, are all involved with transit planning.
    Regardless of how and why Euro politicians do it, the transit systems they have are the proof it works….

    One feature of the municipal transit systems in France is that, except for Paris, the actual management of transit systems is done by private companies that bid for limited-time (average 5 years) contracts. There are only 2 companies involved, so far, in the whole country.

    Red frog

    September 21, 2011 at 11:41 am

  7. @ Red Frog: “How many politicians-at all levels– in B.C.are familiar with various types of transit?”

    An excellent question. They have far more experience in Europe, obviously. My problem with with TransLink is that the local control has been diluted and bastardized down to a mayor’s council without much power.

    Perhaps if voters could elect TransLink and Metro Vancouver boards directly on the ballot (who cares if they are also performing council duties?), and the board had real powers of taxation, and if the province and feds had equal representation, then we’d have a better system.

    But it won”t be without the personal biases of the directors. This is where the professional staff come into play. If the feds had board representation and participated in major funding of projects, for example, then it stands to reason that if they were motivated to do something about peak oil, they would participate in the major national studies required to base transportation, energy and agricultural policy and funding on.

    Such things are, after all, issues about cities, and the feds could be the great levening agent.


    September 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm

  8. MB put a link to the downtown Vancouver choo-choo on the BulaBlog which got me one click away from this….

    Facts on our Olympic Spring. Double hockey gold for the home team & all the good transit numbers reported by UBC Engineering in the link provided above. Oh… and no riot! VANOC did one over on just about everybody else around here. We need to learn from that.

    I’m with MB on the taxation-representation issue. And, I agree with her view that the Feds have to be weightier partners—because they will profit from it. I would wish to see an overall “urban framework” that pools transit, social housing & supports, ecological gains in the urban footprint, cultural development, and strong partnering in infrastructure spending.

    One of the ways ALL that can be funded is by holding the municipalities accountable for their plans. Rather than the “Evergreen Promise of—it’s the Tri-Cities turn next”, an elected regional government would build transportation projects based on the merit of the plan… or risk being voted out of office.

    Which brings me to Stephen’s excellent reminder that no matter what comes next, what comes next is the opening of The Gateway. That will be a giant push back to an economic model of urban development that is barely holding on in the markets today.

    Studying the extensive photography at the Powell River Townsite a couple of decades ago I couldn’t help but form the impression that the change from horses to horse power (cars) must have brought a colossal disruption in the world economic system (i.e. who was on the top of the hill, and who was not there anymore). Dupont, Standard Oil, Ford, the names are familiar. But what about the regime that was forced out?

    Powell River Townsite & paper mill started building in 1911. A Minnesota & a Calgary interest joined hands. Why? Was it the expected opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the prospect of shipping pulp to the East and beyond, bypassing the rail tariffs?

    1929 the year of the crash, was also a peak year in production for the Ford Model T (I’ll take a black one, thank you). Did the ensuing decade long depression—with severe weather effects, the dust bowl devastated an agricultural sector that was no longer in demand for horses, horse feed, etc.—last that long because of the difficulty of making the change? And, was government command of the economy in Europe and North America, as WWII unfolded, the decisive step that finally got the deal done?

    How difficult is the re-tooling we are talking about here? Technically, its not that bad. But how many elephants are in the room that just would rather fight than switch?

    lewis n. villegas

    September 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm

  9. The supplemental plan called Moving Forward requires 70 million in additional annual revenue and includes new items such as the Evergreen Line to the Tri-Cities SkyTrain and SeaBus upgrades SeaBus service increases rapid bus service south of the Fraser conventional bus improvements and road and cycling network upgrades. The base plan isn t enough. The rest of the money will have to come from somewhere else such as a vehicle levy carbon tax parking tax or temporary property tax hike.TransLink commissioner Martin Crilly said there are a lot of don t knows in the supplemental plan such as where the money will come from if the planned funding sources don t come through.TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said if there is no funding the base plan will go ahead and Moving Forward will be scrapped.Some mayors had similar concerns.Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said TransLink has to be fiscally prudent by setting priorities and limits. That s not happening he said.Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he doesn t want to see TransLink end up in dire financial straits like it was two years ago and need to be bailed out again if there is no secure funding after 2014. The hard part is funding and it s always been that way Brodie said.Jarvis said TransLink is in a stronger financial position now and financial sustainability is a priority.When asked after the meeting if the mayors concerns about TransLink going into debt again were legitimate Olewiler answered immediately No. On Thursday the mayors also reiterated their opposition to using property taxes to fund transit projects.Unless the mayors working with the provincial government come up with an alternative a time-limited property tax increase of an average of 23 per year for the average home will take effect in 2013 and 2014. The mayors council does not support any additional property tax said Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean.Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said the transportation package makes the entire region more sustainable and can be done without relying on property taxes. This is an opportunity to do it he said of the process to come up with other sustainable funding.After the consultation period a report will be sent to the board of directors along with the base and supplemental plans in early August.

    Panama corporation

    September 27, 2011 at 10:20 am

  10. How much was wasted for that totally useless BC Place roof?

    Red frog

    September 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

  11. This query puzzled me until I read this story in the Province which calls it “hugely expensive” but does not mention a figure. A CBC story puts it at $458M – and a fixed price contract. And it had to be replaced anyway

    “The need to replace the white, puffy marshmallow roof that has dominated the city’s skyline became apparent in January 2007, when the Teflon-coated covering tore open and collapsed, leaving the fabric flapping in the wind.”

    Stephen Rees

    September 28, 2011 at 8:13 am

  12. Apparently it is $577M.

    Baldrey’s article also pegs the new Port Mann bridge at $3.3B. Now, what better things could be had for a short $4 billion?


    September 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

  13. Lekstrom: TransLink reform . . .

    I hope this post is not construed as off-topic. However IMO the issue of TX and the city is so much more complicated than Translink reform: no need to remind this blog.

    The issue is Historic, cultural and habitual and goes to the very soul of the city . . .

    I quip, the best TX is no TX.

    My ideal city comprising autonomous villages interconnected with emissions free trams, Woonerf roadways (concessions to commercial traffic intentionally gauged to discourage single occupancy vehicles)

    . . . but essentially our cities are the outcome of a predatory banking system that we are beginning to realize is not in our best interests.

    and on and on . . . please read you essay . . .

    Roger Kemble

    September 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm

  14. I knew the was just a rhetorical question to make people stop and think: “was a roof REALLY needed?”
    We managed very well with open air stadiums for generations. Surely Canadian jocks, of all people, should be able to put up with cold and rain?
    $ 577 M should have been used on the Evergreen line..
    4 billion = light rail all over Metro Vancouver..

    yeah, I know..I am the devil’s advocate..

    Red frog

    September 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

  15. @ Roger: “I quip, the best TX is no TX ….. trams, woonerfs”

    Don’t small boats!


    September 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

  16. Cam Cole’s column today quoted a price of $563 Million, so there’s quite a range of pricetags.. The roof itself, apparently, is only 1/4 of the expense… all the seats are new, the turf is new, the scoreboard and other displays are new, even the Terry Fox memorial is new.

    That said, certainly that money could have been spent making up the shortfall on the Evergreen Line… just keep sewing up the rips, though the teflon roof on Canada Place, the same age as BC Place, has also been replaced. Will Brentwood Mall be next, it’s about the same age.

    Why covered and not open air? One consideration was the baseball team we never had, rain being one of the many woes that drove the Pilots out of Seattle after one year… Remember, most events in BC Place are not sports, but trade shows and the like, many held during the rainy season (October-June…) 🙂

    The Other David

    September 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: