Stephen Rees's blog

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

Farewell Mike

with 4 comments

Surprising news this morning that a corporate reorganization has eliminated the position of Vice President, Planning & Policy so Mike Shiffer is no longer with TransLink. Service and Infrastructure Planning will now report through the Chief Operating Officer. Strategic Planning will report to the  the VP Corporate & Public Affairs.

He gave a talk at SFU early in 2010 (which was reported here) which showed his depth of knowledge and understanding of the issues. This was soon after he arrived here, so he managed to survive for three years. Apparently he wants to stay here.

The reorganization is just one more indication of the damage that the current insistence on audits and cutbacks is having on the organization.

UPDATE Thanks to a tweet from Paul Hillsdon I have a link to Ian Jarvis memo to staff in a Surrey leader story

The role of planning – and especially Strategic Planning – is always difficult since it seeks to bring objectivity and rationality to an arena where all too often passions and gut instincts hold sway. We are not alone in this as the current pantomime in Toronto over rapid transit expansion shows – or the latest brouhaha in the London Mayoral elections, where the future of the hop-on, hop-off bus is once again at the top of the agenda.

Planning should most definitely NOT be about PR and spin  which is what “Corporate & Public Affairs” are all about. That’s the place where they believe that perception is reality. And we all suffer for that.

By the way, congratulations to Joe Trasolini on winning his by-election, but I am afraid  that means his favourite road project will once again resurface.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2012 at 8:02 am

4 Responses

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  1. When you work in a public agency in a public position, perception IS reality.

    If you cannot effectively manage the organization’s messaging, and build support with the public and the press, then all the behind the scenes analysis and planning will be for naught.

    Adam Fitch

    April 20, 2012 at 8:36 am

  2. On Joe Trasolini and the Murray-Clark Connector, I don’t think you have to worry too much, Stephen.

    Considering the things that Christy Clark has said about Joe since he announced he would run forthe NDP, I don’t think that Joe will make much headway with that project, as long as she is premier. After the next general election, on the other hand, is a different matter. If the NDP wins, I am sure that he will get a cabinet post, and then, if he wants the project to go ahead, it probalbly will. Ah, the wonders of politics and transportation planning. Isn’t it serendipidous?

    Adam Fitch

    April 20, 2012 at 8:47 am

  3. Sad day. Mike Shiffer was not dismissed b/c of his inability to steer ship or lead. This is all part of a response to a media and political frenzy over funding and finger pointing. The audit is not done and no inefficiencies are found yet – lets remember that. But, the organization must scramble and address “inefficiencies”. Having said that, it is worrisome that the first executive nixed in an organization in charge of planning and implementing regional transportation is the VP of planning. Planning is a core function of this organization, and it makes no sense to split it between public relations and operations.


    April 20, 2012 at 9:41 am

  4. Another proof that TransLink got shafted by provincial politicians that have never bothered to find out what towns with truly good transit systems (relative to the size of the town) do.
    They most likely have never bothered to use transit in a couple of cities for several hours a day within a week at least..

    In these (older) cities where mayors, councilors, regional politicians are in charge of transit, the reason transit works, has secure financing etc. is not because these politicians are unusually smart, it just that transit is part of their daily culture since they were kids.
    So when a professional transit planner recommend something they understand what is involved.

    In my previous life on another continent I knew quite a few business people, municipal politicians etc. that used transit when they were in a big city, and trains between cities. They still do that nowadays, especially with fast trains that are now faster than planes–downtown to downtown—for a trip under 600 km.

    Red frog

    April 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

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