Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for October 4th, 2012

Metro Vancouver seeks more transit influence

with 2 comments

In an article in the Georgia Straight, NDP Transportation critic Harry Bains makes it clear that reform of Translink will happen once we have a new provincial government. That is a Good Thing – and not at all unexpected. The current structure was imposed in 2008 by then Transportation Minister  Kevin Falcon in a fit of pique after the Translink Board showed itself capable of resistance to the Canada Line. Eventually, of course, it folded after being promised that the Evergreen Line and Canada Line would proceed simultaneously  – which didn’t happen. But that did not save it from being replaced by a “professional board” – one appointed by the province by a five-member screening panel which recruits qualified candidates for the three vacancies per year with the Mayors Council making the final choices – rather than selected by Metro Vancouver from the membership of their own board. [See the Comment below for the reason for the rather clumsy preceding sentence.]

The Straight article cites a Metro staff report

A staff report on the Friday (October 5) meeting agenda of Metro Vancouver’s regional planning and agriculture committee asserts that the regional district should be a “full partner” of the provincial government, TransLink, and the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.

which sent me to the Metro Vancouver web page and the somewhat frustrating task of finding the report in question. Like far too many main stream media web pages, there is no link to the external source – nor is it clearly identified. But then the way you get to the report is not exactly easy either. Metro has the entire agenda package for Friday’s meeting of the Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee Meeting on Friday. I think what Carlito Pablo is pointing to is the report at item 5.1 “Comments on TransLink’s Draft 2013 Base Plan and Outlook”. Because the document is a pdf there is no search function, but when I read through it I could not find  any assertion about “full partnership”. What I did find was the following

Path 3: Cooperation on Governance Practices Review Study

Finally, successful integration of land use and transportation requires a rethink of the current governance arrangements in the region. The Mayors’ Council is initiating a transportation governance practices review study this fall. It would be beneficial for the Mayors’ Council to collaborate with Metro Vancouver in this study so that optimal and preferred alternatives can be identified.

which is on page RPA 14.

I do hope that the NDP does indeed proceed with a restructuring of Translink if they do form the next government, which at present seems highly likely. I also hope that they do not simply revert to what went before – even though that has the virtue of being the easiest option to implement. Simply repealing the South Coast of British Columbia Transportation Authority Act will not solve the problem, since what we had before was not exactly democratically accountable either. But this, it seems, is what Bains, Dix and Geoff Meggs say they want since they keep referring to The Mayors. But an indirectly elected board does not really answer the need for accountability. The voters elect Mayors based on local politics – not regional concerns. George Puil found out that his leadership of Translink made him personally very unpopular – and, of course, he wasn’t even a Mayor. Vancouver’s Mayors did not actually sit on the Translink Board as the city sent three councillors to GVRD instead, and it was from these representatives that the Translink Board was selected. Just because a Board has people on it who were elected to something else, does not make them accountable. Someone can be doing a fine job as Mayor of wherever, and keep getting re-elected there, while being hopelessly incompetent as a regional transportation representative. Voters have no way of getting such a person off the Translink Board – which is what being accountable in this context means.

And as Bains notes transportation and land use do indeed go hand in hand. What I have been calling for on this blog since it started is for a regional body that combines both functions.  Metro simply does not have any effective powers to ensure that its land use strategy is implemented. The only sanction that exists now is if all the regional representatives act as a bloc to coerce one component municipality, and that does not happen simply because none of them want to see that sort of action taken against themselves. A directly elected regional body would be different to Metro – but would be accountable if its running of regional services – transport, water, sewage and waste disposal as well as regional planning – offended the electorate of the region. This is approximately what happens now in London where the Greater London Authority is responsible for Transport for London among other regional functions. They also have a directly elected (metropolitan) Mayor as well. And thirty two London Boroughs to provide local services, each with their own Mayor (though in Britain this is often a ceremonial not an executive function).

I am not sure that the directly elected Metro Mayor is a model I now endorse just because there are some pretty dreadful big city Mayors around these days. But I am going to try to keep personalities out of this if I can.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 4, 2012 at 11:36 am