Stephen Rees's blog

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

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

2 Responses

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  1. We hope the copy and paste will be readable…

    What does the Mayor of London do?
    The Mayor is responsible for producing an integrated transport strategy for London and for consulting the London Assembly, Transport for London (TfL), boroughs and others on the strategy.

    In May 2009 the Mayor published the Transport Strategy Statement of Intent which sets out the foundations upon which his Transport Strategy will be built over the coming months.
    The Mayor has wide powers of direction over TfL, sets TfL’s budget (subject to the approval of the Assembly – see below) and appoints its board.
    The Mayor also:
    sets the structure and level of public transport fares in London (including ‘black cabs’ but not National Rail or minicab fares)
    has a say in how the commuter railways are run
    has powers to fund new transport services, and to invest in new transport systems.

    What does the London Assembly do?
    The London Assembly is consulted on the Mayor’s transport strategy, and inspects and approves the Mayor’s budget. It is able to summon the Mayor and senior staff to account for TfL’s performance. London TravelWatch, a body appointed by and reporting to the Assembly, deals with complaints about transport in London.

    What does Transport for London do?
    Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for most transport in London. It is accountable to the Mayor and responsible for delivering the Mayor’s Transport Strategy through:
    managing London Buses, Croydon Tramlink, and the Docklands Light Railway
    managing the Underground
    managing a network of major roads, the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN)
    regulating taxis and minicabs
    running London River Services, and promoting the safe use of the Thames for passenger and freight movement
    helping co-ordinate the Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard schemes for door-to-door services for transport users with mobility problems
    having responsibility for traffic lights across London.

    Who runs TfL?
    TfL is under the direct control of the Mayor 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, Peter Hendy, heads TfL and is responsible for operational issues.

    What do the boroughs do?
    The boroughs continue to play a vital role in London’s transport and remain the highway and traffic authorities for 95 per cent of roads in London. They work in partnership with the Mayor to deliver the aspects of transport strategy relevant to their responsibilities. They are required to develop and implement Local Implementation Plans detailing their proposals for carrying out the transport strategy in their borough.

    In France’s major towns transit is planned, financed and controlled by a board made of elected regional and municipal politicians. The actual operation of transit is done by private companies contracted for X years, plus the trains and buses of the regional division of the SNCF (National Rail company)

    The VBB provides transit in the Berlin Brandenburg region. The VBB, a private limited company, is made of representatives of the Federal governments, the states of Berlin and Branderburg, 14 separate districts and 4 cities.
    Running transit is done by 42 private transit operators.

    Red frog

    October 4, 2012 at 1:47 pm

  2. Hi Stephen, just to clarify: The province does not appoint TransLink’s Board. A five-member screening panel recruits qualified candidates for the three vacancies per year, and the Mayors Council makes the final choices.

    Ken Hardie

    October 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

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