How do you feel about privatized transit?

Re: Bill 43, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act

Patrick Smith
SFU political science professor

"I don’t think it is the way to go. We do public-private partnership models with the RAV line, but there is simply too much investment that is needed in public transit. You are not going to find the private sector stepping up on its own. It is going to require public investment as part of a strategy to get more people on to transit and out of cars."

Zailda Chan
Organizer, Bus Riders Union

"I would have to say that privatization is already happening and has been happening. One example is the Canada Line and the other is the fare increase, which is a form of privatization because it is an increase in user fees that puts the burden on bus riders to pay for our public transit service, instead of it being adequately funded so that everybody can access it."

Bernie Magnan
Chief economist, Vancouver Board of Trade

"It is difficult, because you could not provide service to low-populated areas with a private system without causing some difficulty. If you want to move people into the transit system, you have to provide frequency at a fare that is reasonable. If you tried to service Maple Ridge with a private system, I think you would have some difficulty in doing that."

Cheeying Ho
Executive director, Smart Growth B.C.

"Terrible. I think that is a bad idea.”¦The restructuring as it currently stands is problematic. Our board supports more public accountability and more public control over TransLink and transit and the links to land-use planning. We are cautiously waiting to see how it [Bill 43] works, but we wouldn’t support any privatization to transit or the planning authority."

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What I see is a stunning ignorance of transit practise around the world. Who cares who owns the damn thing, just as long as it is affordable and efficient.

RAV is not a P-3, as the participating consortium's were never allowed to assess mode, light rail or metro. What the RAV P-3 is, is a ponsie scheme, where the consortium's bidding on RAV, were bidding on a long term management fee.

Foreign Banks did not invest in RAV and Campbell & co. had to rob the public service pension plans to fund the subway.

In the real world, subways like RAV would never be considered for a P-3; just too expensive.

To real P-3 transit projects, Nottingham's and Dublin's LRT projects are successful P-3 projects and are seeing an operating profit - after debt servicing fees. TransLink, refuses to release SkyTrain's debt servicing fees, which are now over $200 million annually!

The success of Nottingham's and Dublin's LRT P-3 projects is that competing consortium's (which included banks), were in on the planning from the start, and competed to build the most affordable and efficient transit system.

With RAV, Ken Doebell, the Premier's right hand man, and Jane Bird (a lawyer and not a transit expert) planned for a subway from the start with no advice from the transit community. The result: a hugely expensive subway/metro project that will struggle to attract much new ridership and will be heavily subsided.

With a privatized transit system, the operators would be far more interested in the transit 'customers' concerns, than the present lot running the outfit. Customer satisfaction is not in TransLink's lexicon.

Privatize the damn thing.......bring it on!
Rating: +3
Dublin's Luas LRT in profit. Here we have a news item reporting Dublin's LRT profit.

"Luas in profit : It has been announced that Dublin's Luas light rail system has made a profit a full year earlier than expected, making it the only transport network in the country not in need of Government subsidies.

The system carried around 60,000 people every day during 2005, a figure which is still increasing, and achieved a financial surplus of EUR200 000 according to the Railway Procurement Agency. This has enabled Luas not to require the expected EUR2.5m subsidy from the Department of Transport.

Due to its popularity there can be severely overcrowded trams at peak times which has required the introduction of additional services at morning peak hours and from September next the introduction of a four minute frequency on the Green Line, In addition the frequency of service on the Red Line will also be increased and from spring 2007 the overall capacity of the Red Line will be increased by 40% by increasing the length of trams from 30 metres to 40 metres.
23 June 2006"

If done properly, a privately run transit system can both satisfy travel demands, as well operate at a profit. The problem with Vancouver is that our 'public' transit system is seen as a social service, where the 'powers that be' really do not care how its run, buses are for the poor, the elderly, and students. Expensive metro is built strictly for political prestige. SkyTrain for the Socreds; the Millennium Line for the NDP and now RAV for the Liberals. To make bad planning look good, just about every bus route conceivable is cascaded unto the metro. sure SkyTrain carries high ridership, but most of that ridership are bus riders forced to transfer to SkyTrain, there is no modal shift from car to transit.

With a private concern planning and operating transit, service would be provided where needed. 'Rail' transit would be planned where economically needed, not because it looks good. A 'private' transit company would plan for what the customer needed, not, as in RAV's case, not to build LRT on the Arbutus corridor.

As I said before, Private operation of the regions transit service......BRING IT ON! A better product, built affordably, with total public input.

Rating: +1
Matthew Burrows
I sense a lot of LRT passion here, Grumpy, and I could write a 3,000-word response from a transit-riding perspective (mine!) to your myriad points and concerns. To be brief, please note that the December TransLink meeting is the last opportunity the public will have to address their board of appointed regional politicians. As far as I can see, that is the issue: One more TransLink board meeting with the full board and CEO present. Remember, the Bus Riders Union made their points here, and they got back night buses and raised holy hell over fare increases that hit the marginalized the hardest and drive down ridership. Minister Falcon has made constant allusions to how "dysfunctional" he thought that board was, but at the very least (despite the fact they met once a month in the boonies at 9 a.m.) it was an opportunity to address, and yell at, the board. When can the BRU and other groups do that now? At one of the four meetings in a year of the council of mayors?
Rating: +5
The problem stem from the fact that we live in a 'transit' fantasy land, where fact becomes fiction and SkyTrain becomes supreme!

Let's get back to basics. On transit routes where average hourly ridership is under 2,000 persons per hour per direction; buses are the most economic mode of transit (unless LRT is track-sharing with mainline railways)

Between 2,000 pphpd and 20,000 pphpd, LRT does the job far more economically.

and when ridership demands exceed 20,000 pphpd, metro is built.

Now there is crossover between LRT and metro, especially when light-metro is employed, but when transit operates on a segregated rights-of-ways (RAV, SkyTrain), average hourly ridership must exceed about 15,000 pphpd.

Here is the reason: for every bus or tram (LRV) operated one must hire at least 4 persons to operate, maintain and manage them. Thus on a route requiring 60 buses an hour (60 X 4 = 240) 240 persons are needed to operate, manage and maintain the buses. As LRT is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses, the same route would require 8 to 10 trams and 32 to 40 employees to operate the same route. As wage costs account for about 70% of operation costs of a transit system, LRT provides great cost savings are achieved by operating LRT on a transit route.

TransLink is dead, as dead as doornail, because politicians refuse to acknowledge basic public transit economics.

Because we do not have 'real' transit expert involved with transit planning, the public will continue to receive very expensive transit planning, based on "stuff and nonsense" by TransLink; the BC Liberals; Vancouver's NPA; the NDP; Bus Riders Union; C.O.P.E.; S.P.E.C.; Vision Vancouver; et al!

Real change will only happen when the public is truthfully consulted with. and that, I do not believe will ever happen in BC.

The result: A hugely expensive regional metro system and a dysfunctional regional bus system that does little to attract the all important motorist from the car. The populace will continue to reject regional transit because it is so, so user unfriendly.

So lets privatize the outfit, nothing could get any worse!
Rating: -4
Matthew Burrows
Grumpy, I am in agreement again with much of what you say, but when it comes to the last line you have lost me completely:
"So lets privatize the outfit, nothing could get any worse!"
Things couldn't get any worse? You know they could, Grumpy, and there is a very strong chance they still will.
Rating: -3
The problem is that the government (including TransLink, treat transit as a social service; it's not. Transit is a consumer product and if the consumer doesn't like it, the consumer doesn't use it.

A truly private transit operation would have to satisfy consumer demand. RAV is not and I repeat, is not a privately run transit system. RAV is pseudo privately managed transit line where ridership must exceed 100,000 a day (by contract) or TransLink must subsidize the difference. A true private line would not include subsidies based on ridership, except for a 'flat' rate.

With the current TransLink, there are more ridership on congested routes (Broadway) because TransLink doesn't offer the headways to cater to traffic loads. This, in part, is due to the highly subsidized U-pass. The u-pass was conceived to 'put bums in empty seats' not cause massive overcrowding on bus routes. U-pass was a cheap attempt at social engineering, it is a failure because of the atrocious over crowding on heavily used routes.

what TransLink has, is called the 'German disease' where the vast majority of ridership is from students, the poor, and the elderly. If one wants a good public transit system, one must offer quality public transit and a truly private operation would have to provide this or go bankrupt.

With TransLink, mediocrity reigns supreme, and with TransLink Mk. 2 even more mediocrity will take place with the board made up of forgettable politicians and political hacks.

I'll take my chances with a privately run company.
Rating: -2
John Burns
Grumpy -

As always, I enjoy your strange invective. Always bracing to wake up to.

I honestly don't understand how you can say on the one hand

the vast majority of ridership is from students, the poor, and the elderly

and then still think

Transit is a consumer product and if the consumer doesn't like it, the consumer doesn't use it.

How are the disenfranchised bulk of users going to vote with their feet when their only alternative is to commute with their feet?
Rating: 0
robert bertrand
no matter what,the minute you privatize a public service,you've stolen something from the people and handed it to the capitalists who in turn hand it back more expensive and less effective than it used to be.The most vulnerable people such as the working poor and people on small fixed incomes suffer the greatest.More cars on the road result from this.
Rating: -1
John G
I agree with Robert.
I think one of the biggest things that we need to be weary of is our government's move towards privatizing the transit system. I'm a bit of a transit geek and I found a youtube video that uses Vancouver as a central example of what happens when privatization goes wrong (which is all the time with regards to public transit). Even the Mayor of Burnaby thinks where we're going is terrible. Check out the youtube video


John G.
Rating: -4
I think that those skytrain attendants get paid way too much, and so does the security. What I recommend is that they cut down the staff of the skytrain attendants so that they are doing only the driving of the skytrain and managing the logistics of that, and outsource the checking of the tickets to contract security which will pay like $12 to $14 dollars per hour to stand there and check tickets. Money saved could be used to build the Evergreen line.
Rating: +1
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