TransLink to cut back on some transit expansion projects as part of three-year plan
TransLink is putting off some planned expansion projects over the next three years, including 306,000 hours of increased bus service, after falling short of projected revenues.
But through $98 million in annual efficiencies identified by TransLink over the next three years, the transit authority is planning to proceed with some expansions, such as the region’s contribution to the Evergreen Line project, and an increase of 109,000 in annual hours of transit service.
“There’s 306,000 hours of service that is not going to be introduced over the next three years. It’s needed service, we just can’t deliver it,” Robert Paddon, TransLink’s executive vice-president of strategic planning and public affairs, said at a news conference today (September 17) on the authority’s draft 2013 Base Plan.
Some of the planned projects that will not proceed include expanded SeaBus service on Sundays and holidays outside of the summer months. While B-line service on King George Boulevard will go ahead under the draft plan, the service won’t extend to White Rock Centre as originally anticipated.
In addition to the efficiencies, TransLink will also draw on its reserve fund to maintain existing services and allow some of its planned improvement projects to go ahead.
Some of the other projects that will proceed over the next three years include upgrades to Expo Line stations such as Commercial-Broadway, Metrotown, New Westminster and Joyce-Collingwood. Rapid bus service will be launched on Highway 1 over the Port Mann Bridge between Langley and New Westminster, however a 10-minute frequency along the route will only be offered during peak hours. Buses will run every 30 minutes during off-peak hours.
The 2013 draft plan is contingent on the mayors’ council on regional transportation voting in favour of a two-year $30-million property tax hike. The mayors have previously voted against the increase.
TransLink officials said the transit authority’s budget has been challenged by factors including lower than expected fuel-tax revenues, and lower than anticipated fare and toll revenues.
Paddon said the efficiencies do not mean that bus service is being cut.
“We hope we don’t have to go there, and we think we can do it with what we’ve put in place,” he noted.
However, the 2013 Base Plan indicates revenue-increasing efficiency measures will include shifting bus resources to routes where there are more riders, putting smaller vehicles on more routes, and reducing the frequency of SkyTrain service on the weekends.
“These efficiencies will impact customers,” the plan reads. “Buses may come less frequently on routes that aren’t very busy and smaller buses may be used; some less busy bus service may be cancelled; SkyTrain passengers will have to wait longer for a train on the weekends and the trains will be more crowded; the risk that buses won’t run on time will increase.”
Passengers using the busiest routes, on the other hand, “are less likely to get passed up by an overcrowded bus,” the document indicates.
The efficiencies will also cut into “recovery” time at the end of a bus route, which is intended to ensure bus schedules are reliable, and some spare buses will be eliminated.
TransLink will consult elected officials, stakeholders and the public on the draft plan before finalizing it by November 1.