TransLink hunts for money

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      More than five years ago, TransLink brought forward a three-year strategy and 10-year outlook. The document included $4-billion worth of capital projects that were to be built by 2013.

      On February 27, 2004, the Metro Vancouver board of directors narrowly approved the plan. TransLink documents showed that after spending this money, the percentage of rush-hour trips taken by transit was expected to increase from 11 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2013. At the time, some COPE councillors criticized the plan for not substantially increasing transit ridership in the region.

      The three-year strategy and 10-year outlook explicitly acknowledged that spending vast sums of money wasn’t going to get many more people out of their cars and on the transit system. Large sums of money were directed toward road and bridge construction and the Canada Line. A previous TransLink plan had called for 1,800 buses by 2006. The 2004 three-year strategy and 10-year outlook scaled that back to 1,600 buses by 2013.

      In 2009, according to TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie, there are 1,694 buses, not counting HandyDart vehicles. Between 11 and 12 percent of trips in the region are taken by transit, which means that little has changed five years later. The number of service hours on the transit system has increased from 5.2 million in 2004 to 6.2 million in 2008, according to TransLink’s annual report, but ridership as a percentage of trips taken during rush hour has remained stable.

      Regional transportation commissioner Martin Crilly identified some of the reasons for this in his August 31 report on TransLink’s 2010 10-year plan. He wrote that over the last several years, TransLink “expanded service and invested in capital projects that it knew to be unaffordable under its existing funding constraints”.

      “These investments were made with the hope and expectation that senior governments would agree to bear a large portion of the operating costs, which they have not done,” Crilly wrote. “This expansion of service has reduced the productivity of the bus network, with each increment of service costing more and carrying fewer riders, while fares increase. There is now available capacity—that is empty seats—on much, but not all, of the bus network which can accommodate future growth in ridership.”

      He noted that the Expo Line is being constrained by capacity, and called for upgrades to the existing system to take priority over new investments, such as the proposed Evergreen Line to Coquitlam. Crilly allowed TransLink to raise short-term fares by 3 to 3.5 percent per year over a three-year period starting April 1, 2010.

      “TransLink’s view, judged realistic, is that the slow process of urban densification will not lift ridership much by 2019,” he wrote.

      The 2010 10-year plan includes three options, with an overall goal, according to Crilly, of increasing the supply of transit service “at a rapidly escalating incremental (and less affordable) cost for each extra rider”. The base plan is called “Drastic Cuts”. It would only be implemented if the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation doesn’t approve a supplement, and would result in a 40-percent reduction in bus service, no new rapid-transit expansion, and sharp reductions to road-maintenance funding and cycling programs.

      A second option, called the “Funding Stabilization” supplement, would generate an additional $130 million per year by increasing the fuel tax by three cents a litre, tripling the parking sales tax to 21 percent, and raising transit fares beyond the inflation rate. It assumes that property taxes would rise by three percent per year.

      The third option, called the “On Track to a Sustainable Region” supplement, would require an additional $450 million per year by 2013 and it would fund the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam. Under the category of “demand-side management”—which refers to measures to discourage people from driving—the plan states: “TransLink will undertake research and technical studies on road pricing, a broad concept in which motorists pay directly for using a road, bridge or tunnel, or for driving in a defined part of a city.”

      The mayors’ council includes representatives from each of the region’s 21 municipalities as well as the Tsawwassen First Nation. It’s facing an October 31 deadline to respond to TransLink’s three funding scenarios.

      Who has the fairest fares of them all?

      > Adult and child cash fares in Calgary: $2.50/$1.75

      > Adult and child cash fares in Montreal: $2.75/$1.75

      > Adult and child cash fares in Toronto: $2.75/70 cents

      > Adult and child cash fares in Vancouver: $3.75/$2.50 (two zone)

      > Adult and child cash fares in Vancouver: $2.50/$1.75 (one zone)

      > Day and monthly passes in Calgary: $7.50/$83

      > Day and monthly passes in Montreal: $9/$68.50

      > Day and monthly passes in Toronto: $9/$109

      > Day and monthly passes in Vancouver: $9/$99 (two zone)

      > Day and monthly passes in Vancouver: $9/$73 (one zone)

      Sources: Calgary Transit, Société de transport de Montréal, Toronto Transit Commission, TransLink



      Evil Eye

      Sep 10, 2009 at 7:23am

      Quote: "He noted that the Expo Line is being constrained by capacity, and called for upgrades to the existing system to take priority over new investments, such as the proposed Evergreen Line to Coquitlam."

      Excuse me, but wasn't the Expo Line supposed to carry 20,000 pphpd or more, thus judged superior to light rail, yet the Expo Lines capacity is barely half that! Good god, even streetcars in Helsinki, Basel, Karlsruhe, etc can carry 20,000 pphpd I'm peak hours!

      Calgary's LRT is now carrying 290,000 a day; Hong Kong's venerable trams carry 280,000 a day and their modern LRT, Tuen Mun, carries over 25,000 pphpd in the peak hour!

      Have we been sold a bill of goods with SkyTrain? Are we lumbered with an obsolete proprietary metro system: the little train that can't.

      "Something is very rotten in the state of TransLink me thinks" and not another penny should be paid to TransLink until we have a full independent audit of the organization by BC's Auditor General!

      Susan Anton, always likes to display her ignorance on transit issues wants to extend the Millennium Line to Arbutus, For gods sakes, its SkyTrain and metro that has got TransLink in the financial mire we have today. Read a book on the subject woman!

      Oh, and if Vancouver types want more expensive SkyTrain metro's, let the Vancouver ratepayers pay for it. Have a read:

      If the valley ditches TransLink, watch for massive property increases in Vancouver.

      A solution:

      Oh but this is Vancouver and LRT is not to be mentioned, less the TransLink Thought Police pay a visit with their rubber truncheons. The did with Bill Boring and he is now a TransLink puppy!

      Stephen Rees

      Sep 10, 2009 at 3:38pm

      There is a typo in the quote from me in the sidebar "We need to get stable operating money from TransLink" should read "for Translink". Where that comes from is of course the problem. Is it Vancouver taxpayers, BC taxpayers or Canada taxpayers? Currently the feds only provide capital funds, on a sporadic, project by project basis, and BC limits the amount of operating funds it provides but tightly controls the major capital projects. Up to now Translink has spent too much on capital projects and not enough on operations and maintenance - a recipe for short term popularity but long term disaster.

      Charlie Smith

      Sep 10, 2009 at 3:47pm

      Thanks Stephen. I changed "from" to "for" as a result of your comment.
      Charlie Smith

      Eric Chris

      Sep 10, 2009 at 7:33pm

      Suzanne Anton, if it weren’t for the City of Vancouver (COV) going out of its way to amend its noise and emissions by-law to allow soot blowing and noisy diesel buses along the 99 B-Line route fitted with trolley lines, we would have had streetcars or an expansion of the trolley bus network up W 4th Avenue and W 16th Avenue to UBC by now. This by-law amendment is allowing TransLink to displace 80 zero emission sustainable hydro-electric trolley buses with non-sustainable GHG emitting diesel buses and is preventing us from improving transit to UBC.

      TransLink claims to understand and to pursue sustainable transit initiatives. It surely does not and is not.

      When transit in Seattle tried to operate diesel buses on the trolley bus route in Capital Hill, the City of Seattle stopped it before it even started. In Vancouver, after five years of petitions and complaints against the noise and emissions from the 99 B-Line diesel buses on the W10th Avenue trolley bus route to UBC, nothing has happened. Suzanne, what is wrong with you and the rest of council in Vancouver?

      In the past, it was really hard for you as councilor to beat up on the TransLink director because you were the TransLink director, and there was a conflict of interest which prevented you and other councilors acting as TransLink directors from addressing complaints and petitions against TransLink. This conflict of interest was a hindrance to improving transit in Vancouver.

      I may be going out on the limb, but doesn’t the City of Vancouver (COV) own the roads in Vancouver? Can’t the COV change its by-laws to prevent the use of noxious and noisy diesel buses along the 99 B-Line route fitted with trolley lines to force TransLink to operate responsibly?

      When the COV allows TransLink to operate diesel buses along the 99 B-Line route fitted with trolley lines, the COV is undermining any supposed efforts of its Greenest City Action Team (GCAT) to reduce GHG emissions in Vancouver. If you and the rest of council want to do some good for a change, I suggest that you and the rest of council pass a motion to ban the 99 B-Line diesel buses at the next transportation meeting.

      Evil Eye

      Sep 11, 2009 at 6:55am

      In Europe diesel particulate has been found to be one of the major causes for lung cancer.

      What should have happened on Broadway was to upgrade the trolley bus system with all articulated buses, stops every 450 to 600 metres & priority signaling at intersections. This is how buses operate in Europe, but in Vancouver we still operate a slow bus service, supplemented by a duplicate fast diesel operation.

      By cutting bustops by 1/3 to 1/2 along a bus route, we can increase commercial speed, while lowering operating costs.

      Operating a 21st century transit system is something that TransLink and its hive of expensive bureaucrats can't seem to do!

      Good Eye

      Sep 11, 2009 at 10:51am

      Evil Eye: How could a streetcar improve transit along broadway when double-length b-line busses are already end-to-end from cambie to UBC? The cost difference between 'light rail' and skytrain (technically automated LRT fyi), is in investing in grade separation which is offset by reduced operating costs.

      How is it that you are so fervent about an issue that you understand so little? What is your professional background? Are you the transit equivalent of a lifelong conspiracy theorist?

      #10 Rider

      Sep 11, 2009 at 12:33pm

      Trolley buses? they are great for local bus service, but limited for express service - they can't pass each other....

      Evil Eye

      Sep 11, 2009 at 1:15pm

      Quote: "The cost difference between 'light rail' and SkyTrain (technically automated LRT fyi), is in investing in grade separation which is offset by reduced operating costs."

      Absolute B.S. It is you, 'good eye' who is ignorant of the issue or trying to continue the SkyTrain/RAV propaganda that the mainstream media are so willing to do. Grade separation has nothing to do with operating costs. In fact, grade separated systems, tend to be automatic systems which have proven to be more expensive to operate than LRT.

      Ah yes, one can run light rail vehicles in multiple units, so one tram (LRV) driver can carry the equivalent of 6 to 8 buses, thus saving operating costs which 70% of are paid in wages!

      Oh by the way, the Calgary C-Train LRT carried more people than SkyTrain and is about 60% cheaper to operate. Hmmmmmmm.

      I see the 'pixie dust' SkyTrain Lobby is at it again libeling anyone who doesn't conform to their 'Flat-Earth' view of the world.

      Who builds with SkyTrain? Very, very few and SkyTrain is never allowed to compete against LRT.

      Who builds with LRT? Just about everyone!

      Eric Chris

      Sep 11, 2009 at 5:01pm

      Dear # 10 Rider,
      Trolley buses can pass if TransLink installs another set of trolley lines parallel and on the left of the #10 trolley lines for 99 B-Line articulated trolley buses to pass the #10 trolley buses. Approximately an additional $50 million over the cost of the current 99 B-Line diesel buses would be necessary for parallel trolley lines and articulated trolley buses.

      For approximately an additional $20 million over the cost of the current 99 B-Line diesel buses, TransLink could also operate 99 B-Line articulated hybrid buses on the 99 B-Line route to dramatically reduce noise and toxic emissions for residents along the 99 B-Line route. Either articulated hybrid or trolley buses are too much trouble and money for TransLink, which spent $2,000 million for the RAV Line to impress tourist for two weeks during the Olympics, however.

      Detrimental noise and emission impacts from the 99 B-Line diesel buses do not concern TransLink any more than TransLink was concerned when it ruined lives along Cambie Street to build the RAV Line without any consideration for residents and merchants along Cambie Street. TransLink is using the cheap 99 B-Line diesel buses on the #10 trolley bus route as cash cows to subsidize and finance its other money losing operations such as the RAV Line and has no incentive to remove the diesel buses on the #10 trolley bus route because the City of Vancouver is willing to give TransLink an exemption from its noise and emissions by-law.

      Without rules (by-laws) to keep TransLink honest and to keep TransLink from operating diesel buses on trolley bus routes, unethical individuals at TransLink are going to continue to operate 400 to 600 diesel bus trips daily on the # 10 trolley bus route. Hope this clarifies things for you and other readers.

      I’d like to see a front page feature article in the Georgia Straight at some point on the scandal surrounding the use of diesel buses on the #10 trolley bus route (as well as #4 trolley bus route). We certainly are not going to get any articles on this scandal from the Vancouver Sun which is TransLink’s puppet newspaper for TransLink propaganda. PS, you can always tell when politicians and TransLink are caught with their pants down (skirts up) because they won’t respond to comments to avoid further embarrassment or blame.