If you believe that getting more people out of their cars and into public transit is good for the environment, you will not find much encouragement in TransLink’s draft three-year plan.
According to the regional transportation authority’s draft 2011 Base Plan and Outlook, there will be no expansion in the transit system between next year and 2013. Further, bus service in some areas will be cut.
Fares will also increase in 2013, a move that the document itself acknowledges will discourage people from taking transit.
“The priorities that are being set by TransLink aren’t our priorities,” Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Corrigan said that while many suburban communities clearly need better bus service, the transportation body’s major capital expenditure in its three-year program is for new electronic fare-card ticketing technology. The project, which includes the installation of fare gates, will cost $171 million. TransLink’s share is $101 million, with the provincial and federal governments chipping in for the balance.
“We have been through this argument a dozen times, and recognize that it's a foolish expenditure of very hard-won capital,” Corrigan said.
TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie explained in a phone interview that the plan will “keep things in a state of good repair”. But he also admitted that it doesn’t fund projects that would increase transit use, such as the long-delayed Evergreen Line.
“The base plan represents the level of services that TransLink can sustain based on its current revenues,” Hardie told the Straight.
Bus service will remain at the 2010 levels of 4.93 million hours each year through 2013. The Expo, Millennium, and Canada lines will continue to run for 1.28 million hours annually, as in 2010. SeaBus service will be maintained at 11,000 hours per year, while the West Coast Express will run a stable 35,000 hours annually. Custom transit services like HandyDart will remain constant at 2010 levels.
The document acknowledges that the three-year plan starting in 2011 will contribute only “modest progress” to achieving the objectives of Transport 2040. This is the region’s ambitious transportation strategy, whose goals include significant reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and a major shift from private automobile use to transit, walking, and cycling.
“Without the allocation of additional resources and a strong demand-side management strategy, these gains will be eroded during the subsequent Outlook period of 2014-2020 and the prospect of achieving the goals of Transport 2040 will be more difficult,” the plan states.
TransLink released copies of the 2011 Base Plan and Outlook on June 14. A Metro Vancouver report, which goes to the board on June 25, notes that the transportation authority’s plan will “frustrate the achievement of regional economic, environmental, greenhouse gas reduction, and broad planning goals”.
Written by Metro Vancouver senior regional planner Raymond Kan, the report states that these regional objectives “depend in part on there being sustainable funding to construct and operate new transit lines and to expand the bus network, in particular to serve the rapidly urbanizing northeastern and South of the Fraser subregions”.
Although the plan maintains overall service, about four to five percent of conventional bus-service hours will be redirected by 2012. Through this, the transportation body expects to “increase the productivity of the system by just over two percent through increased revenue ridership”.
“It’s not the intention to cut service to save money,” Hardie explained. “It’s the intention to cut service to reallocate those services to where they can basically do a better job in terms of meeting demand in moving people.”
Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer told the Straight that civic officials want to know which areas will get a reduction in bus services. TransLink will hold consultations on this initiative by the fall.
The 2011 Base Plan and Outlook also forecasts a 12-percent increase in average fares in 2013. The new fares will be determined in 2012.
These rate hikes will be on top of the nine-percent increase in average fares in 2010. TransLink expects to collect $412 million in fares this year. Fare revenues are projected to rise to $505 million in 2013.
The plan notes that ridership has increased by an average of over three percent per year over the past two decades. However, it also points out that “ridership growth will be constrained in 2013 due to the lack of new capacity to meet increasing regional demand”.
“In addition, the 12 percent fare increase scheduled for 2013 will impact ridership due to price elasticity effects,” it states. “The effect of the price increase combined with no service growth will limit ridership growth to about one percent in 2013.”