The clamour by elected municipal politicians to have more say in steering the Lower Mainland’s public-transit system is getting a boost.
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.
It’s a proposal that’s totally understandable to Harry Bains, the B.C. NDP’s critic for transportation and infrastructure. According to the Surrey-Newton MLA, local mayors and councils as well as community stakeholders don’t feel that they are part of TransLink’s planning process.
“They believe that they are separated and they are not at the decision-making table,” Bains told the Straight by phone. “And so certainly, I’ve been proposing and our leader [Adrian Dix] has been proposing that we need to restructure the TransLink board.”
The regional body previously known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District used to nominate TransLink directors from its ranks of elected local leaders. However, the B.C. Liberal government tossed out this board in 2008 in favour of one composed of unelected individuals
Under current legislation, TransLink consults Metro Vancouver about its annual plans in connection only with the latter’s regional growth strategy and other related policies. The mayors’ council, which now appoints the TransLink board, doesn’t have a say in the transportation agency’s yearly base plans.
According to Bains, a new TransLink board under a B.C. NDP government would provide democratic representation. “That makes sense because the mayors and councillors make land-use decisions, and all the experts will agree that land-use decisions and transit go hand in hand,” he said.
Regional-district staff recommendations include the board requesting the provincial government “resume the process of evaluating all feasible funding sources for regional transportation jointly with Metro Vancouver and TransLink”. Another is for Metro Vancouver and TransLink to work together on a new regional transportation strategy, and prepare a “regional road pricing strategy”.
According to staff, TransLink’s draft plan for 2013 is “generally acceptable as a short-term pragmatic program”. However, its exclusion of 306,000 transit service hours committed in the 2012 supplemental plan is “problematic from the perspective of fostering transit-oriented communities and reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.
Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs, a candidate for the B.C. NDP’s nomination in Vancouver-Fairview, endorses the idea of reforming the governance structure of TransLink.
“You have a breakdown when you have people paying the freight—like the mayors are required to with property taxes—without having proper oversight over the priorities and the strategic planning,” Meggs told the Straight by phone.