Translink Buzzer Blog

Vancouver Sun article: on TransLink providing quality transit today and looking to the future

One of our busy 99 buses, with a crowd of bikes in front.

The Vancouver Sun published an article today on the present state of TransLink’s operations and future financial challenges.

Our Executive Vice President of Customer and Public Engagement, Bob Paddon and TransLink Board Chair, Nancy Olewiler sat down with The Vancouver Sun’s editorial board and talked with them about  the lack of short and long term funding, halting of any transit expansion (except The Evergreen Line), the possibility of some reduced service, possible reduction of extra buses and recovery time for bus operators, some reduction in SkyTrain requency and the selling off of property in order to “live within our means.”

Our proposed fare increase not being approved by TransLink’s Regional Transportation Commissioner, a resolution by the Mayor’s Council that the  two-year property tax TransLink was going to start to receive in 2013 is no longer available and less gas tax revenue than projected have put TransLink in a challenging position funding wise.

We know that more people are taking public transit in Metro Vancouver than ever before. We also know that many people in Metro Vancouver want quality transit that keeps up with the demand.

We’re interested in what readers think of TransLink’s current funding challenges and how we are planning to deliver what we believe is the best possible service with the funding provided to us.

This is an important subject about an important time for public transit in Metro Vancouver, and something we’ll definitely be talking about more in the near future. We look forward to your thoughts!

 

 

 


22 Comments

  • By Eugene Wong, September 11, 2012 @ 11:47 am

    The mayors and other big wigs should be reading those primers. Us reading those primers isn’t as important. They get to make the decisions. Therefore, they should read the primers, and subscribe to Jarrett’s blog.

    While they are at it, perhaps they should subscribe to this blog. Do they even know about it? I figure that there have been a wide variety of opinions, and I suspect that some/most people have made an effort to be flexible in their opinions. If the decision makers would follow the discussions, then they’d probably get the good stuff.

    It’s pointless to suggest things, if the decision makers don’t understand how important it is. Do they measure success based on ridership or time saved, or what?

    While we’re at it, get the minister of transport to also read the information.

  • By Jake, September 11, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    Two questions: (1) Has rapid transit along the North Shore ever been considered? (2) Has a SeaBus extension to Bowen Island ever been considered?

    I see so many plans system extensions to UBC, through Surrey.. and the Evergreen Line in Coquitlam but nothing for the North Vancouver (including Deep Cove) and West Vancouver (including Horseshoe Bay). The bus network there is passable… that’s it. Waits in between buses are slow and there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to route planning! In the very least, I’d like to see a B-line or two or a street car system. I’d also like to see better connections to Bowen Island.

  • By Chris M., September 11, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    @Eugene: I completely agree. We need to connect expert knowledge and research with decision making. Politicians of all levels need to understand the sometimes not so obvious tradeoffs being made when feeding or starving certain projects.

    Voters can voice value judgements but systemic issues cannot be solved just by having non-experts state their own opinion.

    @Jake, at a time when pojects in the dense and busy parts of the region with a high ROI are being starved of funding, I really don’t think a seabus to Bowen Island is anywhere near the best use of resources.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 11, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    @ Chris M.

    Thanks for your support!

    I agree about the not-so-obvious tradeoffs. I usually come to a point, where I begin to believe that I really understand the basics. I get that conclusion because I read his blog and this blog. With all that learning, I’ll arrive at the basics sooner or later, right? [keep those fingers crossed ;^P] However, I find that there is always something that throws me through a loop and stretches my comfort zone, and those “somethings” are not so obvious.

    Up until now, I thought that ridership was a great way to measure success, however, Jarrett Walker says that it’s about time saved, if I understand him correctly. Maybe he was talking about a certain point in the planning stage.

    I have a gut feeling that an ordinary guy like me has read more than all the decision makers combined. I don’t know. Maybe not. However, if I have, then they know nothing, which makes it easy for them to be confident in their ignorance.

  • By Miguel, September 11, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

    Maybe there’d be no “funding challenge” if the Translink Board didn’t vote themselves big cushy raises, behind closed doors. One wonders what other perks they’ve set for themselves?

  • By Chris M., September 11, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

    @Miguel,

    That cannot be true. The board was paid about $500,000 total in 2011. Even if they were paid nothing, there would still be a 29,500,000 funding deficit.

    Although I can’t say whether their wages are optimal, I can say with confidence that it’s not a stress free job. No matter what you do, somebody will hate you. If I understand “The Road Less Travelled” document correctly, in 2011, protesters dumped a load of feces on the Translink chairman’s home walkway…

  • By Chris M., September 11, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

    Important correction. I meant to say “in 2001, protesters dumped…”

    If the comments gods can fix my post, that would be great.

  • By Reva, September 11, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

    @ Jake: You might find the links on this page of great interest: http://www.translink.ca/en/Be-Part-of-the-Plan/Area-Transit-Plans/North-Shore-Area-Transit-Plan/Near-Term-Transit-Priorities.aspx . They did a rather comprehensive customer survey a few months back on how to improve North Shore transit service as a whole. There are specific routes and projects discussed in the reports.

    Over the years, various transit authorities have looked at rapid transit from Vancouver to the North Shore time and time again, but the demand and growth projections are never high enough to justify the cost. Especially when there’s hardly any money to go around for transit improvements, and other regions are bursting at the seams. Over the years they’ve considered SeaBus service to UBC and West Van as well, but same story, not enough demand to justify the cost. And if they can’t make it work for those destinations, I sadly don’t think they could even consider it for Bowen right now. (BC Ferries is probably the one to speak to about improving marine service to & from the mainland.)

    I think the best we can hope for is the addition of B-Line type service and improved frequency and efficiency on all routes. We may still have to wait a few years for B-Line service though, as the current North Shore CMBC depot/garage is way too small and lacks facilities to store and maintain articulated buses. I’ve heard a new garage is to be built soon, but no idea of estimated completion date. Jhen or Rob, can you provide any details about this?

    Transit service on the North Shore isn’t perfect, but it sure as heck could be a whole lot worse! But I live near Cap Mall, so I can’t really complain.

  • By mike0123, September 11, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    Crises are opportunities to make needed changes that are politically difficult.

    Translink has been using this blog to describe the principles underlying efficient and cost-effective transit network design. I hope that Translink is trying to lay the groundwork for changes to the design of the transit network along these principles. It is, I hope, looking for public and political support for these principles in advance. If change in the route network is proposed toward more frequent transit or a more grid-like system, it has to be supported by people who understand the benefits.

  • By Sheba, September 11, 2012 @ 9:24 pm

    TransLink has been laying the groundwork for “other service changes will be announced next week” – which from that article sounds like we’ll be making do with less.

    Not less roads of course – don’t build or maintain roads and drivers will be up in arms. But less transit service, and of course all of our suggestions will be foldered (even the ones that would end up saving them money).

  • By Kyle, September 11, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

    The picture on the top of the sun article says it all. Translink is suffering from so many cost shavings that they need to for the 99, the busiest bus route in N. america, put it on Burrard Downtown with standard buses, suffer from wheelchairs putting it behind schedule, while running empty. Hey! that’s an idea: to ban wheelchairs from the 99, not saying I support it, just an idea.

    On another note, The Sun says that buses will run “Slower”, which cannot be justified correct. One way to decrease costs, is to make services run Faster by removing stops ie. a stop per 450m on routes like 16, 17 etc, faster service is cheaper service.

    I want to praise translink for removing the C90 that gave the operator a 40 minute paid break between run that served a couple people. The changes on 09/03 were mainly CUTS.

    Lets cross our fingers and hope that the new transport minister will change the tide.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 11, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

    @ Kyle

    Regarding wheelchairs not on the service, I agree that we should explore the idea. A while ago, I proposed the idea, because I was trying to see if there would be a cost savings. It will probably be unlikely, but I’m usually wrong with guesses. In other words, the numbers often prove counter intuitive.

    Maybe Handidart could be modified to be more useful for all wheelchair users, and maybe parents with strollers. If they could get where they are going in a faster time, at an equivalent or cheaper cost, then so be it.

    The reason that this probably needs exploration is that the people who thought it up probably thought, “Well, just making a bus wheelchair accessible won’t cost anything, and it won’t take long to load a bus. They could always make up for time lost by travelling faster along the route. Wheelchair users are people and deserve to be treated equally.”. In short, “Let’s be politically correct.”, even if it means more money and slower travel times for everybody.

    I really wish that Jarrett Walker would chime in. He wrote that he helped to design some kind of a system that was like handidart. I think that he wrote that such a system needs its own funding.

    It’ll be a hot button issue. I remember discussing it with a wheelchair user, and I think that he took it as a form of segregation.

    A pox on all the people who take it personally and refuse to look at the numbers! If the majority of the people prefer to drive *alone* and “segregated”, then why are wheelchair users pushing themselves in a group with different needs?

  • By Sheba, September 12, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

    I was talking to my Dad earlier this year and he was rolling his eyes over Handidart. Basically that (at least in Surrey) the lack of planning is horrendous. He knows of many times where they sent out one of those Handidart buses per person, when they had quite a few people from the same general area all going to the same area at about the same time. Couldn’t they have shared a ride?

    I hope that Handidart as a whole doesn’t have that problem but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does. They could save money and provide better service if they dealt with ride planning.

    I’m not against your suggestion about wheelchairs either, although you know what’s going to happen… *has a Monty Python flashback “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”*

  • By Scott, September 13, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    The province must provide sustainable funding by directing a portion of carbon tax revenues towards transit. Thus translink would have more funds and could go ahead with much needed improvements. Hopefully the NDP includes this in their election platform.

    We all know there are several routes in Metro Vancouver which pass up almost everyday due to overcrowding and lack of frequent service (14,25,41,49,84,99,106,169,236,319,320,321,502 etc.). The system is at a crisis point. It can’t handle much more capacity. There hasn’t been a service increase in nearly three years.

    Translink also needs to buy better buses in the future. The Nova buses are crap. They break down too frequently and the seat setup in them is very poor. Stick to buying New Flyer buses that will last longer and have much better quality.

    Scheduling needs to be improved as well. Can’t say how many times I’ve suggested minor improvements and they are always ignored and you rarely get a response.

  • By Sheba, September 13, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

    When TransLink took over planning from the province, they also took over funding.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 17, 2012 @ 9:57 am

    Hi Everyone: Grad chat going on! We’re leasing our draft 2013 Base Plan today and I’ll be blogging about it. This document will provide an update on how we’re planning on dealing with the challenging financial climate we’re finding ourselves in.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 21, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

    @ Sheba

    I agree with the idea of them planning rides better. It would be nice if they posted the trips in an open manner so they could be held accountable. It would probably get people to use it more if they knew that the bus was going in the same direction.

    I’ve never heard anything good about Handidart.

    @ Buzzer Editors

    Maybe the HANDIdart people would like to tell us what they do well, and what they struggle with?

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » TransLink’s draft 2013 Base Plan — September 17, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  2. Perverse Priorities: Where we’re spending our money – or not « Price Tags — September 18, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

  3. More delays, more police, less buses — TransLink cuts everything “except the Evergreen Line” | Light Rail for the Evergreen Line — September 27, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

  4. The Buzzer blog » True or false: TransLink can afford to provide all the transit service that people want — October 1, 2012 @ 8:30 am

  5. The Buzzer blog » True or false: Customers will feel an impact from TransLink’s cost cutting. Tamim Raad gives us the answer — October 9, 2012 @ 9:00 am

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