How public transit is funded is an important topic and one we don’t usually talk much about on the Buzzer. In January, TransLink’s Regional Transportation Commissioner asked for public feedback on a fare increase  asked for by Translink to keep current service levels. Today, the Commissioner has released his review  of TransLink’s application. TransLink has released a response to the Commissioner’s review .
The review has not given approval for the fare increase beyond what we are permitted each year and has provided information on how TransLink might find financial savings through suggested cost efficiencies before the Commissioner would consider any additional fare increases. TransLink sees this review as both a tool to possibly improve the efficiency measures already in place as well as a chance to reexamine our current and future service commitments.
How TransLink has invested in transport in the region
Due to a yearly increase in the demand for public transit , TransLink invests in four key areas: more rapid transit, more buses and better bus service in the suburbs, more bridges, and better roads for drivers and cyclists. The 2012 “Moving Forward” 2012 Supplemental Plan outlines the latest plan for these four areas in detail.
When looking at bus service we provide Metro Vancouver specifically, TransLink’s aim has been to move service to where it’s needed most to maximize the value of existing service. Four times a year, we optimize our service  in order to run them as efficiently and as wisely as possible. We are also constantly looking for ways to cut costs  and found some last year.
At the same time, we believe everyone in our region should have equal access to quality transit services so people can have a choice whether or not to drive their car. However, keeping our service efficient and providing equal access can be a challenge – particularly financially.
Why a fare increase was asked for
The requested fare increase  was part of the Stabilization Plan approved in 2009  to keep current service. Fortunately, TransLink has always run under budget, and despite the setback of not receiving the requested fare increase, we will be able to continue the current level of service even if we are not able to add any new services – for the time being.
What TransLink is planning for
Without enhanced funding like the proposed fare increases and funding outlined in the Moving Forward supplemental plan , expansion of the transit network (excluding the Evergreen Line) will have to be put on hold.
Late last year, TransLink submitted the fare increase application so that we would have a decision from the commissioner prior to developing the 2013 supplemental plan (which is being worked on as I type this). The commissioner has suggested that we reapply for the same fare increase after we have had an opportunity to further examine our costs and incorporate those saving in our future plans. It is our intention to do this as the additional revenues are required to deliver existing services.
Moving into the future, we project that demand for transit and the cost to provide transit will increase. TransLink will continue to look for cost savings and welcomes suggestions like the commissioner’s on how to do this. However, we will have to dip into our reserves each year to continue to provide today’s level of service if alternative funding isn’t found. Our reserves are collected to protect TransLink from swings in fuel prices and other financial risks to ensure we can deliver our services and keep the system in good and working condition.
Your questions and input on the future of public transit in Metro Vancouver
With funding being constrained in the foreseeable future, an increase demand for transit and need for the system to be expanded to meet that demand, hard and important decisions will have to be made about how best to provide our current level of service. While cost efficiencies are being looked into, planning for the future of transit still needs to happen.
TransLink would like to ask Buzzer blog readers for your input on how to meet the increasing demand for transit in Metro Vancouver with the current funding challenges TransLink is facing.
TransLink executives and managers will be given your thoughts and questions and will be answering them.
I’ll post their answers in the comment section for this blog, in future blog posts and possibly through YouTube.
We’re looking for a frank and respectful conversation that really looks at viable options that can help TransLink continue to grow Metro Vancouver’s transit network in a sustainable way, so please do post your post your suggestions and questions. We look forward to them!