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A challenging road ahead: TransLink’s 2012 financial picture

A challenging road ahead: TransLink’s 2012 financial picture

Cycling and transit: two modes that play a key role in our transportation future.

As you may have heard, news of TransLink’s financial situation has popped up in the media over the past few days. (Here’s the Globe and Mail, Frances Bula’s blog, and Jeff Nagel in the North Shore Outlook).

So I thought we’d take a moment to look at our financial road ahead, and hopefully give everyone a better grasp of where we’re coming from.

Primary sources: our reports to the Mayors’ Council

So first: why are we in the news right now? Well, the Mayors Council had one of their scheduled public meetings on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 and TransLink made a presentation at the meeting outlining our financial status.

All the documents from that presentation are online, so you can have a look at all the details for yourself. Find them at the main Mayors’ Council meeting page, under “Reports” for the May 22 meeting.

Or, grab them at the links I have conveniently set up below:

It’s obviously your choice how to dive in, but I found it easiest to understand by reading them in the order above. The memo, then the appendixes, and then the Commissioner’s Report.

What are the key points?

Here are the highlights:

  • We currently don’t have stable funding sources to pay for our current system maintenance and planned improvements for the system. Key factors include:
    • The Regional Transportation Commission has rejected our requested increase in FareSaver prices for 2013 onward, although not increases on cash fares (more about this here)
    • The Mayors’ Council has passed a resolution indicating that a temporary property tax source that had been put into place for 2013 onward is no longer available, and we don’t have a replacement for this funding yet.
    • Our fuel tax revenue is declining. Fuel tax is a key revenue source, providing 1/4 of of our annual funding, and is estimated to be about $120M less over the next three years than we expected.
    • Also, increases in the cost of fuel impacts our operating costs.
  • We have made some progress on our latest investment plan, Moving Forward, but the Mayors’ Council’s recent decision on property tax requires us to re-examine priorities and develop a new plan.
    • Based on the Moving Forward plan, we have invested in the Evergreen Line, some bus service expansion and additional SeaBus hours, as well as restoring $17 million to municipal road upgrade and cycling programs.
    • But we need to make decisions on key projects that are on hold, including Main Street SkyTrain station, King George B-Line and the Bus Rapid Transit on Highway 1 over the new Port Mann Bridge. These have significant senior government and partner investments, and we need to match funding.
    • As well, to remove the previously approved property tax from the 2012 strategic plan requires us to write a new supplemental plan.
  • By law, we have a limited number of funding sources that we can draw on for money.
    • Among these sources are property tax, transit fares, real estate, and other fees related to transportation like parking.
    • Oakridge Transit Centre, a former bus depot at Oakridge and 41st, could be a source of some revenue for the future. We have been considering selling this property since 2009.
    • However, we don’t know for sure exactly when Oakridge might sell, or at what price. As well, funds from this sale will go straight back into operating costs.
  • We have identified $84 million in efficiencies and these have already been considered in our plans. Further efficiencies may impact service and our customers.
    • The provincial audit is underway and we look forward to any opportunities for efficiency that are identified through this process.
    • The Regional Transportation Commissioner also performed an efficiency review of TransLink in March 2012, and we are reviewing the Commissioner’s observations to determine if it is practical to accelerate implementation suggestions. There are already several suggestions in the review that are already captured in TransLink’s efficiency plans (see appendix C for more detail).

In the long-term, TransLink’s CEO Ian Jarvis points out that our current financial challenges stress the need for everyone—the Mayors’ Council, the Province and TransLink—to work together to establish sustainable and enduring funding sources for Metro Vancouver’s transportation network.

Questions?

Well, this is a weighty topic and I’m certain you have questions. Please do put them in below and I shall endeavour to find you the answers in a timely fashion, as always!