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True or false: TransLink hasn’t cut any costs in the last three years

There's always a lot of number crunching going on at TransLink

We thought we’d run a quick poll as a fun way to talk about our draft 2013 Base Plan and test your knowledge of TransLink.

The subject of the poll relates to what TransLink has been doing fiscally as an organization in the recent past. The answer to the question will be in our second instalment of our draft 2013 Base Plan videos… later today! Haven’t seen the first video yet? Check it out here.

So, spend a few seconds, and take the poll. If you have more than a few seconds and have looked through the draft Base Plan, there’s also a questionnaire available to fill out until October 12, 2012 on the TransLink website.

If you feel you’d like to provide us with your feedback about our three-year plan in another way, our friends at PlaceSpeak are also running a survey about the draft 2013 Base Plan. We wrote about PlaceSpeak, the location-based public consultation platform, in a past post.

I’m curious to see the results of this poll considering you have a 50% chance of being right! Check the blog this afternoon for the video answer! Update: The answer is false. Thanks everyone for taking the poll!

True or false: TransLink hasn't cut any costs in the last three years.

  • False (81%, 47 Votes)
  • True (19%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 58


  • By Ben K, September 24, 2012 @ 10:13 am

    This is a strange choice for a “poll”, unless its real purpose is to demonstrate how uninformed (or mischevious) your readers are.

    (Next week: “true or false: the earth is flat.”)

  • By Dave, September 24, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    Despite an increasing growth in ridership, Translink cannot even afford to maintain current service level, let alone increase service to match demand, so you do the math.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 25, 2012 @ 10:54 am

    Ben: On the contrary, Buzzer readers are very informed! And remember, the Flat Earth Society might answer you poll question differently than others :)

    Dave: You are right that we are dealing with a challenging time for transit in our region. The draft 2013 Base Plan is our way to work with what we have and have as little disruption to current service levels as possible. However, with limited funding and more people using the system all the time, it’s going to be hard to keep up with demand. I’d be interested in hearing what you think would help to remedy the situation.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 25, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    @ Robert [or other editors]

    Are you able to do a blog post on how Translink overcomes human error? Like, how does Translink ensure that staff are doing the best that they can, as opposed to whatever the textbook says?

    Are you able to get the politicians to comment on blog posts on a regular basis?

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 25, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

    Hi Eugene: Can you be a bit more specific? As for politicians, I haven’t seen any comments of late… although I think it would be great and we welcome it!

  • By Eugene Wong, September 25, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

    @ Robert

    Perhaps the planners might decline an idea. How do we really know that it was declined on its merits?

    Whose idea was it to not break up those trains on Sundays and Saturdays? How do we really know that it was declined on its merits?

    What happens when decision makers are just being stubborn? Does Translink just send out a message, saying that you really did read the idea, and really did give serious consideration about it? How do you know that it was serious consideration?

  • By Reva, September 25, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

    Here are my brainstorms for some new sustainable funding sources for Translink. Some may not seem like much, but it all adds up. If small amounts here and there can save routes from being eliminated and service hours from being cut, why not?

    Extend zone fares by 1 hour to 7:30pm.

    Implement zone fares on Saturdays.

    Implement zone fares on NightBus.

    When the Compass Card comes in, charge customers a nominal fee of 10 cents every time they refill it.

    Push to fully utilize advertising in buses. Way too much empty space in those overhead ad slots that could be earning money for transit.

    Add 1 extra advertising poster slot on both sides of each end of all Skytrain platforms (total 4 new per station). Makes sense with today’s longer trains. Will increase ad revenue without making riders feel intruded upon.

    Make UBC part of fare zone 2. Everything west of Blanca. Won’t make a difference to cash-strapped student U-Pass holders. For everyone else, paying extra during peak periods will help subsidize improvements to UBC transit. Encouraging travel during off-peak times could take some load off overcrowded routes for now.

    Make property developers pay a transit improvement fee for building projects within a 1 Km radius of all SkyTrain stations and major bus exchanges. Their projects would not be as desirable without such great transit access. Stop letting them profit so much off of infrastructure that Translink built and paid for.

    Make corporate businesses within a 1 Km radius of all SkyTrain stations and major bus exchanges pay a transit maintenance fee each year based on a percentage of their yearly revenue. Their businesses wouldn’t be so great without transit. Could even be better with improved transit. They should help pay for it too.

    Any comments or additional suggestions? Translink, are you listening?

  • By Eugene Wong, September 25, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

    @ Reva

    I gave you a thumbs up.

    Regarding zone fare hours and days, that sounds painful, but it seems to be a bullet that we might need to bite.

    Regarding zones for Night Bus, I’m not convinced that zone fares would be worth while. Anybody who uses transit at that hour, even when buses are overloaded, is obviously trapped.

    However, that did give me an idea. If all of Night Bus gets to be 1 zone, because of the type of service that it is, then maybe other services get to be their own prices too. Translink could $4.50 for 2 hours [which most people would never use up] of frequent service, and $2.50 for 2 hours of “regular” service. There are probably other types of services, but they can be shoved into regular service for simplicity.

    This seems more kind hearted, because if you need to connect 2-3 times on the frequent network, then those connections might suck up a lot of the 90 minutes from the current fare. On the other hand, regular service might only come every 30 minutes, which means we’re talking about 1/3 of the current fare.

    It’s bad enough that they have to wait for so long, but it adds insult to injury, when they have to pay an extra fare, because the entire trip took so long. It might actually encourage people to take smaller trips, when the fare lasts longer. Before, they would have had to pay $5 for 2 hours of travel, which they might have balked at, especially if it is a short distance. However, they might think about it seriously, if they only have to pay $2.5 for 2 hours. The only way to know is to find out how long the average return trip is for an errand.

    Regarding $.10/refill, that doesn’t sound nice to me, but it at least helps to raise funds. Maybe there would be a way for customers to earn it.

    Regarding advertising, yes. I fully support this. In fact, fill every space, within reason.

    Also, try to enforce a policy that all advertising be very artistic, so that if there are not enough clients, then at least you could leave it up.

    Also, for blank spaces [goodness sakes!], put in your own ads, Translink! If you don’t fill those spaces, then that says something about your ad space and/or your service! Perhaps you could advertise some unused routes. You obviously have lots of empty buses, so advertise them! Also, you could advertise some great connections to make life easier for transit users. Make a policy of no unused ad space.

    Regarding UBC being zone 2, I have mixed feelings about that, but it doesn’t affect me, so go for it. :^D Instead of building a campus out in the middle of nowhere, they ought to be ultilizing New Westminster, because of its central location. So, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

    Also, U-Pass holders should be paying a full 3-zone fare. I say this, because I suspect that they cause a spike in damand, which is expensive to fulfill and cause discomfort. The best routes are those that have consistent ridership all day.

    Regarding properties near stations and exchanges, it’s kind of neat to charge them money, but it would be inappropriate to charge them more than properties away from those areas and away from frequent bus routes. The reason that we have this sprawl in the first place is because of the businesses going out in the middle of nowhere. A lot of the urban developers think that it is easy to just send a new bus route out there every 15 minutes. What’s the big deal, right?

    I suggest that Translink get involved in realestate and urban development!

  • By Eugene Wong, September 25, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

    @ Translink

    You guys are unbearable, and I’m hopping mad about it!

    Here we are, using our own time, suggesting ways to raise funds; even suggesting that you raise fares and charge a fee! Here you are, giving away free rides to kids.

    That is so mean spirited.

    Organizations like you, BC Ferries [i.e. they gave a life-time free pass to a baby], and Via Rail make me angry sometimes. I can’t believe that I almost got over my frustration with you. You just had to go and peel away that painful scab.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 26, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    Hi Eugene: Let me respond to your first comment. You raise an important question, and one that deserves an answer. When Jhen and I receive a suggestion via the blog, we try our best to send it to the most appropriate person within the organization. When it’s a question, we ask for a response from the person so we can give our readers answers. We also send suggestions for improvement to people within the organization who’s job description relates to the suggestion. From there, it’s up to the person we’ve sent the suggestion/questions to take them into consideration or not.

    Since I’ve been at TransLink, I have seen some suggestions from the blog become reality. For example, it was suggested on the blog that new bus stop signs have the name of the route included on this instead of just the number. This suggestion was taken to heart and with the same suggestion coming from others who were consulted (focus groups etc.) it became reality. Here are some posts on the wayfinding project –

    It’s also important to note that some of the suggestions which are put forward on the blog are already being considered by TransLink staff.

    I’d also like to mention that sometimes ideas take a while to come into reality. We only have to look at the Evergreen Line to know this is true. There are many approval processes that have to take place in order for new initiatives and changes to be made. There’s also the issue of money needed to make certain changes. We all know about TransLink’s current funding challenges.

    Many voices help to make change. A new idea from one reader is fantastic. But if many readers gather behind that idea, it helps to bring it to the attention of the decision makes for transit in the region. There are people who are pushing for more transit in their areas of region and I’m starting to see media and other influences report on their cause. If you or anyone else who read the blog feel passionate about a certain issue, I suggest getting organized. Jhen and I are interested in what you have to say and will do our best to blog about what our readers want to read about.

    I can say that Jhen and I really do value your ideas Eugene. In fact, I’m still looking for a way to implement your ideas about crowd-sourcing translations of TransLink materials. I think it’s a great one!

    Please do be patient with us. We’re interested in improving transit too!

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 26, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    Reva: We’re listening. I like your enthusiasm and thought you’ve put into these ideas. Your last two points speak to the difference between us and transit authorities in places like Japan and Hong Kong. Some overseas authorities have the ability to make money off developments in and around transit stops. Under our current operating rules, we don’t have this ability. That doesn’t mean this shouldn’t change. I believe this type of change would need the input of governments as well as from us.

    I’m going to get some responses to your questions from people within TransLink who’re more knowledgeable than I. I’ll report back soon! Thanks for the great ideas!

    Eugene: I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I can tell you that Jhen and I try our best to forward on your ideas. To follow up on iWalk, this is an initiative that is for a short amount of time and is aimed at not only showing kids that walking, cycling and using transit are healthy and environmental options compared to using automobiles it’s also a way to foster future transit users. The idea is to have kids try using transit, perhaps they haven’t before, and perhaps this might lead them to being lifelong transit users.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 26, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

    @ Robert

    You must be talking about sampling. I can accept that. It makes so much sense. I’m surprised that I never understood that from the beginning.

    @ All

    Did anybody misunderstand it like me?

  • By Reva, September 26, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

    @ Eugene: Aw, I think calling them mean-spirited is a bit much! They didn’t *ask* us to come up with ideas, after all. I’m sure new ideas (maybe even ours!) will slowly get implemented over time, we just have to be patient.

    In any business, promotion has a cost, but is done with the intention of the future benefits outweighing that cost. Like Robert said above, one week of free rides is a pretty cheap way of getting kids comfortable with using transit at a young age, in the hopes that they will choose transit as their preferred transportation method when they get older. More riders = more revenue.

    *However*… Translink has gotten itself into a bit of a conundrum, in that they have admitted the system is bursting at the seams and can’t handle an increase in ridership right now, so why are they promoting new ridership? Are they shooting themselves in the foot? You do have a point that offering rides for free during a time of financial crisis seems somewhat inappropriate, especially when they can’t handle new ridership. But, seeing as how the recipients are children, I think it will do more good than harm in the long run. And it is only for a short time.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 28, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

    @ All

    It seems that I’m the only person who misunderstood it. Sorry Translink!

    I honestly thought that they were just rewarding desirable behaviour, which really offended me.

    @ Reva

    It is true that they didn’t ask us to come up with the ideas, but the transportation system belongs to the people indirectly, because of the money that was coughed up in the first place. Some people worked pretty hard for that cash.

    Also, if we look at it based on needs, then we need to recognize a certain *desperation* for people to get from point A to point Z. There are a lot of obstacles in between, and for Translink to not remove them, when feasible, is just mean spirited.

    In general, I support the costs of promotion and sampling, as these these ventures produce a return on investment on average. However, that doesn’t mean that we should give away scarce products. For example, do we really want to give free rides to kids, and make university students miss a bus due to a spike in demand? Remember, the university students are paying something, and they have greater responsibilities than the kids. If the kids are late, then the parents can apologize, but who will accept the responsibility for the university students?

    Giving out free samples of the busiest routes is like Apple saying that they are concerned about future generations, so they should give out free iPads. I honestly don’t think that Apple needs to worry just yet.

    Also, on several occasions, I have suggested that Translink advertise the lesser used routes. If they want to give out free samples, then give out free samples of those. Fill those buses. They could do it all year long, and even highlight some of the fun routes.

    In hindsight, I do think that it is mean spirited, because I think they would rather stick to their programs, than change for the better. I acknowledge that they have made positive changes, but I insist that it isn’t good enough. I don’t expect all changes to be made, but I think that they are not making enough low cost changes.

    The bottom line is that somebody came up with free-ride idea, and got *paid* to think about it and propose it. A group of people got *paid* to evaluate the idea. A group of people got *paid* to act on it. How much are they getting in return?

    I have already yapped on and on about the #326. Yet, they don’t have *money* and resources to realign a route. Really? I already did all the thinking for them, and sent in my work. I asked people, and sent in the responses, but that information was rejected by Translink. Why doesn’t Translink focus on that, instead of coming up with new ways to communicate with bus drivers that kids ride free for only 1 week, and instead of sitting together as a commitee and coming up with these ideas?
    Pretty much all people stop using transit because of lack of frequency, and lack of respect [i.e. lack of comfort, lack of people skills, etc.].

    Most people are forced to use transit sooner or later. That’s how they become amazed with it and stick with it.

    Overall, I support sampling and promotions, but this is unreasonable.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 28, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    @ Robert

    Also, none of this is about you and Jhenifer. You pass things on, and get what you can. That’s the way that I expect a good public relations effort to work. That’s fine.

    My complaint is with the people on the other end of the communications. It’s the people replying to you.

  • By Sheba, September 28, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

    I totally understand where you’re coming from Eugene. I’ve read many good ideas on here that would improve transit (and many of them would be money saving too) and has a single one of them been implemented? Sure no one asked us to come up with these ideas but when you get a bunch of people together to talk about transit, it would be really weird if no one came up with anything useful. Would they rather we complain incessantly?

    While I support the general idea of a free week for kids to try out transit, the reality can be a nightmare. I’ve never seen a teacher divide up a classroom of kids into two groups (despite there being enough designated adults around to do it) so they all cram into one skytrain car (usually a Mark 1) and usually yell back and forth to each other. Oh what fun that is – so much so that I want to run away screaming while trying to gouge my eyes out.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, October 5, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

    Hi Reva: I have some feedback on your funding suggestions from our media department. I’m doing what I can to get more.

    Your points about fares zones fall into the realm of Fare Tariff bylaw which is managed by the TransLink board. I do know the fare zones will be examined when Compass Card is up and running. I’ve also been told that we’re still working through how funds will be attached to the card.

    More advertising on buses – “Our advertising licensee – Lamar Advertising – get paid by selling advertising on our system. Rest assured, they do everything they can to sell the advertising they have on our system.”

    Extra advertising poster slot on both sides of each end of all Skytrain platforms (total 4 new per station). – “This is an opportunity we are looking at.”

    Make property developers pay a transit improvement fee for building projects within a 1 Km radius of all SkyTrain stations and major bus exchanges. Their projects would not be as desirable without such great transit access. Stop letting them profit so much off of infrastructure that Translink built and paid for. – “I believe this has been on the table for discussion with a variety of stakeholders in the region.”

  • By Eugene Wong, June 13, 2013 @ 6:44 am

    @ Sheba

    I’m going through old posts that I never responded to. Talk about a long time!

    @ Translink

    I think that Sheba has a decent complaint in her last comment in this discussion. Maybe Translink could encourage, but not require, schools to declare when and where they intend to ride. Translink could then announce to the passengers in a specific car that a flock of students will be getting on at such and such a stop. If riders don’t want to be in the same car, then they can change cars.

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Q & A with Ian Jarvis, TransLink CEO — September 24, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » True or false: At TransLink, we earn most of our money from transit fares. — September 27, 2012 @ 9:47 am

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