Sigh.

Premier Christy Clark has ordered an audit of TransLink to address a shortfall in funding for the transportation authority. …

The premier had referenced a $30 million shortfall for the Evergreen Line, however it is believed she misspoke.  “There is still a funding gap for the Evergreen Line — $30 million — and we are going to find that through an audit of TransLink,” Clark said.

The Sun

The fifth audit or efficiency review in a decade.

The third time the rug has been pulled out from under regional politicians over a vehicle levy.

And not the last time for mis-understanding.

The Premier should know the essential facts before speaking: the Evergreen line’s costs are covered; that was the purpose of the $40 million gas-tax increase.  Nothing has changed.  The additional $30 million that makes up the region’s ‘Moving Forward’ commitment – to pay for improved bus services primarily south of the Fraser, notably the express bus across the new Port Mann Bridge – will come from property tax for another two years.  And then end, unless a substitute is found or the mayors are prepared to keep it on the property tax.  Which they aren’t.

All the mayors were doing was asking for the Province to consider options for further discussion, after having been given assurance by the Minister of Transportation that they would be given due consideration.  Then they were slapped down by the Premier within hours.  Just as the NDP leader had done back in 2000, and the Liberals had done after that.

Why do Ministers of Transportation even entertain the idea of a vehicle levy in principle when their leader immediately takes it off the table at the first sign of blowback?  (Perhaps the mayors should know by now not to ask in the weeks prior to an election, by- or otherwise.)

The Premier may not care, so long as the Evergreen Line proceeds.  But the people south of the Fraser should, because they’ll get hit by a triple whammy.  First, there will be the toll on the Port Mann Bridge, and likely diversion of traffic to the free alternative on the Pattullo, further jamming it up.  They also could lose not only the fast-bus alternative on the Port Mann but additional services on major corridors like King George Boulevard.  And thirdly, they’ll lose hope that an agreement can be found to fund the next major rapid-transit expansion – likely the Mayor of Surrey’s vision for light rail.

There’s even a fourth down-side.  Already the road system south of the Fraser, even with expansion, is reaching capacity, according to this report in The Langley Advance:

Transportation was also on (Mayor Jack) Froese’s mind, as he talked about the need to get funding for a widened 208th Street and its highway overpass, and for a new 216th Street interchange.

The 200th Street interchange, upgraded a decade ago, is already at capacity, he said.

Unless transit is significantly improved, the car drivers will suffer along with the transit passengers no matter how much money is spent on expanded roads.

The audit is primarily for political cover.  Even the Mayor’s Council wanted one.  But no matter what efficiencies may be found, even if measured in the millions of dollars, they won’t begin to address transportation demands measured in the billions.

To give some sense of the gap, here’s a useful illustration:  A million seconds equals just under 12 days.  A billion seconds?  Just under 32 years.

Which may be the time it takes to get the Province to get real.

Comments

  1. I will second your sigh. Hopefully some farsighted politician can rise to the occasion and secure an appropriate funding mechanism. For the record although it was called solely for politics I have no problem with the audit…who knowes it may even find enough savings to pay for itself.

  2. Well done Gord. I should have written something like this on my blog, but frankly, having done the Location Efficient Mortgage thing, my heart was no longer in it. When the United States is showing Vancouver what we ought to have been doing all along – and we get our own version of Sarah Palin running things – its hard to keep fighting the same battle over and over again. Note also Vaughan Palmer in today’s Sun. He’s not buying the Premier’s press officer spin, even if the rest of the editorial board there is.

  3. Reblogged this on Stephen Rees's blog and commented:
    I have not tried this WordPress “reblog” button before, but Gordon Price has written what I ought to have yesterday. “It is believed she misspoke” is simply the Sun editorial staff shoving in what her new Communications woman (brought in from Ottawa – the PMO) wanted them to say. See also Vaugan Palmer’s piece today.

  4. Translink has been engineered to be the perfect whipping boy for the Provincial and Municipal governments. The lack of transparency and clear lines of responsibility mean that both sides, although more frequently the province can simply point at it and say: “It’s not our fault, it’s Translink’s.”

    Even more galling though is how this government is completely complicit in the problems. Their restructuring of the agency has made it more opaque and almost compelled municipal politicians to play the same game, because even if they wanted to take more responsibility for it, they have no viable avenue to do so.

    Add to this the effectively random auditing, for no purpose other than cynical political manipulation, and we have the complete cycle of the blame Translink game.

    It’s insanity and we deserve better and we need to send that message to the people who are really responsible: the Provincial government.

  5. The growth is south of the Fraser. The province and the city are still believing infinite growth is workable if you JUST give it more money!

    It isnt. Vancouver the liveable place is full. The rest of Canada, the empty place, is not full.

    PS some of the ideas to fund public transit on the backs of drivers are truly frightening. ( Road pricing ).

    1. I know, it’s so frightening, that you might not be subsidized anymore.

      The horror of it all. Won’t somebody think of the children?

      And Vancouver is not ‘full.’ While Vancouver can no longer absorb the bulk of the growth in the region, if it wants to maintain its status as the central city, its going to still have to absorb a good chunk of that growth.

      I guess its a scary world if you’re afraid of change.

    2. I’m with Jack.

      With 70% of the residential land in Vancouver devoted exclusively to horribly expensive single family homes, Vancouver is far from full.

      When said homes occupy 375 square metres of land (i.e. a standard lot) at $2,420 per, we have an affordability problem that will require new ways of thinking on how to increase land use efficiency.

      Transit will play an important role in the solutions.

  6. L. Leeman clearly doesn’t understand the size of the subsidy given to drivers, truckers, etc. in this world and the massive damage that’s done by basing our entire way of life around vehicles instead of people.

    Road pricing is about attempting to move forward in a more sustainable manner. Paying your fair share for once might be “scary”, but only because you’ve had it so easy for so long.

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