TransLink on My Mind – Provincial decisions that have affected TransLink

I still have TransLink on my mind.  So it almost seems like a sport for Metro Vancouverites to bash TransLink recently.  It seems to be losing a PR battle that I’m not sure they realize they are in.  It hasn’t helped that over the past couple of decades, decisions have been made by the BC government that have a direct affect on what TransLink can provide.  There are a few that come to mind.

1. Fare Gates

The BC Ministry of Transport decides to install fare gates at SkyTrain station even though TransLink thought it wasn’t worth the cost.  I talked enough about this in my last post.

2. Evergreen Line – from LRT to SkyTrain

In 2008, the BC government decides that the Evergreen Line from Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby to Coquitlam Town Centre should use SkyTrain technology (Bombardier’s proprietary linear induction motor).  From a logistic point of view, I can see that the government wanted the Millennium Line and Evergreen Line to use the same technology so that trains could run on both lines and that SkyTrain is more cost-effective from an operating standpoint.  Fair enough.

However, early documents in 2006 showed that TransLink was leaning towards light rail transit (LRT) in the early planning.  Again, the province did not commit any funding at the beginning.  Once the province was willing to give money, they expressed a preference for SkyTrain technology.  However, the BC government was only going to foot part of the bill and wanted TransLink to come up with their “fair share” of the pie for the more expensive SkyTrain technology.  But isn’t it the province who controls the financial tools for TransLink?  And wasn’t it the province who wanted SkyTrain technology instead?  Funny that.

3. No Fare Increases – Commissioner’s ruling

To every decision, there is a double-edged sword.  The TransLink Commissioner is a provinically appointed position within TransLink.  He is not even a councilor or mayor like the municipal board of TransLink. He’s just appointed.  Currently, the commissioner is Martin Crilly.  He decided that TransLink’s call for increased fares to pay for new services was unwarranted because TransLink could not demonstrate that they could provide a level of service worthy of the fare increase.  But isn’t that what the fare increase was supposed to help with – improve transit service?

4. Major Roads Network – Yes, TransLink does roads and bridges too

In a somewhat funny decision when TransLink was made, the province decided to give TransLink the authority (you could read that responsibility and liability if you were really jaded) over many roads and bridges.  The two best known examples are the Golden Ears Bridge that connect Langley to Maple Ridge and the really aged Patullo Bridge connecting Surrey and New Westminster.  The Golden Ears Bridge has become a little bit of a financial burden at this point and time for TransLink.  Way lower than expected traffic over the toll bridge means lost revenue and digging into savings to pay the tolling company the shortfall. Ouch. The Patullo Bridge is also a messy situation on its own.  TransLink is looking to replace the aging span somehow.  However, nobody knows what the new Port Mann toll bridge will mean for the tiny untolled Patullo Bridge.  More traffic?  Less traffic?  Do we even need the Patullo?

5. Millennium Line – the precendent for the LRT to SkyTrain change

The Millennium Line was built during the last New Democratic Party (NDP) government in BC at the turn of the millennium.  However, the NDP government of the time also declared that the new rapid transit line from Lougheed Town Centre to Broadway and Commercial should be SkyTrain and not LRT.  Many folks probably don’t know that early plans for the Broadway-Lougheed rapid transit corridor envisioned a surface light rail train running from Lougheed Mall all the way to UBC.  However, we ended up with SkyTrain starting from Columbia Station in New Westminster looping back around to Broadway and Commercial via Lougheed Town Centre with no service to UBC.

I think the gist of this whole list is that transit and TransLink’s role in Metro Vancouver has been largely shaped by the BC government’s actions.  Transit is such a political hot potato in this region.  TransLink is not totally without fault, but people have to understand some of the history of transit decisions in this region before simply scapegoating one agency or the other.

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