Has The Great TransLink Lollipop Ride Ended?

Fiscal reality is now hitting TransLink and the Mayor’s Council on Transit square in the face.

Memo to the Mayor’s council on Transit: It is time to rethink your transit priorities, especially that $4.6 billion price tag to extend the MALM system (Expo & Millennium Lines) 12.8 km.

The estimated added $40 million annual operating costs for the Broadway subway will further create fiscal chaos for the region, as post Covid-19 taxpayer will have little sympathy for politicians and bureaucrats who want more money to fund their “prestige” projects and will take out their frustrations at the very next election.

Memo to TransLink: Get real, the public has grown very tired of your demands for more and more money. TransLink is the most unaccountable and bloated bureaucracy in BC, and it is time for this bureaucratic nightmare to drastically down size.

Really, the deceit and deception by TransLink knows no bounds. The often repeated claim that Broadway was the busiest transit corridor in Canada, no North America, was easily debunked because TransLink could not provide the data. Oh yes, when faced with possible legal action over the claim, TransLink folded like a cheap deck chair and said “Broadway was their most congested bus route”.

TransLink’s deceit about the now called proprietary Movia Automatic Light Metro, is almost legendary and ranks right up their with Herr Goebbels; “repeat a lie often enough………”.

The lollipop ride has ended with Covid-19!

Memo to Premier Horgan and Prime Minister Trudeau: Do not, under any circumstances give any additional money to TransLink. The utter mismanagement of the organization is breathtaking. TransLink would happily tax the people to death so their overpaid and inept bureaucracy can trundle out more useless plans. Just say no.

That TransLink, with its massive bureaucracy, did not have an emergency plan is telling,; no one should be surprised as this ‘ship of fools’ doesn’t even have a coherent snow plan, as evidenced in Metro Vancouver after every snow fall. Giving TransLink more money, would be like giving an alcoholic more drink.

It is so sad, that the best TransLink can do is whinge for more money. Like the rest of the hoi pollio, TransLink must learn to live within its means, because post Covid-19 will see vast changes and the failure of TransLink to address this may just see some politicians brave enough to “bell this spendthrift cat”.


COVID-19: TransLink seeks emergency funds to offset loss of $75 million per month

By Richard Zussman Global News

Posted April 14, 2020

TransLink is asking the provincial and federal governments for emergency funding to cover mounting losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The transit authority said in a news release on Tuesday that it’s been shedding $75 million per month because of a massive drop in ridership, ever since the province enacted strict measures around physical-distancing to curb the spread of the virus.

Bus, SkyTrain, West Coast Express and SeaBus are essential services, and revenues have dropped by half since mid-March.

“We’ve done the best we can to keep essential services operating for those workers who need it, to get to their workplaces, but … on our current trajectory, we will face cashflow issues within weeks,” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said.

“It’s a dire situation which will force us to cancel entire routes and significantly reduce service levels on all transit modes, meaning far longer wait times and much more crowding for customers.”

TransLink recently revealed that boardings across its entire network in Metro Vancouver have declined 83 per cent since mid-March. Bus ridership is down 82 per cent, SeaBus is down 90 per cent, and the West Coast Express is down 95 per cent.

The transit authority suspended bus fares on March 19 to allow for only rear-door boarding to abide by social-distancing rules as directed by public health officers. A fare increase scheduled for July 1 has been delayed.

It has also limited seating capacity, increased cleaning and sanitization measures, and sped up the installation of more driver barriers.

“We need an emergency funding package from the provincial or federal government if reliable transit services are to continue for more than 75,000 people,” said Jonathan Cote, New Westminster mayor and chair of the regional mayors’ council.

“Our transit system will also be critical during the COVID-19 recovery phase and we must ensure that it’s able to quickly shift back to full-service capacity when people start returning to work.”

The SkyTrain Light-Metro, annual subsidy is near $400 million and a huge financial burden on TransLink.


The following is from the Toronto Star.

Losing millions with no relief in sight, Vancouver leads Canadian transit agencies in announcing ‘profound’ service cut plans

By Alex McKeenVancouver Bureau Tues., April 14, 2020

VANCOUVER—The next consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada could be “profound” cuts to the transit systems that some critical workers use to commute — changes that may persist even after social-distancing restrictions are lifted.

Transit agencies across the country, already scaling back services as people stay home and ridership declines as much as 80 per cent, are facing the “dilemma” of either cutting essential services or risking their ability to keep operating as the coronavirus pandemic wears on for an unknown length of time.

Metro Vancouver’s regional transit authority this week announced it’s in the process of making cuts amid the crisis — a move other transit authorities will likely have to follow unless the government provides a cash bailout.

In an interview with the Star, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond revealed the organization is losing $2.5 million a day operating on a reduced schedule that adheres to social-distancing rules — and it hasn’t gotten any help from the government. Some 75,000 people are still using the service daily, according to the agency.

“It’s been an enormously difficult situation for us,” Desmond said. “The balancing act we’ve had was: How do we recreate a mass transit system under very firm public health guidance for social distancing?”

The combination of depleted fare revenues, the need to continue operating largely empty routes to transport essential workers, and no secured relief funding from government has TransLink starting to negotiate significant service reductions with its trade unions. It went into those talks Monday, and expects to be negotiating for the next month before widespread service reductions are implemented.

As of Monday, the transit agency had already reduced bus trips by 15-20 per cent, and taken trains and SeaBus vessels out of service to save on costs.

“We actually have to formally schedule out significant service reductions,” Desmond said. “That takes time to work out with our labour unions and the time it takes to put in place a brand-new schedule.”

All transit authorities are facing similar financial hardships during the COVID-19 crisis. The TTC said at the end of March that it was losing $18 million each week, and both the TTC and Metrolinx have reduced traffic on their regular routes.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), the advocacy group representing all major public transport providers in the country, this week made calls for the federal government to provide $400 million per month in relief funding, and $1.2 billion in bridge funding for member organizations — a figure it says is in line with the U.S.’s $25-billion relief package for transit agencies.

“Until ridership is coming back, we need urgent federal government support to make transit systems whole,” said Marco D’Angelo, president of CUTA. “There’s an interim gap that’s there that a municipal government or a transit agency can’t take on its own.”

The federal infrastructure ministry has said transit agencies aren’t eligible to access its funds through its programs.

Part of the reason transit agencies haven’t already received aid is because, as a part of the public sector, they don’t qualify for the federal government’s 75 per cent wage subsidy, passed in legislation last weekend.

Desmond and other members of CUTA had been actively lobbying the government to change the legislation to make transit agencies eligible, since they’re so reliant on fares to operate. But Desmond was told Friday it wasn’t going to happen.

Now he estimates TransLink needs as much as $250 million for the year 2020 to save the agency from having to cut service so much that riders would be at risk of crowding or being passed over.

As a member of CUTA, Desmond hopes the federal government will heed the call for relief funding, and said he’s also asking federal and provincial funders to be “flexible” with allowing money earmarked for capital projects such as the Broadway subway in Vancouver to temporarily go toward operating expenses.

But he said it’s too soon to say major projects such as the Broadway Subway should be cancelled outright.

“It’s needed now and it’s going to be needed five years from now and 10 years from now,” he said. “We don’t want to make mistakes and start undermining the future prosperity of the region.”

D’Angelo said big infrastructure projects such as Broadway and the Scarborough subway in Toronto could play an important role in Canada’s economic recovery from COVID-19, with the construction jobs required acting as useful stimulus.

But that could be a way off. In the worst-case scenario TransLink modelled, it wouldn’t be out of the red until late 2021. And there’s still the question of restoring public trust in a system that requires people to be packed close together on trains and buses.

“If that is no longer viewed as socially acceptable, then cities are going to have a big problem,” he said. “How do we rebuild the confidence of the public to ride public transit? I don’t know.”

Patrick Condon, an urban design expert at the University of British Columbia, said the pandemic could have wide-ranging impacts on demand for public transit well into the future.

“There’s a new propensity for people to be working from home,” he said. “I suspect that’s a situation that’s going to persist which is probably going to reduce the demands for transportation of all time.”

That, combined with the financial pressures, could send TransLink and other agencies back to the drawing board on its medium- and long-term goals, Condon said.

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