Metro Vancouver Sleepwalks Into a Financial and Transportation Disaster.

There is so much wrong with this announcement that it boggles the mind, but it is suffice to say, this plan will not go anywhere.

Let’s look at the basics of this announcement.

A SkyTrain subway to Arbutus has nothing to do about transit ridership, it has everything to do about property development and ensuring a return for friends of the politicians who have assembled properties along potential subway stations.

The light rail plans for Surrey are ill conceived and doomed for failure, as they are designed as a ‘poorman’s’ SkyTrain, which role is to feed the SkyTrain system; will not attract ridership.

A four lane Patullo Bridge replacement, with absolutely no thought to replace the decrepit Fraser River Rail Bridge.

More bus hours will only drive up the cost of transit as there is no evidence that TransLink’s transit service has attracted the motorist from the car. In effect we will spend more money moving the same people.

All in all the the Metro mayors are stuck in the 1950′s, when 21 century solutions are needed. Maybe someone should organize a trip to Nottingham England and see how their P-3 built tram is operating……..without subsidy you say? Gobsmacked!

No problems with Nottingham’s new LRT (tram) system. The picture is the tram station in the centre of the city.

Stop Press!

B.C. rejects Metro Vancouver mayors’ plan to use carbon tax to help fund $7.5-billion transit boost

I am not surprised at this at all. The much vaunted Carbon Tax, is not a carbon tax at all but a surcharge on energy consumed that goes into general revenue. This is the Liberals big lie and if the mainstream media don’t get off their collective arses and do some real reporting instead of the current infomercial reporting, maybe we could get some honest transit reporting in the region.

Metro Vancouver mayors propose tolls, carbon tax to fund $7.5-billion transit boost

Major capital projects would include a four-lane Pattullo Bridge, rapid transit in Surrey and Vancouver and more express B-Line bus routes

By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun June 12, 2014

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Metro+Vancouver+mayors+propose+tolls+carbon+fund+billion+transit+boost/9932710/story.html#ixzz34SMRVpKB

Metro Vancouver mayors are proposing a $7.5-billion investment plan that focuses on a regional carbon tax to to pay for major capital projects, including a four-lane Pattullo Bridge, rapid transit in Surrey and Vancouver and more express B-Line bus routes, over the next 10 years.

The plan, which was devised by mayors ahead of a referendum on transit funding, calls for $250 million of the BC Carbon Tax paid by Metro Vancouver residents and businesses to be reallocated to transportation investment in the near term, while developing some form of mobility pricing, such as bridge tolls or distance-based road pricing.

Mayors approved the plan today.

The plan, which must be approved by the provincial government, would also be supported by property taxes — capped at three per cent — along with new transit fare revenue, tolls on the Pattullo Bridge and $5 million in cost-sharing by the federal and provincial governments on major infrastructure projects, including the two rapid transit lines and the Pattullo.

The mayors’ report notes the $7.5 billion would increase TransLink’s annual budget from $1.4 billion to $2.2 billion. By 2025, an estimated $390 million in funding will be needed each year.

North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton said region’s transportation system has been deprived of funding for a number of years and we are “seeing the effects played out in people’s daily commute on transit, and in the system throughout Metro Vancouver.”

Mayors have been scrambling over the past few months to come up with a 30-year vision on priorities and funding options ahead of a referendum on transportation funding and to deal with an additional one million more people in the region by 2045.

The report doesn’t offer a back-up plan should the carbon tax be rejected by the province, nor does it suggest a vehicle levy would be a viable option, saying it would depend on what the provincial government says.

David Stuart, chief administrative officer of North Vancouver District, said mayors believe the carbon tax makes sense and any alternative options would be discussed once mayors hear from the province.

He added the government has not identified any funding sources, but to do nothing would cost more in the end.

Mayors say if the plan goes ahead it would reduce traffic congestion by 10 per cent and drivers and transit users to save 20 to 30 minutes per day on some of the most congested corridors. It would bring walking, cycling and transit mode share from 25 per cent today to 36 per cent by 2045, representing more than one million new trips.

Among the priorities are an underground rapid transit line in Vancouver from Broadway to Arbutus at $1.98 billion, with buses to the University of B.C., and light rail lines in Surrey along King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue and along Fraser Highway to Langley.

The plan also calls for a four-lane $980 million Pattullo Bridge, which can be expanded to six lanes later on. Eleven new B-line buses, improved West Coast Express, 50 per cent more SeaBus service, 400 new buses, upgrades to the Canada Line and Millennium Line with more cars and investments in cycling paths are also included in the plan.

The plan calls for:

- A new tolled four-lane Pattullo Bridge

- New Light Rail Transit lines in Surrey

- Broadway corridor Millennium Line extension to Arbutus in Vancouver to meet capacity needs

- 11 new B-Line routes providing 200 kilometres of bus service

- 50 per cent more SeaBus service: every 10 minutes during peak hours, and 15 minutes the rest of the day

- 30 per cent increase in HandyDart Service: improved service for those who cannot use transit without assistance

- Fleet expansion and system upgrades to meet growing demand: West Coast Express, Canada Line, Expo Line and Millennium Line

- A 25 per cent bus service increase resulting in more frequent service to more areas across the region, and an additional 400 new buses to the existing fleet of 1,830

- Maintaining and upgrading the 2,300 kilometres of Major Road Network to keep vehicles and goods moving

- Investments in cycling routes to make biking a safer and more viable transportation choice

Comments

28 Responses to “Metro Vancouver Sleepwalks Into a Financial and Transportation Disaster.”
  1. Rico says:

    Zwei,

    I am disappointed in you. I had wondered if you were actually anti-transit instead of just pro-tram and this post would seem to confirm this. What would you do differently for the Surrey LRT?
    For the record the last issue of Light Rail Transit had a big piece on Nottingham. Capital costs were mainly paid by the government (I don’t recall the exact number, but greater than 80%). Like Skytrain it is profitable on its OPERATING COSTS.

    Zwei replies: Rico, you are a propagandist, spreading untruths and half truths as they were facts, but then, you have always done this being the SkyTrain Lobby. SkyTrain is not profitable on its operating costs because:

    1) SkyTrain receives a near $300 million annual subsidy from the provincial government. So, how can SkyTrain, which receives a large annual subsidy, make a profit.
    2) The fares collected are not apportioned between bus and metro and with over 80% of SkyTrain passengers taking the bus, the revenue generated by SkyTrain is very small indeed.

    Bombardier has never even uttered this nonsense trying to sell SkyTrain because they would be laughed out of the hall, so to speak. Almost 40 years on the market, and no one wants to buy SkyTrain. Take your drivel elsewhere please, like the SkyScraper Page.

  2. Rico says:

    I was a bit confused about which article I had read. There was a large insert celebrating 10 years of Nottingham Trams. It does not mention the 80% government figure I remember. It does talk about the difficulties of dealing with HM treasury for financing and the PFI arrangement. Everything seems like a great success, no where in the 24 pages does it describe it as being profitable (it does not need to be profitable to be a success). It does note that phase II, also a PFI, is 34% funded from the local council (parking tax) and that there is funding from HM treasury (but that is not specified in the article). Remember a P3 does not magically make something profitable, it just magically makes the costs disappear from the government books while the concessionaire recovers their cost via various other meccanisms. In the end we still pay. If it is a good agreement maybe less than if it had been built by government, if it a poor agreement more.

    Zwei replies: There has been ample public debate about LRT in Nottingham and its revenues and costs are on public record, unlike our SkyTrain where public debate has been greatly stifled and costs are hidden in many accounts. Fear and loathing is the hallmark of the SkyTrain lobby and yes, merchants are compensated if they can show a loss due to LRT construction, unlike here. Sorry Rico, no one builds with SkyTrain anymore, I wonder why?

  3. Rico says:

    Description of the PFI for Nottingham. I won’t comment on Skytrain because you won’t listen anyways.

    ‘NET was the first project developed in the UK in the framework of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), A financial set-up instituted by the government. The principle was as follows: Arrow had to find the necessary funds while the state undertook to reimburse 70% of its initial investment over a period of 27 years. It was also agreed that Arrow would cover any extra costs in case of problems during the works. To recuperate the remaining 30% the private partner was granted management of the line on the basis of a contract guaranteeing quality of service. If the conditions are not fulfilled – and up till now 99% of them have been – the state’s monthly contributions decrease. This previously untried formula took a long time to work out: over seven years from the project’s launch to the implementation of phase I. A regional development agency, the Nottingham Development Enterprise (NDE), played a decisive role in convincing the other partners.’

    Zwei replies: Yawn……I’ll let the cardinal delve into the issue of NET as he knows just about everyone involved! Rico, you know nothing but regurgitated ignorance.

  4. John says:

    Hey Malcom, I came across this in skyscrapers forum. It really cracked me up LOL

    “We could end up with something almost fully grade separated like Seattle’s North Link or Calgary’s West LRT. Alterntively, we could end up with a fancy, slow and useless streetcar like our friend Malcolm proposes. All we know is what the renders look like near Central.”

    Zwei replies: Modern trams are anything but slow. It is all about the design of the line, signal priority, and the amount of reserved R-o-W. These guys on the Skyscraper page or nothing but ignorance compounded by arrogance. They wish not learn about anything, yet pretend to be expert on everything.

  5. I. K. Brunel says:

    I am puzzled. Why on earth the powers that be in Vancouver want a subway. I looked on Google Earth and I am again puzzled why the subway ends in a middle of a street, far from downtown Vancouver or even UBC.

    Vancouver was once a very pretty city and if one is old enough, one can remember a very good tram and interurban system, but alas, like most North American cities, the track were torn up and the cars burnt or turned into garden sheds.

    I have been fascinated with the machinations of Vancouver transit politics, with so much bad planning and anti tram rhetoric. It seems Vancouver’s politicians and city planners have a one track mind and it seems commons sense has all but disappeared.

    If history is anything to go by, I doubt much will change in the near future except expanding congestion and voter angst.

  6. eric chris says:

    @John, how about a Ducati if you want fast, too chicken to bike it to work?

    http://canada.ducati.com/test_ride_experience/index.do

    How about you pay full cost of ST: $9,000 per year to ride ST?

    $2.2 billion / 250,000 average daily transit usage = $9.000 per year

  7. eric chris says:

    Kelly Sinoski is a TransLink patsy who works for the Vancouver Sun which has received millions of dollars in advertising (my money and yours) since 1999 to tell everyone the news that TransLink wants told. In fact, TransLink has a hoard of individuals who are employed in communications (propaganda). What transit company doesn’t need slick shysters making news releases to mold the minds of the general public?

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100206758/americans-eat-snow-claims-north-korea-propaganda-video-and-its-yummy/

    If you want the truth on ST, you have to go nationally to find reporters who don’t report on people eating snow:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/translink-mayors-to-province-this-debacle-is-not-on-us/article17052225/

    For Kelly and the Vancouver Sun, transit here being less sustainable than driving is not news. Finding money to pay the salaries at TransLink is news.

    ST user: pluck, pluck… pluck.

  8. eric chris says:

    PS, I suggested to Kelly Sinoski that she take a picture of the TransLink CEO, Ian Jarvis, arriving to work in his gas guzzling Hummer. I mean if the TransLink CEO drives to work, obviously ST is the answer to road congestion. So far, she hasn’t taken me up on my suggestion.

  9. Rico says:

    Hey Eric,

    You should do more math. For various LRT systems, for the Portman bridge for Haveacows Toronto subway extensions…..9000 is a bargain.

  10. Richard says:

    @Eric

    You know it is an investment that will be used for decades if not centuries. For the purposes of per trip costs, 30 years is typically what is used.

    So, dividiving $9,000 by 30, the cost for a years worth of daily one-way trips would be $300. Times by 2 as most people would make a return trip results in $600. Less than the cost of owning a car and paying for the roads.

    Zwei pliers: Please to not insult me with this investment nonsense argument. The Arbutus line as the Central park Line were good infrastructure, abandoned by transit planners in favour of SkyTrain. Subways are tricky and politicians, once sucked into building subways squander precious tax dollars on mind numbingly expensive subways, then force transit users to use it. This why transit ridership numbers are as phony as a three dollar bill, we merely count recycled bus riders on transit and pretend they are new transit customers, they are not. forcing all bus riders to take on one R/T line to Vancouver only shows how silly our transit planning is. I would be a very happy merchant indeed if 90% of people coming into my store were forced to buy something.

    Richard, you sold your soul to Vision Vancouver for bike lanes and your convoluted arguments for the plan have little or no merit.

  11. eric chris says:

    @ rico, thanks for the math tutorial. Let’s see:

    Since 1986, ST has failed to reduce driving. Since 1996, BRT has failed to reduce driving. Vancouver has the worst road congestion in Canada after 15 years of BRT and ST. For the mayors to even consider raising taxes for more BRT and ST, when trams will move just as many people as BRT and ST but at 50% to 33% of the cost of BRT and ST, doesn’t seem all that clever to me. But, reeek, I’m not as smart as you. Excuse me.

    I have three residences in three different cities; one is a nice house in Edmonton in a very good neighbourhood. In 2013, $468 of the property tax was for transit and that’s all the charges for transit in Edmonton: property tax. This isn’t cheap but it is better than the $1,000 plus that I paid in Vancouver to TransLink for the myriad of taxes for transit in 2013 and I’m probably forgetting some of the taxes paid to TransLink.

    For the last 15 years, TransLink has over spent on BRT and ST and has neglected roads and bridges. Now, TransLink is trying to tax us with road tolls for new roads and bridges to pay for its stupidity and neglect. I don’t think so. Can’t we just build the bridges without TransLink? I mean, TransLink doesn’t have design engineers and is just going to hire engineers to build the bridges and then add a premium to “monitor” things. What possible monitoring can the monkeys at TransLink do? Does Ian Jarvis have an engineering degree? What is he going to oversee?

    In any case, I don’t see the mayors going anywhere with the $7.5 billion tax for TransLink to mostly pay for the crumbling ST guideways which should come crashing down any day now. I do see plenty of litigation when the concrete guideways for ST fail, though.

  12. Rico says:

    Hi Eric,

    Actually Skytrains contribution to reduced driving is extremely well documented. You are probably thinking of car ownership which is not the same thing….and I do not know if Skytrain has reduced car ownership.

    Zwei replies: Actually no, in fact I have never seen any documentation outside Vancouver that this is so. One has to be careful of the the SkyTrain’s Lobby’s gerrymandered studies.

  13. Rico says:

    On more balanced news Minneapolis Green line openned yesterday.

  14. Rico says:

    Eric,

    With regards to congestion I thought you were smart enough to understand the Tomtom study was useless. My mistake. Big surprise commute times as reported by Stats Can are very closely correlated with population size and city economy. Bigger better performing cities had longer commute times, so Vancouver had shorter commutes than Toronto and Montreal but longer than smaller cites. Despite this Vancouver commute times are falling….even though it is climbing in the Tomtom ratings. A similar story is occuring in Portland, critised as being one of the most congested in the US but having one of the shortest commutes.

    Zwei replies: As real jobs flee Vancouver and service jobs come into Vancouver, the poorer paid service jobs mean people are economically forced to take transit.

  15. eric chris says:

    @ rico, I’m going to be sending Greg Moore the following, do you have anything to add?

    Metro Vancouver mayor and status quo for transportation advocate, Greg Moore:
    As you contend, if we “do not” investment in transit, the region can expect more than 500,000 additional cars clogging up the roads in the next 30 years. Whew!

    http://globalnews.ca/video/1390969/metro-vancouver-mayors-transit-vision-unveiled/

    Is there a reason for you neglecting to mention that if we “do” invest in more ST (SkyTrain) and BRT (bus rapid transit such as the 99 B-Line service clogging up Broadway and interfering with vehicle traffic) in Metro Vancouver, there will still be 500,000 additional cars clogging up the roads in the next 30 years? I’m puzzled by this over sight.

    Vancouver has the worst road congestion in Canada after 15 years of BRT and ST. For you to maintain the status quo to seek more taxes for more BRT and ST solves nothing:

    • Since 1994, trips by drivers have remained at 57%
    • Since 1986, ST has failed to reduce driving
    • Since 1996, BRT has failed to reduce driving

    http://www.railforthevalley.com/latest-news/zweisystem/a-tale-of-two-letters-3/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=Rail+for+the+Valley

    Before I start ripping into TransLink and the monkeys running it, let me set the record straight: I’m in favour of smart transit (trams) to move transit users efficiently and am not in favour of stupid transit (ST and BRT) to make certain firms and individuals profiting from BRT and ST, loads of money. Trams move just as many people as BRT and ST but at a fraction of the cost of BRT and ST. Unlike ST and BRT, trams remove buses from the roads to reduce traffic congestion; whereas, BRT and ST add buses to the roads to hamper vehicle traffic.

    Adding 25% to the service hours for buses in your vision is to recycle transit users from slow buses to the ST and BRT system having distantly spaced stops. This dumb and expensive ST and BRT system (unique in Canada) relying on slow buses makes ST and BRT slow relative to driving and cycling for the vast majority of commuters who only make short trips.

    Ultimately, more ST and BRT will do nothing to reduce road congestion; just as ST and BRT have not reduced road congestion in the past. Your “vision” for transit is unsound and contentious.

    Firstly
    Haven’t taxpayers already paid for the roads and bridges which TransLink is attempting to obtain more money to build and maintain? Every year taxpayers fork over $1.5 billion to TransLink for roads, bridges and transit. If the buffoons at TransLink are spending 90% of the money from taxpayers on ST and BRT, whose fault is that? Taxpayers?

    TransLink didn’t have to squander $200 million on the Compass system for ST. TransLink could have built tram lines to cut costs. It didn’t.

    You don’t really expect taxpayers to pay twice for bridges and roads, do you? For the last 15 years without a care in the world, TransLink has been skimming money intended for roads and bridges and has been foolishly plowing 90% of its revenue from taxpayers into ST and BRT. In my humble opinion, heads at TransLink have to roll. Cuhpeesh?

    Secondly
    Aren’t buses 75% empty for up to 95% of the time presently when cars on the roads? They sure are today, Sunday June 15, 2014. Drivers don’t want to use the current ST and BRT running around with few people on board, most of the time. There is insufficient demand for existing ST and BRT service, and there is no need to put more ST and BRT into service until TransLink fills the buses traveling mostly empty on the roads, currently.

    Do you use transit? How about Ian Jarvis, TransLink CEO? Does he use transit or drive a gas guzzling Hummer to work, if you call what he does work? What does he do? Unless you live a very structured life as a student or deadbeat going to the same place every day, ST and BRT are not able to get you where you have to go. Transit is impractical for 86% of the population. Transit by TransLink (ST) is infested with creeps. Transit is over rated and over sold.

    http://metronews.ca/news/vancouver/834531/harassment-on-translink-project-flooded-with-disturbing-stories/
    http://translinkharassment.wordpress.com/

    Figure out how to fill the empty seats on transit or cut back on ST and BRT to match transit demand. For the last 15 years, TransLink has been putting ST and BRT routes into service in order to concentrate transit use along a few major transit corridors acting as trunk lines.

    To save their scrawny necks after drivers have shunned ST and BRT, planners at TransLink have thrown out all the rules to over build housing density along ST and BRT routes to divert more transit users along ST and BRT routes and to recycle transit users to increase trips on transit without putting drivers onto transit. When are you going to wise up to this? Hopefully you wake up soon before you incite a backlash and litigation from drivers who aren’t happy with the megalomaniacs at TransLink and the status quo. Good luck in the next election. You’re going to need it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuZhnNR6vzc

  16. eric chris says:

    PS @ rico, I’m not as smart as you. You’re too smart for me to understand. How many people understand you? Are they all from TransLink?

  17. Rico says:

    Eric,

    Wow, even for you that was ‘special.’

    Zwei,

    Here are some ‘links’ for you with regards to vehicle usage in Vancouver so you ‘can see some documentation,’ with regards to Skytrain and vehicle usage.

    The first is from the City of Vancouver….so I agree it could be considered biased. However, look at it and note the sources. The data is mainly from Stats Canada. So about as unbiased as it is possible to be.
    http://conf.tac-atc.ca/english/annualconference/tac2012/docs/session18/krueger.pdf

    The second is a thesis from SFU. Again look at the data, pretty clear picture and unless they were just making the numbers up (and since the thesis was successfully defended I would doubt it) not much room for doubt. summit.sfu.ca/system/files/iritems1/9819/ETD4936.pdf

    Here is a link to an article that summarizes a report for Auckland by Deloitte in Aucklands attempt to double transit patronage in 10 years. It is interesting as it noted that Vancouver was the only comparator city studied that managed to double transit patronage…although it took 16 years.
    http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/11/29/deloitte-patronage-growth-report/

    Then of course there is Statistics Canada’s Mode share…….

    Sorry to break it too you, sometimes you just have to accept that Skytrain does not suck.

    Zwei replies: I know Rico someone sent you this bumf, but hey, you are a SkyTrain shill and I would expect nothing less. There are so many statistics out there, one can make a fancy graph out of almost anything. Certainly the city of Vancouver and Translink do.

    Vancouver’s job increases are mostly in the service industries, this means lowly paid people, etc. and many do not have cars (or even housing) and transit is the only way for them to go. As i mentioned earlier, many jobs are moving out in the valley and so are the commuters.

    Really want to know how good ones transit system is, then look at weekend ridership and with TransLink, bus service and ridership drop considerably on weekends, conversely car use has increased considerably on weekends. This is not a good sign for public transit.

    The more documents I receive about our regional transit system, the more depressed I get, the blatant lies by professionals about our regional transit and transit mode is breathe taking. Did you know that a Vancouver city planner clains that LRT can’t be used on Arbutus because the R-o-W is not wide enough. Sadly history tells us the Arbutus Interurban route was double tracked Marpole, right to the old Burrard R.R. swing bridge (single track). Planners should take history as a mandatory course.

  18. Rico says:

    Morning Zwei,

    Apparently if God showed up and told you Skytrain reduced car use you would call him a shrill….also apparently you have not been paying enough attention in our previous discussions about providing sources. The first 2 links provide sources so you can see where the data comes from. The second even shows most of its data. Most of the data in the first is directly from Stats Can…..and I do not think even you could interpret it any other way than per capita vehicle use in Vancouver is declining in association with increased transit. The second is even more clear and shows vehicle use declines associated with distance from Skytrain. Again not ambiguous and it is statistically valid and significant.
    About weekend transit usage. I have not looked lately but last time I did Vancouver had one of the highest weekend usage rates of comparable cities. Check out weekend use in Calgary……Easy to check various cities and compare weekday and weekend usage….
    About some unknown Vancouver planner, I heard from an unnamed Rail for the Valley supporter that there is a Skytrain conspiracy to prevent using the interurban tracks as a cheap way to take the train to the moon and it would only cost 1,000,000.00 dollars since the tracks are in place.

    Zwei replies: Rico you are a paid shill and I just do not know why you bother. Here for the umpteenth time; SkyTrain has been on the market for almost 40 years, yet only 7 such systems have been built and all but three are either demonstration lines, or airport and theme park people movers. Not one SkyTain system has been allowed to compete against LRT and all SkyTrain built were from secret deals with little or no public input. During the same period, over 150 new LRT lines have been built, and a further 50 are either under construction or in the final stages of planning. Many new LRT lines had to compete against light metro and or BRT. Now why is this Rico? Why, after almost 35 years in operation, with more publicity than any other proprietary railway thus marketed; showcased at Expo 86, no one builds with SkyTrain and in fact SkyTrain and Vancouver are considered an aberration in the evolution of public transport.

    Added to this, SkyTrain was designed to mitigate the high cost of subway construction, yet now TransLink is planning SkyTrain in subways. It is also a fact that most studies done locally are skewed to favour SkyTrain, especially the man of straw arguments that SkyTrain has higher capacity and is faster, yet there is ample evidence from elsewhere that SkyTrain actually has less capacity than LRT and both modes can obtain the same speeds. Despite literally thousands of studies showing at-grade transit is the best to attract customers, TransLink pretends the opposite is true and that subways have a poor record in attracting new customers and for added insult for one logic, TransLink pretends that by building a subway, capacity of SkyTrain magically increases, yet not the platform lengths.

    In Vancouver, the local Engineering community must hang their collective heads in shame as their fraternity has so skewed studies and plans in favour for SkyTrain, that one must assume that professional misconduct is a required course at UBC!

  19. Haveacow says:

    Well you guys had a busy weekend! I spent most of Saturday and as well as today and most likely tomorrow getting treatment for my son here at CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) and the OCTC (Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre). My son, Christopher (my youngest, age 3) is going through neurological testing and monitored play sessions with experts. He is a very high functioning autistic but, like most autistics he is subject to a greater percentage chance of seizures. Not put to fine a point on it, he has been suffering some mysterious seizures lately and we need to know what is going on. The entire complex here has Wifi so, while I have been in many waiting rooms, well waiting, I have been catching up on work for my one and only client right now. The work I have been doing required me to hire a friend to do some accounting for me, forensic accounting actually. My friend Bob (real name) finally finished and gave me his report.

    Bob is a retired expert forensic accountant with rail and transport experience as well as being expensive. But he is a good friend and has from time to time helped me out with good free advice. I asked him recently if he could look at something for free and to my surprise he did. I asked him about Translink and a feeling I have had lately about how it does what it does. Using Translink’s own figures I asked, can they continue to fund what they need to do and still afford to do it with the funding sources they have?

    It has seemed to me in the past few months when I look at Translink’s planning repots I am left with a nagging feeling that they are being asked to do far too many things and never really have the time to get a proper answer together before someone else asks if they can do something else as well. Many of their projects they want to do seem to be more and more like a wish list then a real schedule of capital projects. This is more than Zwei’s or Eric’s rants about the (insert adjective here) morons at Translink but a serious feeling about the direction they seem to be heading into. I believe very soon you guys have a referendum coming soon about the future funding of your provincial transit agency. Given that they are a key provincial agency in your province, your provincial government has been too quiet about the contents of this upcoming referendum question or questions. Also Zwei’s last post about the Mayor’s Council, committee, or whatever they are called, coming up with ideas to fund future rapid transit and general transit funding plan and the your provincial government’s answer to them is well to me, curious.

    The answer given by your Transport minister was not NO, that won’t work, we don’t have the money or, a political version of NO, those are really stupid! The answer was just No, then nothing else. He mentioned the expected, what I call “political motherhood statements” like, we will work together to find and answer but, mostly what he said actually amounted to nothing, absolutely nothing. I am beginning to think that they have no idea what to really do!

    In case you were wondering (you probably weren’t), Bob said that No, Translink does not have the resources especially, the capital funding to do what they want to do. His big statement was that the $3.01 Billion + Skytrain line to UBC will break the bank. There are too many run of the mill capital expenses plus, the Expo Line upgrade project to fund any improvements to Broadway at all. Like me, Bob also pointed out that, although they know the cost of upgrading the Expo Line Stations themselves, they have no costs for its aging raised concrete Right of Way between the stations. They are all hidden in the term, Life Cycle Costs. He also pointed several other things that I missed from their program wish lists and from their financial statements that they have not really adequately funded for the future as well. Bob’s main problem was that the Broadway Line would require more than double the current yearly capital funding of the Evergreen extension. They would most likely have to sustain that funding for a period of 10 to 12 years at the lowest capital funding level to finish the Skytrain line to UBC. Without further funding for Translink none of this is going to happen. He is also assuming that the Province and the Feds cover one third each. The funding sources that Translink have are just not able to add the minimum $100-140 million a year extra plus all their existing annual capital needs, to their capital budget. If you want to build the line in less than a time the capital funding will have to grow higher the shorter your construction period.

    So here it is, no surprise, they can’t currently afford to build the line, even just their one third share of the costs and that’s with the construction stretched out to period of 10-12 years. So the current debate about various transit technologies should stop it is becoming tiresome. GET REAL GUYS for a change! You need ideas about how to fund all this regardless of the technology type, debate that for a change. Then how would you word the question on the funding referendum and how you plan to sell it to the public so they will vote for it? Bob also pointed out that, unless new funding sources arrive soon even electric LRT will be unaffordable because the current funding they receive from taxes is actually declining relative to existing costs from inflation, Its caused by the over reliance on fuel taxes which diminish as the price of fuel and the relative fuel economy of cars increase. But in a nutshell, their costs are rising faster than inflation and their funding is not.

    Back at CHEO, I was talking to one of the Neurologists, I thank all the gods for public healthcare because if this were private it would be costing me somewhere between $20,000-25,000 per day because of all the experts and the equipment being used. With healthcare costs going up due to a very much aging population, cities are going to have to rely less and less on senior levels of government to fund things like transit, its time to get reals guys about how we fund all of this. End the useless arguments of technology and all of you start looking at some constructive ideas about how to fund any of this stuff and get your voters to vote for those ideas, time is ticking away. If you guys don’t get more funding for your agency or fund transit in a different way, the Skytrains vs. LRT arguments will be pointless because you won’t get any of them. My rant is done for the day, thank you for listening.

    Zwei replies: first my thoughts are with you and your family and I too thank the powers that be for Canada’s medicare system.

    I think your post says it all. You don’t have to be at the top of the class to figure out that the referendum is designed to fail and Vancouver, TransLink and the City of Surrey have blindly, like the charge of the Light Brigade, have charged head long into the valley of financial death. Vancouver wants subways because subways make (so the politicians think) a world class city. TransLink has to cobble transit plans to suit subway construction.

    The city of surrey wants LRT but TransLink has to so heavily gold plate the project lest people start comparing the cost of LRT and SkyTrain. Then the Patullo Bridge is falling down and a new bridge is needed. meanwhile down the river the well used and soundly constructed Massey tunnel is to be replaced with a $3 billion to $5 billion high level bridge so the river can be dredged to allow bulk coal carriers and oil tankers to load up the Fraser, bypassing the Delta super port which was constructed so large coal carriers and container ship and even oil tankers did not need to trundle op the Fraser.

    Then we have the truncated Canada Line that can only operate 2 car trains on it s 40 metre to 50 metre long station platforms, but because it is a P-3, the operating consortium has absolutely no reason to extend it, because the province pays them very well to keep the status quo. The Canada Line as it ages, becomes more and more of a white elephant, forcing future transit planner to force all bus passenger on it despite a large loss in south Fraser ridership because of the forced transfer at Bridgeport station.

    There is no more money for transit because we have now squandered over $9 billion on 3 R/T lines (which need billions more in refurbishments) and when the Millennium Line is complete (Evergreen Line), the taxpayer wil have anted up over $1 billion for rapid transit that has not taken a car off the road!

  20. Rico says:

    Haveacow,

    I hope things go as well as they can go. I had an Autistic low functioning sister so I can sympathise although she was not prone to seizures.

    You don’t need a forensic accountant to know if the referendum fails massive cuts are coming, Translink and the mayors council have been saying it to anyone who will listen (note that is cuts, not just not building their wishlists). It appears Christy is from the Rob Ford school of transit.

  21. Haveacow says:

    Bob did tell me as well that, they can still go ahead with the Skytrain to UBC but it will require the delay and out right cancelling of many other needed projects. Assuming Translink funding levels don’t grow after the referendum many long term plans will have to change. Given more funding for Translink after the referendum, the problem doesn’t go away.

    A few items from Bob’s hit list.

    1.Like most companies that deal with Unions, the current expectations of all costs for future projects are based on today’s union pay and benefit agreement. Even a minor increase in pay levels above inflation can add significant costs to planned rapid transit and capital projects in the future.

    2. Translink doesn’t have enough stored away money in its current benefit and payment schedule for its employees benefit packages. (This is quite common)

    3. Nearly all of Translink’s funding through fees and taxes do not respond well to increases. Meaning if they increase the rate of taxes and fees they are allowed to charge, they will not get a corresponding increase in funding from them.

    4. The rate of their costs are growing faster than inflation and their funding is not. It is difficult for them to get control of their costs because they have “farmed out” so many of their operating divisions to outside entities. These entities have long term, multi year service contracts that make budget control difficult because of the pre agreed prices and fees. The only option they have in most circumstances is to lower service, thus initiating a vicious circle of transit service cuts and lower ridership leading to the need for more cuts.

    5. Many future capital projects like vehicle replacements are completely unfunded or only partially funded. Many of the projects that have costs applied to them and are budgeted for are based on using materials that change their costs weekly (concrete and steel for example) and is difficult to accurately be assumed 20 years from now. Their stated goals don’t match the realities of their funding. There is no point of saying their plan to cut greenhouse gasses by using more electric trolley buses when you haven’t budgeted yet for new trolley buses to replace your aging fleet and have no idea what they are going to cost to replace or how many they will need. The current costs range for an Articulated Electric Trolley Bus from $900,000-1,250,000 per bus depending on the builder and the number of buses in the order. This doesn’t include the cost of the maintenance packages (maintenance staff training and spare parts).

    6. Beyond Bob just saying that the current capital funding levels just can’t pay for large capital projects like the Broadway Line to UBC without serious cuts to other projects. The sheer amount of budget juggling that has already occurred just to fund the smaller and cheaper Evergreen Line project which is quite troubling. Its fine to say to the public we need to fund the Expo Line Upgrade project and the build a Skytrain Line to UBC but, now you are promising multiple LRT lines in a distant suburb (Surrey), sometime in the future, when you don’t have enough money currently for even one of these projects to be fully and completely funded.

    Zwei replies: According to the Mayor’s council for transit or what ever they call it, there is no subway to UBC only an extension to Arbutus and Broadway, then everyone again must transfer to a B-Line bus. I do not ‘get’ the LRT lines in Surrey only that they are designed as a ‘poorman’s SkyTrain feeding the light metro proper. There is no vision for transit in the region and I have a ‘gut’ feeling that the province may privatize the whole damn thing as current transit is like a money grab to see who gets the most money spent in my muni.

  22. zweisystem says:

    I hope both Rico and Richard read this because I believe this is the harbinger of things to come.

    I had a long chat with one of the more saner members of the trolleybus crowd, who once helped me with my BC Transit inspired Steveston to Vancouver trolley service in lieu of a light rail line. He fears that the trolleys are doomed in Vancouver due their high operating costs. He agrees with me that the trolleys are ill used and their operation poorly managed. With TransLink so stretched at the moment, there is a case to be made to replace the electric buses (Hydro rates are increasing) with LNG powered buses. He has told me that a senior Vancouver planner indicated with a classic ‘finger across the throat’ that if a Broadway subway is built the trolley operation would be abandoned. Vancouver politicos are taking a cowardly stand promising Broadway residents that trolley service will continue once the subway is built, when they know it will not.

    He also agrees with me that the referendum seems to be designed to fail and the future seems very bleak for transit in the region. Though there seems plenty of money for $3 billion to $5 billion bridge to replace the Massey tunnel.

    If the referendum paces I see huge amounts of money wasted on politically prestigious projects, yet very little for the bread and butter transit operation.

  23. Anonymous says:

    wespenstich@herzeleid.com Comment withheld due to coarse comments and threats.

  24. SkyTrainer says:

    wespenstich@herzeleid.net Comment withheld due to coarse comment and threats.

  25. zweisystem says:

    Really, don’t people know that I have their addresses and IP number when they comment. I do not mind sensible debate about SkyTrain and transit. but really, you go way too far and your comments have been deleted. herzelied.net/com is located in Brea. CA., USA

  26. eric chris says:

    @ Rico, I’ve explained this to you many times in the past. Statistics Canada only records working commuters. In Vancouver, working commuters are not significant. We have a large and rich population driving and not working here.

    From TransLink, Rico, driving has remained at 57% for all commuters over the last 20 years, Rico. In downtown Vancouver, crazy high parking fees are keeping shoppers in cars out of downtown Vancouver and trips by car into downtown Vancouver down.

    On the flip side, trips to Oakridge shopping mall in Vancouver are way up where drivers don’t have to pay for parking. So, the idiots at the COV put Sears out of business in downtown Vancouver with the high parking fees and created the gridlock on Cambie Street from all the shoppers who now go to Oakridge for shopping. Fantastic.

  27. Rowley Bank says:

    It’s an education reading the missives penned by Rico & Richard, you boys really do get your selves tied in knots. The Cardinal is currently working in Germany, in response to my query he confirmed that the capital cost of Nottingham Express Transit as with other UK & European Light Rail schemes is/was funded by the respective governments, but the operating/running costs are financed through the fare box & are profitable; just as the LRTA article supplement reports and you have stated
    So what’s the problem then, does this smack you as socialism? No you have failed to read the article properly and failed to understand how public transit can be funded
    The next time you decide to post on this blog, read up on the subject first.

  28. Rico says:

    Rowley,

    What you said is what I said with different words. Zwei said it operated without subsidy, I corrected him and said it covered operating costs (like Skytrain) but could not find that in the article. Like almost any system world wide covering capital costs is a very high bar.