TransLink Referendum Mayhem

Welcome to the BC Liberal world of transit, where transit or should I say transit mega-projects are a means for winning elections, nothing more.

The Canada Line is a good example, where ten BC Premier wanted to showcase a transit P-3, but the problem arose that SkyTrain, being a proprietary railway, made near to impossible to have a real P-3.

The project soon went “South” when the SNC Lavalin (also was on the Bombardier bid) lead consortium underbid Bombardier and SkyTrain to win. The problem was, the consortium were never allowed to do any real engineering before the bid process and TransLink’s incompetence over the subway section of the Canada Line, lead to costs spiraling ever upwards.

The concessionaire of the Canada line then “reneged” on assuming risk on the project, leaving the provincial government hold the bag, so to speak for cost overruns. Real P-3’s, the concessionaire assumes risk on the project.

As the Canada Line’s costs increased ever upward, the scope of the project was reduced; single track construction was used in Richmond and YVR; stations were made smaller, excluding escalators and elevators and some even omitted; station platforms were designed with a length of only 50 metres (some stations only have 40 metre platforms); a switch was made from bored subway construction to cheaper cut-and-cover subway construction; and no compensation was to be paid to merchants and businesses disrupted by cut and cover subway construction.

Still the final cost of the Canada Line was in excess of $2.5 billion a far cry from the original budget of $1.3 billion. No one really knows the real cost of the Canada Line though media reports put the cost from $1.9 billion to $2.3 billion depending which politician or bureaucrat they were interviewing. It is interesting that the Susan Heyes (losing) lawsuit against TransLink for compensation had evidence that the final cost of the Canada Line was in excess of $2.7 billion! The presiding judge, the Honourable Judge Pittfield, called the Canada Line P-3 a charade!

And a charade the Canada line was, the only heavy rail subway in the world, built as a light metro and having less capacity than a simple streetcar line.

Enter the TransLink referendum, which is supposed to extort more money from the taxpayer to fund Liberal transit mistakes and even maybe a SkyTrain subway under Vancouver. Enter transportation Minister Todd Stone, from the “Hurtlands”, who hasn’t a clue about regional transit issues, hasn’t a clue about SkyTrain; hasn’t a clue for what is needed for transit to improve, leading the charge for a “yes” vote in a referendum that we still don’t know what the question or questions will be?

It certainly looks like the current premier wants a no vote so she can continue the great BC practice of highway and new bridge construction. BC politics at its best!


Vaughn Palmer: Will transit referendum sink like a Stone without the bossai??i??s support?

Transportation minister Todd Stone is committed to success; but it sounds like the premier is hedging her bets on vote outcome


2 Responses to “TransLink Referendum Mayhem”
  1. eric chris says:

    When expensive freeways are built, new developments spring up far from the downtown core and more people move to the distant developments which require more roads for the increased number of drivers. Then, grade separated transit lines (subways in Toronto, for instance) follow in a futile attempt to reduce the gridlock.

    When expensive grade separated sky train lines are built, new developments spring up far from the downtown core and more people move to the distant developments which require more roads for the increased number of drivers. Then, more freeways and bridges (Port Mann Bridge and Massey Bridge for freeway expansions in Metro Vancouver, for instance) follow in a futile attempt to reduce the gridlock.

    Which scenario do you prefer, the expensive freeways followed by expensive grade separated transit (subway) or the expensive grade separated transit (sky train) followed by the expensive freeways? Transit by TransLink actually increases vehicle traffic, air pollution and GHG emissions.

    Both the City of Vancouver engineers and TransLink planners tacitly agree with calculations showing that TransLink does not reduce road congestion. So, what’s going on here?

    Shouldn’t somebody be keeping score to determine whether or not transit by TransLink is doing any good? Puzzled?

    Let me fill you in on a secret: SNC Lavalin having a history of bribing politicians to win contracts makes much more of a mark-up on profits if it can build a sky train line costing $1.4 billion than a measly little tram or trolleybus line costing from about $12 million to $120 million over 11 km in Coquitlam, for example. As far as engineering staff and support staff hours go, SNC Lavalin uses up about the same number of hours for the sky train line, the tram line or the trolleybus line – SNC Lavalin makes easy money on the sky train line. For the typical 10% mark-up, SNC Lavalin makes a stunning $140 million for the sky train line, an honest $12 million for the tram line and a paltry $1.2 million for the trolleybus line .

    Moreover, TransLink with a staff of 500 planners and others doing no productive work, day after day, and costing taxpayers $60 million annually to employ can’t find the spare cash to pay for their huge salaries if we build tram or trolleybus lines. That is, with the next $1,400 million sky train line, it is easy to skim $60 million for years for employees at TransLink to show up at work, turn on their computers and kill time on mindless matters.

    With the inexpensive $12 million trolleybus line or $120 million tram line, planners and others doing meaningless work at TransLink can’t bill taxpayers $60 million annually to sit around all day. There is also no extra fat for the simpleton accountant who is the CEO of TransLink to sign engineering contracts, which he can’t possibly understand, while staff in short skirts at TransLink keep him amused. “The Sr. Advisor Stakeholder Relations [at TransLink] identifies develops and enhances relationships with local government, senior staff and key regional stakeholders who have a vested and/or financial interest in all projects initiated by TransLink”. In short, she provides happy endings:

    It’s just one big party at TransLink. Taxpayers who are being duped are paying for the salaries at TransLink:

    In the referendum on transit, two questions are necessary:

    1) No more taxes – build trolleybus or tram lines and dissolve TransLink
    2) Yes, more taxes – build more sky train lines and keep paying the salaries at TransLink


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