October 23, 2014

COPE Platform: Questions for Meena

From the Vancouver Observer:

COPE Mayoral candidate Meena Wong said she would work on implementing a $30 monthly unlimited bus pass for all Vancouver adults if she were elected. According to COPE, the new ‘V-pass’ program will be ‘cost-neutral.’
“You may not believe that,” said Wong at her Main Street campaign office, addressing skeptics. “More people are going to buy into this.”
Currently, TransLink receives $150 million from Vancouver residents. If the 450,000 adults in the city paid the $30 each month, it would generate $160 million for TransLink. There is also the opportunity to opt out of the program, because a fund will be created to pay the difference, said Wong.
When the COPE leader was asked whether or not the plan is realistic within a regional system, she assured the crowd that she thinks “other cities will hop on this bandwagon,” and said she “will negotiate with other cities.”



(1) How much new service will be needed to provide for the additional demand once users have V-Pass?  (U-Pass generated more demand than anticipated when the program was established.)

(2) If TransLink is expected to pay for the additional service beyond the $160 million, how will that be funded?

(3) If the additional service is provided by taking away service from users elsewhere in the region or by revenues provided through TransLink from member municipalities, how do you anticipate ‘negotiating with other cities’ will work out?

(4) The basis of U-Pass is that there is no ability to opt-out: the cost of additional demand by U-Pass users was to be offset by those who had to pay but were not expected to use transit.   Why would anyone who doesn’t expect to use transit opt into V-Pass?

(5) If the revenue difference from those who opt out of the program is to be offset with “a fund to pay the difference,” where will the resources for that fund come from?

(6) What did TransLink tell you about the idea when you found them less than enthusiastic?  Is your fallback plan to fund additional service directly by Vancouver separate from TransLink and then deduct from it the proportion of revenue provided by its residents?

(7) Does the City have the jurisdictional ability to do any of that?

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  1. V-Pass is a great idea except for one little thing: it’s not cost-neutral like she claims. In fact she’s saying nothing about costs at all. Her numbers are revenue and rather simplistic ones at that. Over on the cost side of the equation CMBC would likely need 300 new buses and 500 new drivers to meet demand. Where the heck is all that money going to come from if V-Pass is designed to bring in only as much as is currently being collected? Oh yeah, just like the “revenue neutral” U-Pass that increased costs by tens of millions of dollars and replaced full fare customers with U-Pass holders, that’s TransLink’s problem not hers.
    I am astounded at the lack of basic understanding being demonstrated by some of our civic candidates. With Mr. LaPointe finally showing his true colours and openly supporting motordom, and Mr. Robertson continuing to use arrogant doublespeak I’m left with independents as my only option for mayor.

    1. Post
      1. I like to keep an open mind, but it has been shown time and time again over the centuries that politicians’ greatest gift is saying whatever it takes to get elected.
        When I think of politicians these are the words that come to mind:
        “Actions speak louder than words”
        “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”
        “Follow the money”
        “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”

  2. (4) Rhetorical question: Why would anyone who doesn’t expect to use transit have to pay transit tax?
    (7) If any indication, Paris (the city) has the ability to subsidize transit fares set by the regional agency STIF, equivalent of Translink) and do it for selected segments of its constituency:
    (see in french http://www.paris.fr/pratique/toutes-les-aides-et-allocations/aides-sociales/navigo-emeraude-amethyste-titre-de-transport-pour-les-personnes-agees/rub_9737_stand_88844_port_24193)…Not sure why Vancouver couldn’t do the same.
    That is not an endorsement of the idea, far from it..

  3. So the V-Pass will increase Translink’s funding by about $10m (according to this article), which is less than 1% of its annual budget of about $1.4b. Nobody has taken fraud into account, though. When the U-Pass was introduced and available to UBC students, Translink said they were losing $15-20m per year due to fraud (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/translink-losing-millions-to-u-pass-fraud-1.1020644). And this was when it was only available to 80,000 students! Imagine how much fraud there would be if it were expanded to 450,000 people!

    1. It’s true, fraud is a major problem for the Upass, but if everyone pays for and gets the pass, there wouldn’t be much reason for fraud, would there? That would of course assume Burnaby, Surrey, etc. all jump on the bandwagon.

  4. She was asked about this during her reddit AMA. Answers are a bit lacking, but she tries. She also tried to defend her preference for light rail over subway, how to tax vacant properties, and the logistics of a $15 minimum wage. Interesting read.

  5. Well, personally I don’t use $30 worth of transit a month but if you told my that I could have a 3-zone unlimited pass for $30/month, I sure wouldn’t turn it down.
    Are there enough people like me to make it worthwhile? No idea. I don’t think it’s as silly an idea as a lot of people are making it out to be, just maybe not great as the central plank of your platform.

  6. Such a program could only work if it were mandatory, I believe, collected as part of your city fees. I certainly wouldn’t be against such a program, I just don’t know how it could be created. Of course any new program such as this will also create new overhead, aside from the new users of the system, meaning the cost of this is certainly too low. So while it’s an interesting idea, I’m not sure it’s been fully thought out.