July 22, 2015

“The single most important positive thing that could happen to TransLink”

From the Vancouver Sun (July 17, 2015):

VICTORIA — Metro Vancouver’s mayors have been quietly meeting with Transportation Minister Todd Stone to dissect the failed transit tax plebiscite, the future of TransLink and to lobby for their local rapid transit projects. …

The mayors discussed Trans-Link’s impending hire of a new CEO. Interim CEO Doug Allen’s tenure comes to an end next month. Stone said it is a crucial moment for the organization.

“If the region gets this right, if the mayors get this right, this could be the single most important positive thing that could happen to Trans Link going forward,” he said.


Do you think the Minister actually believes this?  So far, he’s ruled out any change to the TransLink governance structure – the one point on which all sides of the referendum debate agree is a requirement.  Yet he thinks a single hire will make all the difference.

So what’s involved?

Somehow TransLink has to find a seasoned, charismatic face for a complex $1.5 billion corporation which has just been given a massive vote of non-confidence.  Morale is no doubt in the toilet.  The first staff to have been let go (Raad, Mills, Paddon) have been responsible for strategic planning – a sign the organization no longer believes there’s much point in thinking proactively about the future.

There will be less money now to respond to increased growth pressures.  Most of the decision-making in the short term will be about ‘optimization’ – the cuts required to reallocate service.  Then, in a year or two, the real cuts will begin, leading into whatever referendum may be required, and therefore likely to lose again.

Criticism of any action, no matter what, will be unrelieved (and Jordan will be there to help).

The internal battle between mayors and appointed board will intensify, even as the mayors opt out.  The Province will keep more distance than ever.  Municipalities will war among themselves for senior-government funding, as will the separate constituencies for TransLink services.   There will still be no single place of accountability.

And to top it off, the CEO will likely have to be offered less income than the current one – one of the flash points in the referendum.  Less, therefore, than the CEO of YVR, less than half that of the CEO of Port Metro, a fraction of what a private-sector corporate leader would make (average for the top 100 in Canada – just under $9 million).

And the Minister thinks this hire is “the single most important positive thing that could happen to Trans Link.”

Ken Cameron has it right:

TransLink’s executive cuts don’t solve its problems, critic says


TransLink’s issues are not with its management, but in how it is governed according to a former regional planner who helped review its governance structure in 2013.

Simon Fraser University professor Ken Cameron, a former manager of policy and planning with the Greater Vancouver Regional District, now Metro Vancouver, says cutting two managers and bringing in another interim CEO won’t help fix the real problems plaguing the troubled transit authority,

“It’s the [TransLink] board that chose the compass card system, for example. That whole train wreck happened and so throwing some managers over the side isn’t going to fix that.” …

Cameron believes TransLink should be solely Metro Vancouver’s responsibility.

“It’s a local service that should be provided by people who are accountable locally, certainly not by people who are isolated from the users and the voters of the region.”

“What [the provincial government] should be doing is cooperating and reinforcing sound transportation planning, which is not building bridges and roads that are running contrary to the objective of increasing transit service,” Cameron said.

Todd Stone, B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said he welcomed the changes to TransLink’s management.

“I would hope that the decisions that are represented with these two departures will reinforce the public’s demand of TransLink to do a better job managing taxpayers’ dollars in terms of the operations of TransLink,” he said.

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  1. Same old story. I wish Clark would just get on getting on with whatever it is she actually wants and stop dragging this through the mud. If starving transit and building more roads/highways is what she wants, own it and do it. Stop wasting all of our time.

    1. The only thing Christy Clark wants is to be liked. If someone convinced her tomorrow that the public thinks juggling is cool, she’d put on a press conference to show how she can juggle.

  2. It’s all well and good to talk about how to “fix” Translink, but at the end of the day TransLink is a symptom, not the problem.

    Nothing is going to change until both senior governments actually step up to the plate and actively support the idea of public transit – in word, in deed, and with significant funding.

    I honestly can’t see that happening with the Liberals in BC or Harper in Ottawa. Both are part of the clique that is adamantly opposed to government providing services, especially services that are of most benefit to lower income people.

    Everyone on both sides of the debate knows the facts, and knows that strong public transit systems build stronger cities. The facts are not in dispute.

    This is entirely about politics and ideology, and the right wingers and Fraser Institute and CTF are not about to let facts get in the way of their agenda.

    1. Pathans you were on holiday Barry,

      “Federal government makes significant long term commitment to partner with municipalities on public transit (21/04/2015)
      OTTAWA, ON – Brad Woodside, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, congratulated Finance Minister Joe Oliver on the federal government’s significant investment in new public transit projects.

      “The transit investment in this budget is good news for Canadians and marks an important achievement on a key issue they face every day,” said President Woodside. “This level of permanent, ongoing funding has the potential to be transformative for public transit across this country.”

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