Resolving Timeline Issues

Posts Tagged ‘translink

B.C. will introduce a harmonized sales tax of 12 per cent, replacing the PST and GST effective July 2010, Premier Gordon Campbell announced Thursday morning in Vancouver.

– Obtained from CBC Website. Article dated July 23, 2009.

“I think that before people start talking about tax increases, they should start talking about savings in their own organization,” said Campbell.

– Premier Gordon Campbell, regarding TransLink shortfall and plan for acquiring new revenues, August 1, 2009. Quote obtained from The Vancouver Sun.

Talk out of both sides of your mouth much, Mr. Premier?

The HST is effectively a tax increase for the average consumer. Many things that are now exempt from PST will see the entire new 12% tax put on it. Including things like strata fees.

Oh, and TransLink? You’re screwed.

TransLink had counted on boosting a tax on commercial parking spaces, which now brings in $18 million a year, to raise $57 million annually.

But because the parking tax is a sales tax, it is being eliminated and will be rolled into the HST when it is launched next July 1.

TransLink and transportation ministry officials were scrambling to find a way to fix the problem.

Vancouver Sun, September 3, 2009.

Good thing there’s a review of operations happening at TransLink, eh? Oh, hey, I have a suggestion for you: reduce the number of (unelected) people on that decision-making board. There are nine members. You don’t need more than 5. That’ll cut the costs pretty much in half.

Oh and if they’re not physically present for a meeting? DON’T PAY THEM. That’s right folks – they get paid even if they only have virtual attendance.

Cross-posted at Wet Coast Women.

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You’ve probably noticed that one of the things I really enjoy ranting about here is our ever-lovin’ regional transit authority – TransLink. And for good reason: they’re essentially a public company that is run with an eye to the bottom line. Now, I’m all for government being run like a business in every way, with the sole exception of turning a profit; ideally, they just need to break even. TransLink is having some issues lately: demands for increased service, inability to provide that, and the opening of the new Canada Line that will run from downtown Vancouver, to the airport and Richmond.

Its no secret that skytrain technology is expensive. Sure, its an efficient way to move people around, but its damn expensive to install, run and difficult to make any money off of it. This is especially consternating when there are perfectly good, unused rail lines that could be used for at-grade light rail systems at a much lower price.

Everywhere, TransLink is trying to push people to take transit (or carpool, or telecommute, or whatever) because transit is a more sustainable (whatever that means) option than taking a single-occupancy vehicle (SOV). And then they go and do stupid stuff like this:

TransLink and the Coast Mountain Bus Company propose to terminate buses bound for downtown Vancouver from Richmond, Delta, Tsawwassen and White Rock at either the Richmond-Brighouse or Bridgeport Canada Line Stations.

What this means is that people who usually take one bus to get from Richmond to Vancouver will now have to hop the bus, transfer to the skytrain, and then go downtown. All in the name of boosting ridership so that, on paper, it looks like the skytrain is turning a profit.

Yes, I said ON PAPER. They’ve done this before, you see.

When the Millenium Line went in, my commute to SFU changed drastically. In fact, I went from taking transit to driving. Before the Millenium Line, I used to walk down to the mall (4 blocks) and take the bus up the hill. It took about 20-30 minutes, depending.

When the Millenium Line went in, I had to walk down to the mall, take the skytrain (which was packed) to the next station and then wait in a line to get on a bus with everyone else to get up the hill.

My commute changed from 20-30 minutes to 45-60 minutes. I lived, literally, at the bottom of the hill.

What this proves to me is that TransLink’s focus is on its bottom line rather than on encouraging people to more sustainable modes of transportation. By shortening, cutting, and changing routes this way to increase ridership on the most expensive form of public transit we have to inflate (at least on paper) your profits for what is really a limited-demand service, you’re not encouraging people to use sustainable transportation. Not one bit.

I have a friend who works in one municipality, and lives in the neighbouring one. If he drives, it takes him 20 minutes to get to the office. If he takes transit, its 1.5 hours each way. He has two small kids at home. You tell me what mofe of transportation he’s going to take.

That same article has a quote from the NDP critic which sums it up nicely:

NDP transportation critic Maurine Karagianis said some of the bus route changes don’t make sense.

 

“Part of the allure of a good public transportation system is that it’s efficient. …They’re going to manipulate the system in order to meet the goals of the Canada Line,” she said.

TransLink also says we need a change in values and attitude to use public transit. I call bullshit. You can’t take away people’s options and then tell them that they need to change their attitudes. That’s not fair – in fact, that’s arrogant and not understanding at all.

In fact, I’d like to know if Tom Prendergast takes public transit to work on a regular basis, or if he drives. I’m willing to bet the latter. When I went to a public TransLink meeting out here in Maple Ridge, the execs who came where asked if they took transit out. Not one of them had.

So TransLink: arrogant and unwilling to use their own product. Why should anyone else use it?

The other day we got our annual snowfall. I really have no idea how much it was because we barely got a skiff of snow. Of course now its rather cold out, but clear – which is nice (except that my car desperately needs a carwash and I can’t do that until it warms up a bit or the locks will freeze).

A few things about the weather in Lotusland:

1. We’re never satisfied. Its either raining too much, or its too cold or its too hot. Or its too humid. Or its too [insert word of choice here].

2. We don’t know how to drive in the snow. Most of us run around all year on all-season radials expecting them to take care of us. Then we’re shocked when they don’t in the snow.

This is a pet peeve of mine. I have two sets of tires because I live at the mouth of the Fraser Valley. Both have their own sets of rims so its really just a matter of getting the all-seasons swapped out for the snows in October/November (usually thanksgiving).

BUY A SET OF WINTER TIRES FOR YOUR CAR ALREADY. Then you won’t be stranded when transit isn’t running because of the snow. According to the local news, on Saturday there were 44 accidents around Lotusland – there are normally about 3.

3. Transit in the snow here sucks. Last year sometime, transit up to Simon Fraser University stopped before the university shut down for snowfall. People were stranded. On Saturday night, transit basically stopped serving the downtown core.

Drivers were told to avoid driving if conditions were too dangerous; many just parked their buses and went home. But don’t go blaming the drivers, folks. According to one comment on that article I linked above there: “Yes the drivers are struggling with not only shortages of buses, service and support in normal weather, but bald and rain tread tires which give no traction whatsoever in icy and snowy conditions!  Hence the clear directive from company to park the vehicles, and the decisions by responsible drivers to stop/wait for plowing, salting and sanding to meet safe driving standards.” [emphasis mine]

Let’s rephrase that: TransLink is refusing to supply winter tires for its buses. Not economically responsible you know, since we’ll only need them once or twice a year.

I’ve written about my beefs with TransLink before. Of course, my biggest issue is that its a private board  that’s deciding how to spend my tax dollars – Lotusland residents have NO SAY in how its spent, what kind of service they get and when.

What it boils down to: take some responsibility for yourselves, people. I know its a sucky time of year to possibly miss out on a day’s pay, but a lot of the time its safer to stay home if you’re not prepared for the weather than to go out.

In the meantime, some pointers:

  • get some snow tires for your car, if you have a car. They may save your life.
  • Get some appropriate boots/shoes for walking. If you must, get something like yaktrax to make sure you don’t slip and hurt yourselves on icy sidewalks.
  • Shovel your sidewalk if you have one. Its your responsibility.
  • Dress appropriately; don’t expect roads to be plowed and transit to be running. Be ready to walk if you have to: coat, hat, gloves, scarf layers, warm boots.
  • Bring an extra pair of socks along – they may get wet.

Anywhere else in Canada seems to get this. Lotusland, on the other hand, seems kind of special.

Now you’ll excuse me while I get ready to face the day with my hat, gloves, coat, scarf, snow tires and dress shoes in a bag.

A lot of people wonder why I hate our public transit system so much. Aside from the no elected representation and bad service out here, I submit the following:

I have to go to a baby shower today (the baby’s already here so its really more of an opportunity to coo and ogle him). Its at a house I’ve never been to before so I looked up directions on Google. For shits and giggles I looked up both car and transit directions.

The distance is about 15 km (about 10 miles, give or take).

If I drive, which I will, it will take me about 16 minutes, according to google.

If I were to take public transit, which I will not for reasons you’ll see, it would take me 3 buses plus a 10 minute walk, for a grand total of 1.75-2 hours.

2 hours to go 15 km. I can walk it in about 3 hours.

The other night, I went to a townhall meeting with TransLink where they presented their Transport 2040 strategy.

Now, at the risk of sounding forgiving, you have to realize that they’ve been given a nearly impossible task. On January 1, 2008, some new legislation kicked in that said they had to have a plan of some sort by August 1, 2008. That’s an awfully short time to develop a comprehensive, 30 year plan. So what you’ll see on this link is a strategic plan – broad brush strokes that point the way to some future.

That being said, after the meeting (and there were a LOT of angry people there – more on that later), and I said to some guy that I thought the whole plan was a load of horseshit.

I live in an area that’s not well-served by public transit. There’s the WestCoast Express which runs only during peak hours. The result of that is this morning was a mad dash in time for last train to get me downtown. I’d planned to go into work late and I did – I got there at 9:15am. There’s the 701 to Coquitlam Station which is an “express” bus – with 30 stops. There are numerous community shuttles – which are unreliable. One 16 year old at the meeting told a story of how she waited for 45 minutes for a shuttle – late at night that never came.

There is little transit east of 200th Street. And Maple Ridge is supposed to be a city centre.

There were a lot of angry people at that meeting. TransLink wasn’t even going to come to Maple Ridge (probably because they knew there was nothing in that plan for Maple Ridge) until the Mayor asked them to come. They looked sufficiently chastised, especially when they were asked no more than 4 times if they’d taken transit out to the meeting (of course not? are you crazy? THEY IS HI POWERED EXECUATIVES!)

But none of that really fazed me – its part of the reality of living here. And I love this town.

What got me what what the accountant guy said:

To me, this isn’t a plan, because its not financially sustainable.

Well, no shit, Sherlock. And yet you want to keep increasing my property and fuel taxes, and we don’t get any benefit from it?

Other highlights:

  • investing $24M in cycling and $29M in WestCoast Express over the next 10 years (do YOU see a discrepancy here?)
  • West Van has half the population of Maple Ridge and twice the bus service to downtown Vancouver (I guess that’s what money can buy you)
  • people out here want to take transit but can’t; its offensive that TransLink believes all that’s needed is a behavioural shift (FOR SHAME. It goes without saying that in order for people to change their behaviour, you have to give them the resources to do so)
  • for what it costs to build one kilometer of underground skytrain (an oxymoron, really), you can build a line of light rail from Maple Ridge to Mission.

Did you know that there’s no bus service from Maple Ridge to Mission? And that people in Abbotsford have to go to Mission, then the WestCoast Express to get downtown?

So kudos to Mayor Robson for getting TransLink out here. And more kudos to him for wanting to get Maple Ridge out of TransLink. I can tell you which Mayoral candidate out here will get my vote in November.

Edit:

Oh and a couple of days later, I found out another interesting thing: TransLink didn’t ask any municipalities for input until the strategy had been created – they weren’t considered stakeholders.

This is crossposted over at WetCoast Women  where Nicole also rants sometimes.

ROFL

Posted on: June 25, 2008

Seriously, folks. This is just too good and deserves an “I told you so”.

Despite increasing fares so that a round trip from Vancouver to Surrey costs in the vicinity of $10 now (oh and don’t forget the TL Board’s raises – that they approved themselves), TransLink is facing a $300 million shortfall by 2012.

You see, there are two ways TL can raise money. The first is to increase fares. The second is to increase property taxes. 

Yes, that’s right. An unelected board can raise your property taxes. And whether you rent or own (or the bank owns it), you’ll feel the hit.

So write your mayor (and all mayoral candidates). And let them know what you think.

More later, but for now I have to go to work.


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