TransLink already runs some compressed natural gas buses – last purchased in 2006 despite concerns over their costs and effectiveness – and the agency is now planning to buy more.

TransLink already runs some compressed natural gas buses – last purchased in 2006 despite concerns over their costs and effectiveness – and the agency is now planning to buy more.

Regulator scolds TransLink property sell off as imprudent

Bus buying with federal gas tax may also be scuttled by Metro Vancouver mayors

TransLink is being criticized by its independent regulator for its decision to inappropriately sell off surplus property to avoid transit service cuts or fare increases.

TransLink commissioner Robert Irwin issued that warning in his review of the transportation authority’s new 2014 plan and outlook, but also noted the move is unavoidable because there’s no deal yet with the province to approve new revenue sources.

“The sale of assets to support operations is not prudent fiscal policy,” his report says.

“The only other recourse for TransLink would be fare increases or service reductions in the absence of additional funding sources.”

TransLink has been drawing down its cumulative reserve on the basis new funding would be approved in time to avert cuts.

But the province’s decision that there be a referendum in 2014 on new sources has delayed the expected arrival of sustainable funding and cast doubt on whether it will be approved.

TransLink envisions selling major unused properties to raise $40 million in 2016 and $110 million in 2017 to maintain its reserve at at least 10 per cent of its budget.

Mayors argue money from real estate sales should be set aside for new capital projects, rather than being bled away to keep the system running.

“It’s just the worst strategy,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said. “All you’re really doing is deferring a problem and increasing the downward spiral.”

While transit service would be maintained at current levels under the plan, Irwin notes it will not keep up with the region’s rising population, meaning riders can expect deteriorating conditions.

Transit service hours per capita are projected to decline back to 2007 levels by 2016 and to 2004 levels by 2020.

Irwin also flagged rising labour costs as a concern after a new three-year contract signed earlier this year lifted wages for bus drivers and other unionized staff.

TransLink’s $1.44 billion in annual revenue comes mainly from fares, property taxes and its 17-cent-a-litre fuel tax.

Mayors have requested a new source, such as a vehicle levy, a small regional sales tax, a share of the carbon tax or, eventually, road pricing.

George Heyman, the NDP’s critic on TransLink, said the government’s insistence on a referendum on new sources will condemn transit riders to worse overcrowding and longer waits in the years ahead.

The commissioner also warned TransLink’s bus replacement program may be derailed if Metro Vancouver politicians block the continued allocation to TransLink of 100 per cent of federal gas tax transfers, set to be renewed next spring.

That money can only be spent on capital projects, not operating costs.

Metro mayors have criticized TransLink’s capital spending priorities in the past and have indicated they may seek to instead channel some of the federal gas tax money to municipal or regional projects, such as sewage treatment plant replacements.

TransLink plans to spend $367 million from the federal transfers to buy new buses and upgrade SkyTrain infrastructure.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has challenged the recent choice to buy compressed natural gas buses, which he suspects is a politically motivated decision linked to the province’s natural gas strategy.

Just Posted

Blading for bees, led by Aldergrove resident Zach Choboter, headed through B.C. (Special to The Star)
Aldergrove’s bee blader crosses the prairies

Zach Choboter has rollerbladed from Whistler to Alberta in two weeks

Tourism Langley has put together Father’s Day gift boxes that support local businesses and aid the Langley Food Bank. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
This Father’s Day, you can support Langley businesses and aid the Food Bank

Tourism Langley brings back their popular gift boxes

Marsha Miller walked through the Derek Doubleday Arboretum Friday afternoon, reading the info stations about residential schools and their impact on Indigenous Canadians. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Langley vigil for residential school victims brings forth powerful emotions

Tears from visitors even before evening event, organizer said

Trinity Western University held a vigil Tuesday as well as having two more on Thursday, June 10 to honour the 215 children whose remains were buried at a residential school in Kamloops. Their remains were found with ground-penetrating radar. (TWU/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Langley university vigils honour the 215 children buried at Kamloops residential school

Indigenous leader offers suggestions on how to process the devastating information and on healing

Hutch Hotels Ltd., which owned the former Alder Inn (which was demolished in November 2020), is among the defendants in a lawsuit related to an alleged impaired-driving crash in January 2017. The civil suit also names S & L Kitchen and Bar in Abbotsford. (Black Press file photo)
Two Fraser Valley bars named in lawsuit related to alleged impaired-driving crash

S & L Abbotsford and Alder Inn being sued by passenger in 2017 rollover collision

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read