Martin Crilly tells the truth about TransLink

The Straight

Charlie Smith

As I was reading regional transportation commissioner Martin Crilly’s report on TransLink’s 2010 10-year plan, I thought to myself: “Finally, someone is telling the truth.”

Crilly’s review, which was released yesterday, noted that proposed cuts to transit under a base plan would not have been as drastic if TransLink had not expanded service and invested in capital projects that it knew to be unaffordable.

“These investments were made with the hope and expectation that senior governments would agree to bear a large portion of the operating costs, which they have not done,” he wrote.

Crilly added that this has reduced the productivity of the bus network and led to rising fares, undermining ridership.

He noted that the TransLink has forecast that the new Golden Ears Bridge and Canada Line will represent up to 12 percent of revenues by 2019. Crilly concluded that if the transportation authority misses the mark on inflation, interest rates, population growth, and other variables, there could be a shortfall of several hundred million dollars by 2019.

He added, however, that the underlying economic assumptions are not unreasonable.

After years of propaganda from the federal, provincial, and many municipal politicians about their so-called concern for transit riders, I had begun to believe that there was no hope for honest talk. Crilly has proven me wrong.

Sure, there have been exceptions over the years. Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, Vancouver councillor David Cadman, and former Vancouver councillors Anne Roberts and Fred Bass tried without success to thwart some of the worst decisions.

Where else but in Metro Vancouver would transit planners build rapid-transit projects in areas with some of the lowest population densities in the region?

Crilly noted that even TransLink has acknowledged that the slow process of urban densification will not lift ridership much by 2019.

Former premier Glen Clark build a rapid-transit line, the Millennium Line, where hardly anyone lives.

Premier Gordon Campbell and the federal Liberals forced TransLink to build a rapid-transit line down Cambie Street to the airport and Richmond, which also have relatively low population densities.

Meanwhile, the Livable Region Strategic Plan called for the some of the greatest population increases to take place in the Tri-Cities area, which won’t get an Evergreen Line for years because TransLink is running out of money.

These rotten rapid-transit decisions are going to cause economic decline because we’re not moving people or goods around the region nearly as efficiently as we might have had politicians paid attention to basic principles of transportation planning.

They listened to the salesman for these projects and their enablers, like the Vancouver Airport Authority, rather than acting with common sense. The media, including the Globe and Mail and talk-show hosts, also bear some responsibility for failing to pay sufficient attention to the problem before it reached this point.

Crilly has blown the whistle–albeit, in understated bureaucratic language. But make no mistake. People in this region have been sold a bill of goods for too many years. And those who are responsible ought to be ashamed of themselves when they read his report

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