Friday, March 6, 2015

Response to Stephen Rees

I agree with you that government by referendum is less than satisfactory. Six years in California has tainted my view on that. Having said that, I believe that if this is the ‘Public Consultation’ that Translink is supposed to undertake our erstwhile premier has a lot to learn. The largest problem with Translink is the hands-on, hands-off policy Victoria seems to be obsessed with. When you say Translink I think Victoria. If the two aren’t joined at the hip why would the board fire the CEO while the ink is still wet on his bonus cheque? Thank you Mr. Stone. Sadly Christie Clark will interpret the vote any way she wants. And continue to give us balanced budgets while leaving our schools unsafe, our medical waits the longest in Canada and off-loading as many bridges, etc. as possible. I guess the Victoria consensus is  that’s most people are buying the balanced budget part and accepting of the rest.

Essentially that is how I see the referendum: A thinly veiled attempt at mollifying the public with a seemingly moderate .5% sales tax increase. The real question is where will it stop? Will we be asked to pay for hospitals and schools next? Historically public transport and infrastructure are paid through income tax because it is the fairest form of taxation.   Again, here is a government bent on presenting a “balanced budget”. I find it really disconcerting that various municipalities are spending their money on pushing this agenda because it happens to serve their municipality. We are told that it is good for the economy and the environment and the “Yes” vote has bought into that. Really? This is just spin, these are not the issues, these are by-products . The real issue is, as you say ‘more transit’.  I would say more effective transit. If we are talking about the economics, we should be talking about the economics of our transit. And in this case that means Translink.

The link you sent is at odds with the information that I have;

in a lot of ways. The first document talks about Translink debt tripling from 2005 to 2009 while ridership went down. Administrative costs rose 100% from 2002-2008 while ridership costs rose 40%. Administration costs are the second highest of its peers. The second document states that Coast MountainBC costs are higher than most Canadian peers. Certainly operating costs are substantially higher than systems in Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Toronto. According to data from CUTA (Canadian urban transit association) cost efficiency is second lowest for this peer group and cost effectiveness the lowest. In terms of revenue passengers per kilometer Translink is the lowest in the group. All of this while the average fare costs are the highest of the group. Do these numbers speak of an efficient system?
The saddest statistic is that Translink attracts fewer riders per unit of service than any other system. How is it possible that this is not a threshold point for the CEO bonus? If Translink cannot improve that portion of its income it will always keep coming back for more money.

With the comment that 14 sick days were taken by employee per year I meant to show that Translink management and management/union relations are hardly exemplary.

I agree that the dialogue has slipped into little more than a yelling match. It is interesting that you see this as an American phenomenon. Having lived in 5 provinces in this fine country I find this a BC approach that seems to be perfected in Victoria. Give the people something to get polarized around and you can justify any decision. Really the divide and conquer approach. I lived in a resource community when Glen Clark said “we have a war in the woods”. And yes, we had a war in the woods. The very next day the community was split on two sides of the highway, doing the same thing the YES and NO sides are doing. Christie Clark is going to have a field day no matter what the outcome of the vote.

The reason I will be voting NO is not because South Delta service is decreasing with the increase in taxes. It will be because I have no faith in an organization that mixes operating costs with capital costs and gets away with it. We are, essentially, stock holders, and I want to see a lean organization that is not saddled with money losing bridges (3). Nor do I think it is reasonable to ask us to pay additional taxes for the debt incurred by the political decision of the Canada line.

Until these issues are settled I have no desire to throw good money after bad. The scare mongering tactic of telling us this is the “last kick at the can” is just that; a tactic. Let our elected politicians show some leadership and offer us something more than this parochial diatribe. Our urban development needs to be planned by people that have no political agenda or affiliation. Unless I can be shown that this is the case I am not convinced that this ‘coming back to the trough’ won’t be an endless drain on the middleclass.

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