Let’s see Translink walk the talk!

Feb 12, 2015 by

8 Things Translink could do to convince the public they deserve more money:

Translink announced yesterday that they were replacing their CEO, Ian Jarvis, in order to try to restore public confidence ahead of the upcoming regional referendum asking for a 0.5% increase to the PST across the Lower Mainland. It seems the board actually realizes the public doesn’t think they deserve any more money to mismanage, but they clearly don’t know how to change that perception. Criticisms have already been raised about the CEO change as it appears to be only a superficial gesture.

Not only will Ian Jarvis stay on with Translink in an advisory role until June 2016, but he will also continue to receive his full CEO’s salary of over $420,000. Translink will then go on to pay the Interm CEO Doug Allen, $210,000 over the next six months until a new CEO is appointed.

If Translink and the YES side really wants to restore public confidence and convince the public to vote to give up more hard earned money for additional transportation expenditures, here are some simple things they could do to prove it.

#1) Fire Ian Jarvis:

Transfering their CEO to an advisory role and continuing to pay him his salary is proof Translink doesn’t understand the public’s concern with mismanagement and overblown salaries. Ian Jarvis has been CEO of Translink since 2009 and has overseen the failed compass card, the system wide skytrain shutdowns and a downturn in projected ridership. It is time for him to go, don’t keep him around.

#2) End car allowances for the Executive Board:

Incoming CEO Doug Allen has said he is going to ride public transit to work. Great! Now make all of the board members take transit. End the car allowance for the executive board. Last year this totalled up to almost $100,000 – not a large savings – but it would be a good will gesture.

If you expect other people to use the system, prove you are willing to use it too. Let’s not forget that the Executive Board meets right at Sapperton Skytrain Station. And if there are members who aren’t willing to take transit, let them pay for their travel themselves.

#3) Cut Executive Pay:

Translink is telling the public that times are tough and that the public needs to sacrifice some of their hard earned paychecks in order to get a better transportation system. Prove that you are ready to make the first sacrifice. Cut executive salaries to reasonable levels. Pledge to do this for a few years, or until the promised improvements come, the tax is no longer needed, or at least until the compass card is implemented.

What is a reasonable salary level? Hard to say, but according to the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, in 2012, Ian Jarvis as CEO of Translink made $200,000 more than the Premier, $75,000 more than Prime Minister Harper, around $100,000 more than the heads of the Toronto Transit Commission and Montreal Transit, and $200,000 more than the head of Seattle’s transit system.

#4) Make All Translink Board Meetings Public:

If you want to prove you are ready for the public’s trust, start making all transit board meetings public. Translink has been criticized in the past for having meetings behind closed doors, including the meeting to appoint new board members. Stop doing this. Make every meeting open to the public, or at the very least post a video of the meeting online for the public to see what the board is discussing. Let’s not forget the board is responsible for spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars each year.

#5) Make Translink’s Budget Completely Public:

As mentioned, Translink is responsible for spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars each year. Show the public exactly where this information is being spent. Yes, Translink does meet the minimum standards for reporting on expenditures, but there is an opportunity to help restore the public’s trust by not just doing the minimum. Start telling the public what the $111,000 contract with UBC was for, or the $1 million dollar contract with West Pacific Consulting Group was for, and do it by default, without waiting for people to ask. Post all of the contracts online by default for the public to see.

#6) Make the list of projects clearer:

The Mayors of the local municipalities have come up with a great wishlist of projects. Included is the Broadway subway, light rail from Surrey to Langley, a new Pattullo Bridge and more money for busses, Handy Dart and West Coast Express. Some of these projects sound good and others sound a little more questionable. If you really want to convince us we will get these things by paying a little more, tell us when we can expect these projects to be completed. What is the anticipated completion date of each project and for each project tell us how much additional tax revenue will be required from each additional level of government.

#7) Tell us when the tax will end:

No one wants to agree to a tax that goes on forever. Tell the public how long the tax will need to be around in order to make the improvements to the system. Two years, five years, ten years, indefinitely? Also reassure the public that there will be no attempt to raise the tax rate during that time. One way to ensure this happens is for the Provincial Government to pass legislation requiring the tax be repealed on a certain date and keeping it at the currently proposed level until then.

#8) Start designing the system to encourage ridership:

Translink says we need to get people out of their cars and on public transit in order to combat traffic congestion and keep goods moving throughout the region. Apparently it costs more to keep a car driver on the road than a transit user since transit users take up less space on the road. I agree with this rational. If you take transit, there is more room on the road for me to drive. Well, Translink, if getting people to start taking transit is the goal, start acting like it.

The Transit system is not designed to encourage people that have the option of driving on a day to day basis, to take transit. Yes, within Vancouver transit is pretty good, but going from the suburbs into the city on transit is not a very tempting option for most people. Commute times can double for a lot of trips on transit when transfers are involved. With today’s fuel efficient cars, the cost of driving into the city is less than taking transit both ways and there are few park and rides which would allow drivers to drive to a Skytrain instead of having to bus as well. Let’s also not forget there are no washrooms on the Transit system.

All of these are things that the average daily driver considers when they decide whether to take Transit or drive. It seem like Translink only wants people to use it that are willing to give up their car completely. If you aren’t ready to commit to Translink 100% and still want to keep your car around for weekend trips and getting groceries, you might as well just drive all the time.

If Translink is serious about trying to earn the public’s trust and trying to convince the public to vote YES to giving them more money, they should stop trying to talk the talk and start taking some real action.

Written by James Filippelli, Leader of Your Political Party of BC. Views expressed are those of the author and don’t necessarily represent the views of the entire party. YPP encourages members to form their own opinions about all issues outside of YPP’s core principles of True Transparency, and The Triple Sustainability principle.

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