Translink supplemental funding

November 18, 2010

Since Jhenifer Pabillano from the Translink’s Buzzer kindly sent me some material on the Translink quest for more money, I feel oblige to comment on it, while I confess I have not asked directly to Translink further clarification.

To finance the Evergreen line, Translink’s Board has endorsed two supplemental plan options.

We will forget the extensive option [1] , which goal is to make less bitter the basic one [2], apparently framed to capitalize on the senior government funding, and requiring $44 millions /year supplemental financing.

This basic option request additional financing from Metro mayor for

  • The United Boulevard extension to Brunette avenue (North Fraser perimeter Road phase 1)
  • the addition of a platform at Broadway Commercial station
  • The Evergreen Line
  • .

North Fraser perimeter Road phase 1

To speak the less, is that there is little, if any, material to justify this 1km or so highway extension, basically parallel to a future widened highway 1, and this at not less than 150 million price tag!

Apparently in despite of lack of study and readiness of the project , this could need to be rushed out, in order to secure some federal funding in the tune of $65 million [12].

If Vancouver had behaved in such manner, in the 60s, we could have got a freeway instead of a sea bus accross the Burrard Inlet [10]:

Eventually federal money is not always good to take, and clearly in the case of United Boulevard, the project is not mature and very questionable. We should take a pass rather than to risk to jeopardize the shaping of our region, just to grab some “sin” money and some people like Mattew Laird attenthtothefraser or Eric Doherty and Andrew Murray [9] are rightly questioning the sanity of such a project

Notice, also that the region cannot explain it want to manage transportation demand by road pricing tool, and in the meantime say “amen” to new major road project paid by property tax. That is totally unreasonable and.

The addition of a platform at Broadway Commercial station

There is no specific price tag given for it: it is unclear why this project is part of the basic plan. While we shouldn’t denied the crowding at expo line platform at Broadway/Commercial station: Is it any worst than the one at Union station in Toronto?

Not sure, and not sure why this project (and not another) has been integrated in the basic supplemental plan?

The Evergreen Line

Apparently, and it is new, federal funding could evaporate if there is no commitment by the end of the year. Since the senior governments have committed 1 billions dollars on it, leaving only 400 millions to foot by Translink: it is hard to pass on such a project, even if it could be less of a priority from a transit perspective than a political one.

Let’s see the number provided by Translink for the year 2020, by comparing the stabilization plan previously approved (not including the Evergreen line), and the supplemental one including basically only the Evergrren line as Transit enhancement.

Stabilization Plan [4] Supplemental Plan [2] Evergreen line
Transit revenue 651.6 678.2 26.6
Transit operation 990.9 1,006.5 15.6

The Evergreen line is not affecting other revenue source, noticeabily gas and parking tax, and road toll. So the Evergreen line is assumed to improve the Translink operating sheet, in such a sort that the shortage of money is less than the amoritization of the capital contribution.

Here are ballpack number (in millions) for the Evergreen line (by comparing projection from [2] and [4])

Operating Revenue 26.6
Operating Expense 15.6
Capital cost amortization (5% interest on 35 years) 21
Deficit 10

That is great, because apparently only 10 millions need to be found annually, so less than 1% of its annual transit operating budget: apriori not something undo-able.

Then why we should need to pay additional property tax for the Evergreen line?

Problem

Translink requires $500 millions of additional capital, which it estimates require an infinite additional funding of $44 millions per year: Not sure how that can be explained?

Obviously noone is fool enough to believe a single word of the current provinicial government, so the rethoric consisting to say, “vote the tax hike, and continue to discuss with the government hoping to not implment it“, is doomed from the start! [8]

Once property tax hike will be voted, the Province will have no incentive whatsoever to stay at the negociation table:
Indeed it is time for the mayors to take advantage of a desperately weak provincial government by letting it know clear and loud that “we need transportation-based sources to fund the expansion of transit[5],[11].

That is to say :vote no to the Translink supplemental plan, but does that say no to the Evergreen Line?

No: Translink needs to come with a better option to make it happens

The better option

First, assume the Translink number, strip 20%, only the Evergrren line is really required, so translink need only $35.2 millions per year

Second, As noticed by the Translink commissioner, Translink doesn’t need to come with a fully 10 years funded plan, giving some leeway the agency has not took advantage of it yet[6].

Thirdly, $35.2 million is only 3% of its 2020 projected operating expense, or 4% of its 2011 one. so the deal is not to increase the financing but to to decrease the operating expense, that say decrease the bus service by 3%-4% (eventually a bit more to take account he lost of revenue due to less service [7] ).

In 2011, Translink could continue to operate as usual as promised, and that gives time to negociate, and properly implement some sustainable funding mechanism by 2012, including some property tax increase if people want…but at least the province will not be able to walk away, letting the home owner foot the bill of Victoria’s turpitudes.


[1] Moving forward, Translink, November 2011.

[2] Delivering Evergreen Line and North Fraser Perimeter RoadTranslink, November 2011.

[3] The Translink page on the project lacking of any specific documentation and study, option speak for itself!

[4] Base Plan and Outlook , Translink, 2011

[5] citing Vancouver Mayor inShowdown continues over Evergreen funding, Franck Luba, The PRovince, November 16th, 2010

[6] Report of the Regional Transportation Commissioner on TransLink’s 2011 Base Plan and Outlook, Martin Crilly, August 2010

[7] According to the 2010 Drastic cut plan of Translink, a reduction of 41% of service could have resulted to a reduction of 30% in revenue. Now, reduction of hour service in the range of 3-4% could be far less visible, and can be done as a matter of service rationalization. As an example, the short turning of route 3 at Main and Hasting (instead to continue to dowtown) could save in the tune of 20% of service hours without affecting significantly the service.

[8] It is the message that the Translink Spokeman, Ken Hardie is trying to convey in some outlet and blog like the France Bula one.

[9] Translink freeway push must be stopped, Eric Doherty and Andrew Murray, Georgia Straight, November 16th 2010

[10] see https://voony.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/the-case-for-rapid-transit-in-1970/

[11] Notice that it seems also to be the opinion of Councillor geoff Meggs

.

[11] Transport canada press release May 11, 2007.

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