Evergreen Line Talk Heating Up

One thing that we learned during the Winter Olympics is that if we really want to, we can use public transit. During the Games, Translink moved 1.5 million people a day in Greater Vancouver, 48.6% higher than a normal day. Vehicle use was reduced by 35% each day, exceeding the 30% goal organizers had set. With a transit ticket included as part of the price of an Olympic event ticket, the system was loaded, but performed admirably throughout the Games.

Point is, when we the public want to use transit, we can get out of our cars, and the advantages of building sustainable communities anchored by rapid transit I believe outweigh the short term capital costs.

Which brings us to the Evergreen Line. When we last talked about it in October the Evergreen Line was in jeopardy again as Translink needed to find another $450 million in funding to build the line and maintain current service levels. The mayors ended up voting down the increase in funding necessary to build the Evergreen, approving a smaller package of funding to maintain service levels. At the time, Premier Campbell said the line will continue, with or without the mayors’ approval.

Before we get to the latest developments, a little background on the way that Translink is governed. The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority was formed in 1999 to replace the old BC Transit, as well as take over many of the transportation responsibilities in the Lower Mainland. The board consisted of a number of elected municipal politicians. In 2007, Translink was overhauled, here’s how it’s now run…

  • The politicians of the original board were replaced by a professional board appointed by the provincial government chosen from a Screening Panel that draws up a list of candidates who have applied for the positions. The Mayors’ Council then appoints the Directors from that list and the Directors responsible for the overall operations of Translink.
  • The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation consists of all 22 mayors in the Translink area. This council has voting power over fare and tax increases that fund Translink. The Mayors also vote on which 3 and 10 year regional transportation plans to adopt. This system has led to some friction between the mayors and the province, as the mayors no longer have the same control over Translink they had under the old system.
  • There is also an independent Regional Transportation Commissioner who is a separate regulator from everyone and reports to the Mayors Council. Martin Crilly, is the man in the seat, he also happens to fulfill the same role at BC Ferries.
  • Now with this many fingers in the pie it’s amazing anything gets done, but don’t get too used to any of this. Word is the province is now getting ready to overhaul the funding, and perhaps the governing formula for Translink, and this will include a commitment to actually fund the Evergreen. This week the Metro Vancouver mayors repeatedly called for a meeting with the province on the future of Translink and the Evergreen, going as far as meeting behind closed doors on Thursday to discuss strategy.

    With the province looking more serious about building the Evergreen Line than usual, the other mayors in the region are worried that the Evergreen will be built and take money away from transit projects in their jurisdictions. Now I can hear your howls of protest here that we’ve been ignored long enough, but when you get 22 mayors on a board all with voters to face back home, they won’t be able to agree on what to have for lunch, much less altruistically get behind our little 11 km piece of Skytrain. The province is hot to get started, as they want to get it done while the Federal government still has the $417 million they promised in their bank account.

    Finally on Friday, word came that Langley City & Regional mayors’ council chair Peter Fassbender will meet with Transportation Minister Shirley Bond today to discuss Translink’s future. Fassbender and the rest of the regional mayors are striking a conciliatory tone with the province. Probably the right move, as the province has shown in the past they are willing to take away the mayors’ voice at the table when they perceive local politics getting in the way of regional transportation infrastructure.

    Stay tuned everyone, there will be more twists and turns in this story before all is said and done. What do you think? Should the province take the bull by the horns and build it, or should the mayors’ council decision not to fund the Evergreen be heeded?

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    1. Drew Snider here, from TransLink. Re your first bullet point about the way TransLink is governed, the board of directors is not appointed by the provincial government. A Screening Panel draws up a list of candidates who have applied for the positions, then the Mayors’ Council appoints the Directors from that list. There’s a good description of the governance structure on Page 6 of the 2008 Annual Report, and you can find it online at http://www.translink.ca > About TransLink > Annual Reports.

      • Thanks for the clarification Drew. I got that from the Translink wikipedia page under the bullet points about the 2007 reorganization…

        “The old board will be replaced by a Council of Mayors from the municipalities in the area served by TransLink, a board of non-political experts appointed by the provincial government, and an Independent Commissioner of TransLink appointed by the Council of Mayors.”

        Perhaps an edit to the Wikipedia page is in order, or did this change after 2007?


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