TransLink already runs some compressed natural gas buses – last purchased in 2006 despite concerns over their costs and effectiveness – and the agency is now planning to buy more.

Regulator scolds TransLink property sell off as imprudent

Bus buying with federal gas tax may also be scuttled by Metro Vancouver mayors

TransLink is being criticized by its independent regulator for its decision to inappropriately sell off surplus property to avoid transit service cuts or fare increases.

TransLink commissioner Robert Irwin issued that warning in his review of the transportation authority’s new 2014 plan and outlook, but also noted the move is unavoidable because there’s no deal yet with the province to approve new revenue sources.

“The sale of assets to support operations is not prudent fiscal policy,” his report says.

“The only other recourse for TransLink would be fare increases or service reductions in the absence of additional funding sources.”

TransLink has been drawing down its cumulative reserve on the basis new funding would be approved in time to avert cuts.

But the province’s decision that there be a referendum in 2014 on new sources has delayed the expected arrival of sustainable funding and cast doubt on whether it will be approved.

TransLink envisions selling major unused properties to raise $40 million in 2016 and $110 million in 2017 to maintain its reserve at at least 10 per cent of its budget.

Mayors argue money from real estate sales should be set aside for new capital projects, rather than being bled away to keep the system running.

“It’s just the worst strategy,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said. “All you’re really doing is deferring a problem and increasing the downward spiral.”

While transit service would be maintained at current levels under the plan, Irwin notes it will not keep up with the region’s rising population, meaning riders can expect deteriorating conditions.

Transit service hours per capita are projected to decline back to 2007 levels by 2016 and to 2004 levels by 2020.

Irwin also flagged rising labour costs as a concern after a new three-year contract signed earlier this year lifted wages for bus drivers and other unionized staff.

TransLink’s $1.44 billion in annual revenue comes mainly from fares, property taxes and its 17-cent-a-litre fuel tax.

Mayors have requested a new source, such as a vehicle levy, a small regional sales tax, a share of the carbon tax or, eventually, road pricing.

George Heyman, the NDP’s critic on TransLink, said the government’s insistence on a referendum on new sources will condemn transit riders to worse overcrowding and longer waits in the years ahead.

The commissioner also warned TransLink’s bus replacement program may be derailed if Metro Vancouver politicians block the continued allocation to TransLink of 100 per cent of federal gas tax transfers, set to be renewed next spring.

That money can only be spent on capital projects, not operating costs.

Metro mayors have criticized TransLink’s capital spending priorities in the past and have indicated they may seek to instead channel some of the federal gas tax money to municipal or regional projects, such as sewage treatment plant replacements.

TransLink plans to spend $367 million from the federal transfers to buy new buses and upgrade SkyTrain infrastructure.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has challenged the recent choice to buy compressed natural gas buses, which he suspects is a politically motivated decision linked to the province’s natural gas strategy.

Just Posted

Surrey mayor appoints Terry Waterhouse to oversee policing transition

Waterhouse was hired by the previous Surrey First slate as the city’s first-ever Director of Public Safety Strategies

Proposed coal project for Fraser Surrey Docks back in court

It could be months before the federal appeal court renders a decision

PHOTOS: Hockey history in Surrey as Team India comes to play

Squad played its very first game in Canada on Tuesday against Surrey Falcons

Letters shed light on state of mind of mother accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey’s Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

Surrey to hear news on Olympic softball qualifier bid next week

Decision, originally expected in September, was delayed by World Baseball Softball Confederation

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Provincial housing boss brought home more than $350,000 in 2017-18

BC Housing develops, manages and administers a wide range of subsidized housing options

Prince Charles turns 70 with party, new family photos

Charles is due to have tea on Wednesday with a group of people who are also turning 70 this year

Calgarians vote ‘no’ to bidding for 2026 Winter Games, in plebiscite

Out of 767,734 eligible voters, 304,774 voted and 171,750 said ”no.”

Kuhnhackl scores 2 odd goals as Isles dump Canucks 5-2

Vancouver drops second game in two nights

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Most Read

l -->