- BC Games
Editorial — TransLink's future
The Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council has released an independent review of TransLink governance, and to no one’s surprise, it suggests that local politicians should take much more control of TransLink.
While mayors are correct that there is a lack of accountability for TransLink decisions with the current mixture of a mayors’ council, non-elected board and commissioner, a return to the old system of local government representatives making far-reaching decisions on regional transportation priorities would be a disaster.
The current system came about as a result of a series of questionable decisions by the TransLink board, none of whom were elected by voters to make transportation decisions. The board members were a mixture of mayors and councillors from all across the region.
They on a number of occasions rejected the Canada Line project, an integral part of the 2010 Winter Olympics infrastructure, which was funded to a significant degree by the federal government. This was rejected for political or selfish motives.
Former transportation minister Kevin Falcon had had enough, and changed the legislation to give local politicians fewer decision-making powers, but final word on taxation. This was a sop to those who pointed out that the non-elected board was not accountable, yet was making taxation decisions.
The “professional” board has had its own set of problems, notably meetings behind closed doors and directors’ fees that are far beyond reasonable. It has provided a more thoughtful approach to transportation issues, though.
The fundamental problem with TransLink is it does not have access to enough tax dollars to build significant new projects or increase transit service. Thus every step forward becomes controversial, because it involves nickel and diming taxpayers.
A directly-elected regional board which does nothing but plan future transportation improvements and run the existing service would be far better than any relinking of TransLink with mayors or Metro Vancouver. In fact, the report hints at this, saying Stockholm and London have good governance models. Both cities directly elect transportation officials.
A new board must also have enough taxing power to start making real improvements that people don’t mind paying for.
Otherwise, it would be best if the province goes back to running the system itself. At least taxpayers can hold MLAs accountable, and they aren’t nearly as parochial as mayors.