The public has voted against TransLink, and the region’s mayors should start looking at ways to reform the transit authority’s governance, says Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker.
When the Metro Vancouver board sits again, Becker will make a motion that it prepare a report on alternative governance structures for the delivery of public transit in the region.
The regional transit referendum saw 62 per cent of the region’s voters saying No to a 0.5 per cent provincial sales tax increase to fund transit improvements across the region.
Becker said he has observed the reaction to the referendum result, which was released Thursday.
Interim TransLink CEO Doug Allen is the one person to say the result is not an indictment of TransLink.
“He may be the only person the province with that perspective,” said Becker. “The current structure needs to be changed. The funding model needs to be changed.”
On Monday, Pitt Meadows city hall issued a press release regarding Becker’s proposed transit governance report.
“What I see from the referendum results is that people want better transit, but there is a governance problem with TransLink,” Becker said in the release. “The mayors’ plan addresses the transportation needs of the region going forward, but we need to find new ways of governing that model in a way that is efficient and serves the needs of transit users.”
What does he see as the governance problem?
“At its heart is the lack of direct accountability,” he answered.
There are 23 members of the Mayor’s Council that operate TransLink, but there are four other boards that handle various aspects of the transit authority, he pointed out.
Becker said he does not want to pre-judge his proposed reports findings, but he would prefer a model that makes elected officials directly responsible.
He says the regional staff should explore a public utility model, similar to the water and liquid waste utilities that are administered by Metro.
“The political decision makers and the technical advisors would be much more closely aligned,” he explained.
“Subjectively, I would say they operate more efficiently,” said Becker.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore agrees and says most members of the Mayors Council believe TransLink should be governed by locally elected people. Having Metro run TransLink would be one way to achieve that.
Moore was a key voice in selling the transit plan to voters before the referendum. He said most voters would agree that the region is growing and needs more transit infrastructure, and most would not take issue with the plan as presented.
They voted no because of their “challenges” with Translink, he said.
He said Becker’s motion is “good process.”
“If we can move water and sewage throughout the region and cooperate, we can use a similar model to move people and goods throughout the region,” Becker said.
He expects the motion to stimulate informed debate about alternatives.
“But it’s a notice of motion – I may not even get a seconder.”
He added that TransLink is “a creature of the province,” and Victoria would have to pass new legislation in order to change the governance.
However, he believes the conversation should start soon, and the mayor’s council should play a leading role.