TransLink projects $30-million shortfall in 2014 0
As the Metro Vancouver population grows, TransLink is finding it harder to keep up. Service-to-passenger levels are currently below what they were in 2009 and it's projected to continue dropping. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
TransLink is spending more money than it’s making to keep up current service levels and is projected to have a $30-million “gap” by the end of 2014, according to a report on next year’s plan.
The transit authority is expected to make $1.44 billion next year but spend $1.47 billion.
More important is the lack of transit expansion coupled with a growing population meaning service levels — which are already below 2009 levels — will plummet to 2007 levels in the next three years.
According to TransLink executives, in 2020 service levels per person in Metro Vancouver will decline to 2004 levels.
“We’ve increased service hours. There’s more transit out (with an increase of six million passengers over the past year). But what this means is the amount of service we have against the whole population, so this is a per-capita figure, is in decline and has been since 2009,” TransLink vice-president Bob Paddon said.
Meanwhile, fuel tax dollars are expected to drop for the first time in 2016, meaning less revenue, and TransLink said it would seek another fare increase in 2015.
The grim outlook was discussed among civic leaders and transit officials at the Mayors’ Regional Council for Transportation. TransLink has already been selling off properties to reduce its deficit and is filling in shortfalls with its surplus reserve.
To compound the funding problem, costs of maintaining and subsidizing existing infrastructure will also grow by millions unless something changes.
The Golden Ears Bridge, for example, required $30 million in funding from TransLink to subsidize last year but that number is expected to grow again to $40 million for 2014 and 2015 due to under-capacity use.
Additionally, the council heard TransLink has already spent $150 million on seismic upgrades to the foundation of the Pattullo Bridge. It would need another $140 million in 2015 to repair the bridge deck unless the crossing — which had its lifespan expire 26 years ago — is replaced as planned.
“We just don’t believe we can save our way to expansion,” Paddon added.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Todd Stone, who met with mayors Thursday morning, said he’s agreed with civic politicians that transit needs more funding and mayors should have more authority.
Mayors Council chairman Richard Walton agreed, but added operation decisions should be taken away from the province and put into municipal hands.