News Local

TransLink must sell properties fast: report 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

(CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

(CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

TransLink must sell its unused real estate or face making up $150 million in funding through more fare increases or service cuts, according to a review of its operations plan.

“Any further delay in the sale of major properties pose a significant risk,” commissioner Robert Irwin said in his review of TransLink’s 2014 plan.

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

Irwin said his analysis is a marked change from the opinions of his predecessors, who have always warned “it’s not prudent fiscal policy” to sell properties for operational funding.

The largest property in the sell-off plan is the Oakridge Transit Centre, which had served as a maintenance yard of sorts. The sales have already been pushed back a year due to “zoning clearances.”

Currently, TransLink is planning for the property sales to generate $40 million in 2016 and $110 million the year after that.

The report, referencing the lack of transit service growth, adds TransLink had a “financially unsustainable surge” in growth before 2009 and service levels are now stabilizing.

Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs called the report “discouraging.” He said it indicates a lack of understanding of transit needs, since the commissioner doesn’t address issues of overcrowding and the recent reduction in service for suburban routes.

“The commissioner doesn’t seem to understand service optimization is service cuts and they’re very real and have a very real impact on the system,” he said.

Meanwhile, Irwin also warned that TransLink’s bus replacement program — which currently uses about $122 million in federal gas tax funding approved by Metro Vancouver’s civic politicians — could be in jeopardy.

He said the region’s political leaders have indicated TransLink might not receive the full sum. This could put $367 million in vehicle replacement and infrastructure upgrades, including natural-gas-technology retrofits and SkyTrain upgrades, at risk.

Meggs, who’s on Metro Vancouver’s transportation committee, said some civic leaders on the regional governance body want more control over how the federal gas tax is spent.

Poll

Should TransLink sell unused real estate to avoid fare hikes?

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