Who is running the show at TransLink?It's certainly not taxpayers or transit riders. Both have suffered as the smorgasbord of TransLink taxes and fares rise over and over again, only to watch helplessly as their hard-earned dollars are blown on Transit Police, $40,000 TVs, blundering sound wall installations, and other waste. B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone -- safely ensconced in Kamloops, the home of the province's cheapest gas -- is rightly sticking to the premier's campaign promise of a TransLink tax hike referendum. Several mayors are unhappy with TransLink. Delta's Lois Jackson, a former Metro Vancouver chair, said last year that the agency is spending like "a drunken sailor." This year, Jackson said she supports the B.C. Liberals' referendum plan because "people need to have a say in how this damn thing is being run." Burnaby's Derek Corrigan, a key swing vote between any Vancouver-Surrey divide at Metro, ripped TransLink's expansion plans, notingthat "the idea that the property taxpayer is a bottomless pit of money is over. The reality is that we're seeing, in every one of our communities, blow back from the public." West Vancouver Mayor Mike Smith is ready to throw TransLink under the bus once and for all. Even his neighbour, North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton, TransLink mayors' council chairman, sounds exasperated by the agency these days. Take the issue of lifetime passes, for example: "Quite frankly, the public transportation doesn't need to subsidize people with free passes," Walton said. It took years of public criticism, but the mayors' council is finally reviewing the Transit Police -- an expensive, ineffective fare check regime TransLink continues to push on to taxpayers. TransLink's appointed board of directors don't seem terribly enthused with the agency's direction either. They have been virtually invisible in recent months, except for a fascinating opinion piece by chair Nancy Olewiler in the March edition of Policy Options magazine. "A society of slow growth may be the tipping point for transportation," wrote Olewiler, whose argument applies to roads, bridges and massive transit projects.
"Slower growth may change the assumptions that go into our projections for new transportation capacity. That possibility is something for planners to think about before they take long-term decisions to pump billions of dollars into infrastructure spending, at the expense of investments in health or education, which we will need to improve our quality of life."