Giving TransLink more tax dollars is like giving a pyromaniac a fresh box of matches. Both will eventually run out and keep coming back for more -- unless they change their ways.
TransLink is a rat's nest of redundancy and waste.
Nowhere is this maltreatment of tax dollars more apparent than in TransLink's myriad of boards. The TransLink board of directors collected $486,419 last year, ten per cent more than the $442,003 paid to the unpopular BC Ferries' board.
That's bad enough, but the TransLink board is just one of half-a-dozen set up to govern transit in the Lower Mainland.
A separate Transit Police board cost taxpayers $35,644. The B.C. Rapid Transit Company board -- which operates the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines - cost $24,551 in compensation. The Coast Mountain Bus Company board pocketed $17,875. Even the West Coast Express, with just ten daily trips and operating only on weekdays, has its own board, which was paid $9,600.
The 23 members of the TransLink Mayors' Council are paid $500 per meeting, with the chair receiving a bonus $5,000 annually. Calculate each of them attending 15 meetings -- a conservative estimate given they have seven public meetings and an unspecified number of chats behind closed doors -- and the council shares $177,500.
Add all of these boards together and taxpayers were on the hook for $751,589 last year -- just for people to sit around tables and talk. And that doesn't include whatever is paid to the board overseeing TransLink's two private-public partnerships, InTransitBC (which runs the Canada Line) and the Golden Crossing General Partnership (which oversees the Golden Ears Bridge).
All of these different divisions in TransLink add to its administrative overhead -- cutting frontline service by redirecting money to bureaucracy. These companies not only have their own boards, they have their own presidents, vice-presidents, finance departments, information technology departments, planning departments and human resources departments. And those costs quickly add up.
Earlier this summer, TransLink was criticized for its high executive salaries and for having 141 staffers make more than $100,000 - a one-year jump of 14.6 per cent. But that was just the tip of the iceberg: another 252 six-figure incomes are buried in the other companies.
All together, that's 393 six-figure employees in the TransLink empire, plus whatever is being paid out at InTransitBC and Golden Ears Crossing, which are not subject to government salary disclosure laws.
As much as some people would like to shift the debate in the coming funding referendum away from TransLink's record to more ethereal transit and livability arguments, it is not possible.
The referendum is the ultimate -- and likely final -- hammer of accountability in the hands of taxpayers, who paid $1.3 billion last year in gas taxes, parking taxes, Hydro levies, property taxes, bridge tolls and fares to TransLink. Every part of the system should be combed through before any taxpayer agrees to give another nickel to this organization.
Are six boards too much? How much redundancy is there with all of these different companies and silos within TransLink? Could Transit Security handle most of Transit Police's work for half the cost? Have they pursued every possible moneymaking opportunity besides tax and fare hikes? Have they cut every program that does not move a single person a single inch?
You can call TransLink many things, but efficient and well-run? No way. Until it is, taxpayers should be looking forward to voting "none of the above" to TransLink's tax grab referendum next year.