Translink Dips into the Reserves

The Translink board adopted their 2009 budget on Friday, which calls for a $100 million reach into the reserve accounts.

At the end of 2009, there will be $298 million left in the reserve fund, which could easily be eaten in just a few years. The coming year looks to be a busy one as far as projects and completions go: new Westcoast Express cars, renovations to the Waterfront and Mission stations to accommodate longer trains, the launching of the Canada Line, opening of the Golden Ears Bridge, and the addition of another SeaBus all are planned for this year.

Translink CEO Tom Prendergast spoke bluntly about the future financial gaps:

"We're not taking the foot off the accelerator [in terms of spending], but we're not pushing the accelerator to the floor, either," "We're keeping moving forward with the expansion necessary to meet demand as it grows in the region. . . .But in order to do that, we're drawing down on the reserves we have. If that continues and we don't get a long-term funding strategy put in place, we run out of gas in 2011."

This is not news, and has been announced several times already, but what is interesting is that a plan to stop the bleeding doesn't seem to be in place, either through increased revenues or cost-cutting measures -- perhaps since to bring up either could be political suicide at the moment.

I'd say the time is ripe to revisit some of the current projects in the pipeline - such as the Highway 1 expansion and the SFPR- that simply don't fit in with what we should have learned by now about transit planning and its relation to environmental degredation, in light of peak oil and high gas prices.

Funding should be directed away from these projects and into light rail, more buses and innovative plans for improving bus services, especially in lower-density suburbs. SkyTrain should be abandoned as a technology, and replaced by overhead-wire, light rail services in future line plans (like the Evergreen Line and Fraser Valley Interurban).

Transport trucks certainly need to get around, and faster than they do now, but removing passenger cars would help them out more than highway expansion will. Translink should even move cargo on the light rail lines.. that would be an interesting development.

(Photo by Alistair Howard)