By Andrew Mitchell
In a move that’s been met with both praise and scorn, the provincial government effectively scrapped TransLink last week, firing board members of the former Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority.
In its place, the province has announced the creation of a new TransLink that will be comprised of mayors from the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and Sea to Sky and unelected appointees, but with the Ministry of Transportation firmly in charge.
The new TransLink will also cover a greater area, possibly as far north as Pemberton and as far to the east as Hope.
According to Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, the changes support the findings of the three-member TransLink Review Panel, which were released last week.
“Our goal is to ensure that TransLink has the governance structure and resources needed to move forward,” said Falcon. “The proper planning and delivery of the region’s transit projects is vital to an effective transportation system that will help us meet our collective goals of a competitive economy and a cleaner environment for all British Columbians.
“The panel members found that the current TransLink model is no longer effective as it stands.”
What effect the TransLink changes will have on Sea to Sky municipalities is largely unknown at this point, including whether or not Whistler and Pemberton will be co-opted into TransLink.
According to the 52-page TransLink Governance Review, which the province is in the process of moving forward, Squamish, Abbotsford and Mission would be included in the expanded transportation region, subject to the completion of transitional arrangements.
The second phase of the expansion would go as far east as Hope and as far north as Pemberton — the exact timing of which would be the decision of the TransLink Board, after negotiations with municipalities.
According to Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, Whistler would consider joining TransLink if it furthered the RMOW’s goals for the service.
“One thing that is a major concern is that Whistler is fairly anomalous in the province for a couple of reasons. For one, we have higher ridership per hour than any other jurisdiction in the province, more than Vancouver and Victoria combined, with more riders per bus per hour… and the fact is we also have one of the lowest fare box rates in B.C., which is a decision of council to complete on our affordability promises in Whistler 2020.”
Melamed says he would be wary of any commitment to TransLink that would impact ridership or increase fare box rates to match rates in Vancouver and Victoria, which are up to 70 cents higher.