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Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Political football – winners and losers

Posted February 28, 2015 by Norman Farrell

Senior governments download responsibility for delivering services but seldom include taxing authorities adequate to match spending demands. The download trend is demonstrated in a report by The Columbia Institute:

British Columbia’s government prefers to raise revenues from individuals through consumption taxes and user fees rather than by progressive income taxes, natural resource proceeds and levies on corporations. That serves the interests of Liberal Party shareholders but it has the potential of creating disquiet among voters, the people asked to fund government operations.

Downloading serves political purposes by shifting both responsibility and accountability. The current transportation funding debate illustrates the (Read more…)

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Aaron Manton: On Last Night’s News: My thoughts on the TTC fare increase

Posted February 28, 2015 by Anonymous

I appeared on Global News Toronto last night on behalf of TTC Riders to offer a few comments on the TTC fare increase coming into effect this weekend. Even though they spelled my name wrong, I was happy to have some good quotes make it into the online and broadcast versions of the story: “I […]

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Poking through transit costs – UPDATED

Posted February 22, 2015 by Norm Farrell

[View the story “Some TransLink numbers” on Storify]

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General

A camel is a horse…

Posted February 2, 2015 by Norm Farrell
Voters in Metro Vancouver are asked to approve a regional increase in provincial sales tax to generate an estimated $250 million a year for TransLink. The vote is an advisory one, not binding on the province but it fits the Liberal preference for regressive taxation so the province won’t be an obstacle.

In December, politicians were saying the new tax “will be separate and distinct from PST” but in January, they were saying it would be fully harmonized with the provincial sales tax. This recalls a lesson we’ve learned before: political promises are valid from the time given only until they are deemed no longer valid. Keep that in mind when someone says, “It’s only half a percentage point.” It will be half a point, but only until it is not.

The list of projects promoted by the Mayor’s Council is watermarked “to be updated” so little is certain. Some items will be available to promote a future reach into the pockets of taxpayers. By example, the 2015 promise to increase peak frequency of SeaBus to every 10 minutes was first made in 2005 when TransLink was promising an expanded marine transportation system, including downtown passenger ferry service from Bowen Island and West Vancouver.

A Pattullo bridge replacement is featured but, of course, the crossing will be financed with tolls. Not included is a budget for replacement of Skytrain control and power systems, which are now using outdated technology with failures resulting in painful service shutdowns.

The sales tax proposal would be a large transit tax grab but TransLink has been steadily increasing its take. Since the referendum ask is not even sufficient to pay interest on proposed capital expenditures, there are other shoes that must drop to satisfy funding needs.

The vote would be useful if it encouraged a frank discussion of transit planning and management but I’m not sure that is happening. It seems municipal officials have only one solution in mind and that is to throw more money at problems. First, we ought to be asking if the existing sums are well spent. The answer, quite obviously, is no. Translink’s passenger counts have been flat and it’s costs are rising. This suggests need for circumspection and re-examination.

When I look at the organization of Translink, I recall the cautionary aphorism, “A camel is a horse designed by committee.” The referendum is about giving substantially more money to the committee.

ADDENDUM:

A 2012 consultants report was prepared for consideration of TransLink’s 2013 10-year plan. Some excerpts:

[TransLink] continues to lag other systems in cost efficiency, cost effectiveness and service productivity. …systems with similar population densities appear to be attracting more riders per unit of service than TransLink. This observation is relatively unchanged over the past five years in spite of the large increase in rail rapid transit…

TransLink’s performance relative to the four Canadian transit peer systems has also deteriorated. The declines are across the board in all indicators. As a result, a costly service has become even more expensive. Cost increases have more than offset increased revenues from the fare increase and cost recovery remains low…

…Internal trends reflect increasing costs and declining productivity in both labour and equipment utilization as well as high overhead. Internal change in how service is delivered has not kept pace with external changes in customer demand and rail system expansion as well as technological advances in vehicles and equipment.

…analysis shows TransLink’s [bus] boarding per hour have dropped to the lowest level in 20 years. …As a result, cost efficiency and effectiveness have both declined. Labour utilization declined and unproductive time remains high. Both stand out as areas needing improvement…

The analysis has revealed that TransLink and CMBC corporate overhead costs are high relative to other Canadian peer systems. Internal analysis has also shown that their rates of growth have exceeded service hour growth and that TransLink’s corporate overhead cost as a percentage of total revenue has risen…

Compared to Canadian peers, TransLink exhibits an abundance of equipment and staffing levels that help to explain its generally higher costs and lower cost efficiency and effectiveness than most of the peers, even after taking into account the challenges of its large service area. Internal trends reflect increasing costs and declining productivity in both labour and equipment utilization as well as high overhead…

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Climate Change

The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

Posted February 2, 2015 by Guest Contributors

By Emily Griffiths The Transit referendum “Yes” campaign has been asserting itself all over Facebook, Twitter, neighbourhood news boxes, and I can’t help but ask myself, Since when is increasing a flat tax a leftist thing to do? Oh! The word “transit” has been attached to the newest proposed consumer flat tax increase, therefore rendering … Continue reading The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

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LTC Meeting Agendas & Minutes

Posted December 14, 2014 by From My Bottom Step

London Transportation Commission
450 Highbury Avenue N.
London, Ontario; N5W 5L2
c/o Ms Caroline Roy; Executive Assistant
Please accept this added communication for the Commission’s 2014/12/17 meeting.
By deliberate design, the London Transportation Commission has only ever provided a limited number of archived agendas & minutes via it’s public website, ie. http://http://ltconline.ca/Agendas.htm.
For the sake of increased public transparency, please accept […]

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