Mayor Wayne Wright views a rejection of proposed transit fare increases as an opportunity to delve deeper into TransLink's overall operation.
Martin Crilly, who is TransLink's commissioner, rejected a proposed 12.5 per cent fare increase that would have taken effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Had the increases proposed by TransLink been approved, a one-zone ticket would have risen from $2.50 to $2.75, a two-zone ticket would have risen from $3.75 to $4.25 and a three-zone ticket would have risen from $5 to $5.50.
Wright is a member of TransLink's Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation, which appoints TransLink's board of directors and commissioner, and approves TransLink plans such as the transportation plan, regional funding and borrowing limits.
"Mr. Crilly put his information forward and told us he didn't agree with raising the fares," Wright told The Record. "We are trying to see how can TransLink get their financial situation in place."
Wright said the decision provides impetus for TransLink taking a "big picture" look at its overall needs. He noted that the City of New Westminster is currently working on a master transportation plan that addresses all transportation issue in the city - and TransLink needs to con-sider a similar process.
"TransLink needs to look at their entire system, not just fares independently," he said.
Wright said Crilly's decision means TransLink has an opportunity to look at broader plans for generating revenues, and for consulting with senior levels of government.
Crilly released a 103-page efficiency report Wednesday that indicated TransLink is a well-run organization, but has the ability for new cost savings. He challenged TransLink to find ways to save $40 million to $60 million in operating costs over the next three years.
Matthew Laird, a member of New Westminster Environmental Partners, said it's good the proposed fare hike was rejected, as it would have increased the burden on the poor and made transit a less attractive option, but it does raise serious concerns about how the gravely needed expansion of the system will be funded.
"It raises questions on why TransLink is pushing ahead with an unfunded and unneeded Pattullo Bridge replacement while the Golden Ears Bridge operates at a deficit and no business case has been made for a new six-lane bridge in to already gridlocked New Westminster," he said in an email to The Record. "I would hope this rejection will finally bring the provincial government to the table to give TransLink the needed tools to find stable revenue sources to deliver the public transit everyone seems to agree we so desperately need."
In related news, B.C. Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom has told the mayors council that the Ministry of Finance will do an audit of TransLink that's similar to the one done for B.C. Hydro and is currently underway for ICBC. In an April 10 letter to the mayors' council, he stated that the output of the audit will be a detailed action plan for TransLink to consider.
"I recognize that TransLink requires sustainable, long-term funding sources in order to expand services to meet public demands," Lekstrom wrote. "The audit will put all of us in a better position to assess the size of the need, which will inform future consideration of any potential new funding tools. I also believe that any potential new funding sources should be fully informed by meaningful public engagement led by the mayors' council."