What if TransLink Executives were Volunteers?

There is always a lot of drama surrounding the fact that TransLink Executives make a lot of money– I’m not here to say that they don’t– but I just want to put some things into perspective about how people say that if we stop paying the executives so much, we’d have no problem funding transit. I’m sorry if this comes as a shock, but, we’d still have a problem.

Allow me to crunch some numbers and compare with something we can identify with:

Total amount of executive compensation for 2012 at TransLink:
Average cost per kilometre of SkyTrain projects built to date:

$2.5 M

$78.7 M

Length of SkyTrain network that could have been built if TransLink Executives were volunteers in 2012:



What this leads me to conclude is: for all those who think that cutting TransLink Executive salaries, even to those in comparable positions in the industry, we’re still going to need more transit funding.

When I say “comparable position” I mean the Chief Executive of a transit agency. What most people don’t realize is our transit agency does a whole lot more than just transit. TransLink operates passenger commuter rail, public bus, a ferry service, automated rapid transit, a police force, motor coach, four bridges, and most of a city’s major roadways– among other things. Personally, I can almost justify their salaries.

If you don’t take the Bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain, Westcoast Express, or Canada Line, TransLink owns and maintains the Knight Street Bridge, the Pattullo Bridge, the Westham Island Bridge, and the Golden Ears Bridge as well as the “Major Road Network” which encompasses most major arteries in Metro Vancouver that the BC Government doesn’t maintain.

The upcoming referendum is a huge deal and it affects virtually everyone. Judging the wide scope of TransLink’s mandate, I’d call the upcoming referendum a “mobility referendum” rather than a “transit referendum”.

Update: SkyTrain cost per kilometre not adjusted for inflation.

South Delta Citizens and Rapid Transit


Each year, Ipsos puts out a survey that surveys how people feel about their city. This year’s hot topic? Transportation.

Transportation is the number one issue concerning people and for 44% of the survey responses. Of that 44%, 6% of the concern was around public transit subcategory– the second biggest concern in the category. Where there is concern, there is demand. Most people just need a more frequent and convenient transit network to get them to leave their cars at home.

In a recent statement on expanding rapid transit to South of the Fraser, the CEO of TransLink, Ian Jarvis stated that “[he] wouldn’t say it’s a ‘dream.’ (Light rail) is something we need to look at in terms of how the Lower Mainland is going to develop.”

A comment made by Marvin Boutlier on that article made me think about expanding rapid transit to Ladner– and at first it seems like it would never work, but after taking a closer look at the idea, it makes a whole lot of sense.

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 14.50.46
A radical idea for a South Fraser LRT line.

Right now, 40 buses use the Hwy 99 corridor per hour at peak times. Most of these busses (the 351, 352, 354, 404, 601, 602, 603, 604 & 620 to name a few) run through the tunnel and feed an overcrowded Bridgeport Station.

If light rail were to connect South Delta in Ladner at Hwy 17 and Ladner Trunk, all the buses that typically run through the tunnel can connect at Ladner thusly reducing the cost to run them (noting that South Delta is the most expensive region TransLink operates in).

With a new Hwy 17 on the South Fraser Perimeter Road the repurposed Hwy 17a is the perfect corridor for buses to connect to Ladner, especially with the new separated lane at exit 28 on Hwy 99.

Arthur Drive and Ladner Trunk

You may recall how I previously wrote about cycling in car-oriented communities. Recently, the Arthur Drive and Ladner Trunk Intersection improvements finished and I regret not saying anything during the planning process. Here’s the result of the recent work:

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.23.37 PM It’s interesting to note that engineers expect students who walk and bike to school to find this a safe and welcoming environment. Judging from the design and my experience as a pedestrian and cyclist this intersection is less than desirable. If designers ignore road users like pedestrians and cyclists, vehicle usage will only increase because of the higher capacity. And we wonder why people drive their children to school.

I recently was shown this video and I wish that I had seen it sooner to say something to the Corporation of Delta. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

The Pedestrian Experience

SurDel, the area that is North Delta but tried really hard to be like Surrey. I was in SurDel yesterday running some errands and had a rather difficult time in the strip-malls on foot. I was totally fine awkwardly walking amongst the cars to get to a footpath, but when I got to a footpath, it was tiny! I find it really funny that in order to get to a store, you need to walk into it, but the second that you step outside the entire surrounding area is built around cars and cars only. Maybe it’s just me and my weird observations, but I felt pretty ostracized as a pedestrian.

Cycling in Car-oriented Communities

Car-oriented intersection near Ladner Village

Today I had the pleasure of riding my bike into town, which is never an issue. I’ve never really had a problem with it until today when I was rudely and abruptly told to go on the road by a passing pedestrian. In Ladner, the corporation of Delta has decided to do some (much needed) infrastructure and roadway upgrades near Ladner Village that include widening the footpaths. I was cycling into the village, and forced to ride on the footpath because the car-oriented nature of the road made it unsafe for cycling. Honestly, if Delta is trying to nurture the quality of the “village” experience, the upgrades should have included some sort of bike lane.

The footpath I was told to vacate by a pedestrian.

In addition, the intersection receiving the upgrades is a frequently used corridor to the local high school which gets heavy use from students commuting by foot and bike to school. There is often congestion during the rush to and from school because cyclists and pedestrians are packed into a ~1.5m wide shared pathway next to the busy traffic of Ladner Trunk Rd.

If I may give my two cents, I feel that the upgrades should have taken into consideration all modes of transportation not just walking and driving. If the city (and the GVRD at large) is trying to encourage people to explore alternative modes of transportation, the Corporation of Delta is not making it easy.

Transit Fares

Here in Vancouver, I’m frequently bombarded by negative conversation surrounding the (seemingly) high cost of public transit fares. It wasn’t too long ago that a friend of mine shared this info-graphic with me. It’s really an eye opener that compares fare cost with distance travelled. I’d say fares here in Vancouver are well worth it. IMO Metro Vancouver’s transit authority, TransLink is really doing a great job at being competitive when compared to other transit authorities across the country in other major cities. If TransLink could just generate more revenue and close the spending gap…

Link to Infographic

Car Sharing

Car sharing networks are a truly revolutionary idea when it comes to taking cars off the road, reducing emissions and cutting costs. I was first introduced to car sharing in 2009 when I saw ZipCar’s presentation at Apples WWDC and was amazed at how simple it was to enrol in a program and instantly share a car with every other member. If you’re not going to carpool with someone to the same place at the same time, car sharing is a brilliant idea; it’s like carpooling by proxy!

Bike Share Programs

Vancouver is growing to become a very bike friendly city. There are designated bike lanes on many streets that give citizens that freedom of transportation choice. A new proposal would follow in the other footsteps of other cities like Boston, Washington DC, New York, and Melbourne that have already implemented bike share programs. If all goes well Vancouver could be implementing a bike share program as early as Summer 2014.

Bike share programs are a crucial step in encouraging people to leave their cars at home and use alternative transportation methods. The quality of life in a city would be enhanced ten-fold by reducing carbon emissions and encouraging residents to shop locally. It would even make people happier, as suggested by some studies. By focusing the attention on a small area, the 100-mile diet could become a reality in Vancouver.

George Massey Tunnel

The George Massey Tunnel is a vital link between South Delta and Richmond. It is part of BC Highway 99 and connects the city of South Surrey, White Rock and Blaine (Washington) to Vancouver via Richmond. Originally opened in 1959, it replaced ferry service across the South Arm of the Fraser River. Today, the tunnel has come under heat as a bottleneck for commuters who each have their own cars. High-Occupancy vehicle lane programs have failed to encourage commuters to carpool and the problem of congestion, and degrading air quality is growing worse.

If the tunnel is not replaced it poses a risk as an aging structure and could pose dangerous in the event of a natural disaster. When the tunnel gets replaced, the biggest gaping hole (in my opinion) that would need to be filled is the lack of rapid transit south of the Fraser River.

Late last year there was a hearing held in Delta and these are the notes that I gathered from the hearing: Massey Tunnel Replacement Hearing Notes

Rapid Transit for Suburban Areas

There is a huge demographic in suburban areas that demand access to transit.

Light rail needs to be considered and transit plans need to be extended beyond Richmond.

In a perfect world, instead of a bus that runs every 30 minutes, it would make sense to take transit to town. The obvious solution to this issue would be rapid light rail. After all, if rail reaches south of the Fraser River, it would have to get to the ferry terminal which is the gateway to British Columbia’s Capital City and Legislature.

The image attached to this post is my wild imagination proposing an additional rail line that extends to South Surrey and South Delta. It could also be further developed and linked with the proposed Surrey Line.