Yes vote doesn’t guarantee Langley more transit

TransLink passengers will likely see reduced service across the system next year, whether Metro Vancouver residents support or reject a 0.5 per cent sales tax increase to fund transportation expansion or reject it.

Interim CEO Doug Allen said the transportation authority will look at “service optimization” – moving buses from lower performing routes to those with higher demand such as Vancouver’s Broadway — even if the recent plebiscite passes.

“In some areas, if you can get more passengers, or more ridership, then you’re better off,” Allen said following TransLink’s annual general meeting Friday.

Elections BC said it expected to have the results of the plebiscite by late June, or early July. The plebiscite requires a 50 per cent plus one vote to pass.

Allen maintains TransLink is “up for the challenge whatever the future brings,” but noted the situation will be more acute should the public reject the 0.5 per sales tax because there won’t be any new money flowing into the system. Regional mayors had suggested the proposed sales tax would generate $250 million annually for the transit system, and help pay for more buses and road maintenance as well as light rail for Surrey and a subway along Vancouver’s Broadway corridor to Arbutus.

Allen said while he didn’t want to speculate on the fallout from a No vote, TransLink would likely have to look at reducing service frequency across the system, including on the weekends in areas where there is lower demand. TransLink estimates it has already reallocated 390,000 bus service hours — taking service from one area and moving it another — across the system since 2010.

“If anyone thinks that in a no scenario that we can move on or even deliver the status quo, we can’t,” he said. “Our job will be to deliver the highest quality service day in and day out but we will be restrained. We’re going to have to be very efficient and smart while we do it.”

Allen acknowledged service levels per person are not “at the level where we want them to be” but noted the system cannot continue to grow without new funding sources. TransLink has the ability to generate transportation funding mainly through gas taxes, which have been declining, as well as property taxes, set at three per cent annually, and fares. He noted it doesn’t make sense to increase fares at this time, especially as TransLink is trying to increase ridership.

George Heyman, MLA for Vancouver-Fairview, suggested that if the plebiscite fails, the public should call on the provincial government to honour the memorandum of understanding it had signed with the regional mayors’ council in 2011, supporting their transportation plan. Premier Christy Clark had ordered that a plebiscite be held.

Those on the No side, led by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation’s Jordan Bateman, has argued TransLink should not be trusted with any more public money because of its high executive salaries and recent SkyTrain problems.

– Kelly Sinoski is a Vancouver Sun reporter

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