Advance View: TransLink hard to like, or trust

On Tuesday, TransLink announced it will adopt a host of recommendations about how to fix a buggy SkyTrain system that trapped hundreds of passengers last summer. Twice. In less than a week.

Ask about almost any other level of government or agency in B.C., from your local council to the provincial Parliament to the Agricultural Land Commission, and you’ll find some people who hate them, some who think they’re doing okay.

It’s hard to find anyone with something nice to say about TransLink. And yet, sometime next year, we’ll be asked to vote in a referendum on more money for the transit agency.

This has the possibility of creating more problems.

TransLink has been chronically short of funds for years. Its job is not only to run transit service, but to maintain a great many major roads. It has had to do this with several different unwieldy governance structures and little support from the province, which has never been interested in taking any blame for TransLink’s failures, only credit for its successes.

As development and density ramped up around the edges of Metro Vancouver, as communities like Coquitlam, Surrey, Maple Ridge, and Langley began growing and densifying and demanding better – or any – bus service, TransLink completely dropped the ball. Every new route was years too late and was quickly swamped by pent-up demand.

TransLink now has an ambitious plan. More buses. More service. Light rail in Surrey and as far as Langley City. It will cost money, and that spending has to be approved by voters.

Specifically, by voters who have come to hold TransLink in contempt. It’s one thing to be asked to support something you mostly like, but being asked to pony up more money for TransLink, the scapegoat for our decade-long failure to adequately address our problems? Our prediction is that the referendum isn’t going to be much fun.

– M.C.

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