Nov 152016
 

You might, if you live in the Lower Mainland and take transit, be aware that TransLink, our favourite public transit provider, is proposing to actually expand service starting in early 2017. As part of this planned expansion, they have a 3-year funding proposal that they were taking public input on last month.

In a shocking turn of events, they have actually proposed (modestly) raising property taxes, something the Mayors’ Council has been extremely loath to do, laying all of the responsibility for transit funding at the door of the provincial government which, as you might well imagine if you understand how the BC Liberals work, has meant there’s been no new funding for transit for, oh, I dunno—15 years or so?

HOWEVER (of course there’s a “but”) they have, hand in hand with this (extremely modest) property tax increase (and you have to understand that property taxes in Vancouver and indeed the Lower Mainland are ROCK BOTTOM), proposed to increase transit fares each year for the next 3 years, under the guise that fares “aren’t keeping up with inflation.”

So below, I destroy that particular huge lie of theirs.

But TL;DR: about the only “good” thing about the fare increase part of the proposal is that the monthly passes will end up being a better deal than they are now… vs. either cash or Compass Stored Value. You know, if you can stomach paying $98/month for a 1-zone pass in 3 years. (All proposed new fares are on page 3 of their backgrounder.)

Otherwise, it’s a “screw you, 1-zone travellers” proposal.

I even did up a cool little spreadsheet if you are interested in how the proposed increases play out, percentage-wise.

But, as I discuss below in the feedback I sent them, the proposal is garbage overall:

Your fare increase proposals are ridiculous and the rationale for said increases are completely misleading. You imply that since fares haven’t risen since 2013, they are not keeping up with inflation. However, this assumes that, prior to 2013, they did increase relatively in line with inflation… and this is patently untrue. For instance, the cost of a 1-zone monthly pass rose from $81/month in 2010 to $91/month in 2013, or a 12.3% increase… which is far higher than inflation in BC over the same 3-year period. If you look at the last two increases, over 6 years from 2008 to 2013, this particular cost rose 24.7% ($73 to $91/month). Inflation over that period was 6.06%, or 1/4 of the increase to 1-zone monthly passes. Even if you spread those two increases out to the present day (end of 2016), it represents an annual increase from 2008 of 2.8% a year; inflation in BC over that period was 0.91% a year.1 That’s about 3 times the rate of inflation.

Also, you state you used an overall 2% increase in fares as the level to help fund Phase 1 of the 10-Year Vision. Yet a quick look at your own proposal shows that 4/9 of your cash fare increases, 9/9 of your Compass fare increases, and 4/9 of your monthly pass fare increases are above 2%. The values that are 2% or lower do not even come close to being low enough to average the overall increases out to 2% a year for 3 years. So why are you lying and making it seem like you’re only raising fares 2% (a year)?

In addition, you obviously know fares are already unreasonably high because you highlight an effort to minimize the percentage increases to 2- and 3-zone fares. Yet you offer no rationale for explaining a) why more of the burden of fare increases should be borne by people travelling only 1-zone (and one assumes the bulk of those are in Zone 1, i.e. Vancouver, which is denser by far than the surrounding municipalities and therefore cheaper to deliver transit to, by which I mean why are commuting suburbanites getting an even bigger subsidy in this proposal) AND, from the other side of encouraging transit use and getting people out of their cars, b) how you expect to encourage people to abandon their cars when riding transit to and from work over 3 zones will cost $9/day at the end of this proposed fare increase regime.

So overall, my assessment of your proposed funding sources is: they suck. In particular, if you are serious about not impacting transit ridership and encouraging more people to get out of their vehicles, you would freeze fares over this proposed 3-year period and seek that money elsewhere, namely from the provincial government, developers, and Lower Mainland property taxes, which are widely recognized as some of the lowest on the continent for a region of this size, population, and complexity. $3/year for average homeowners (who are, last I checked, extremely well-off in this region given the insane ongoing increases in housing prices) while monthly pass users have to fork out $24/year or $36/year more?

UPDATE:

The Mayors’ Council and the TransLink board (aka the BC NeoLiberals) approved the 10-Year Plan on Wed Nov 23, 2016. Don’t get me wrong—there’s lots of good stuff in it. The fare increases, though? Still bogus.

  1. All inflation data for BC from http://inflationcalculator.ca/british-columbia/ []