SPEC Comment on the Transit Plebiscite -
by SPEC Director, Dr Carole Christopher
The Lower Mainland is awash in a viral negative mood about TransLink. It’s hard to find someone not ready to hate TransLink. But why? Who’s manufacturing this notion that TransLink is incompetent and can’t be trusted to run a good public transit system? The riders? I don’t think so. I ride transit a lot and I had the good fortune to take a totally public transit tour of 12 European cities this past Fall. I had absolutely no sense of returning to an inferior system when I boarded the Canada Line to the B-Line to return home. True, that’s just one anecdote, but, comparative studies verify that TransLink is near the top in performance. So, why all the rancour?
Is it the malfunctioning fare card system? Who is inconvenienced? Nobody. TransLink didn’t want to spend the money on a fare card system because it’s typically more expensive to install than what is recovered from fare evaders. But the public was scandalized by cheaters and ... well, we see what happens when the public is scandalized. Is it the highly paid executives? Talk to the Province about the mixed private/public governance structure they created. But don’t flail around trying to punish TransLink without some idea of the consequences.
And what are the consequences of a “NO” vote? Currently Metro region is ahead of the curve in public transportation. A “NO” vote will put us behind the curve for perhaps a decade. In the meantime, the road improvements announced yesterday, added to the Gateway Project of last decade, means the Province will spend over $10 Billion on road improvements. Neither of these went to referendum but ask yourself where that money is coming from? We need to lower our carbon footprint and the right direction is “Better transit, not Freeways.”
We need to shake ourselves out of this negative trance and realize that a “NO” vote will make it exponentially more difficult to regroup, revamp and give it another try. Plebiscites are expensive. Paying mayors to huddle to figure out another workable plan for how to finance public services is expensive. Putting off needed improvements will grow increasingly expensive and seriously inconvenience transit users. In North America, where we settle some of these questions with referenda, 71% of the time voters approve needed transit funds. We should too. Or are we so intent to punish TransLink that we’ll hurt ourselves worse?
SPEC has long stood for public transit and we’re advocating for the “yes” side in this plebiscite