Transit authority struggling with revenue stream, hopes to bring additional services back in the future
VANCOUVER (CUP) — B.C. transportation authority TransLink’s newest ten-year plan is a mixed bag for students.
The 2013 Base Plan, which TransLink rolled out in September, highlights the company’s financial plans for the next three years, and a looser schedule for the following seven. The plan gets updated every year — sometimes gaining items, sometimes losing.
But facing major funding issues, TransLink, in its updated plan which is to be finalized in November, has cancelled plans to add more services to overcrowded U-Pass routes.
“We had hoped to provide new bus service, which really would have benefited students particular,” said TransLink transportation planner Rex Hodgson. “Now with our outlook being a bit worse than what we had anticipated, we’ve had to scale back on some of our investments.”
The new plan no longer includes upping bus service on routes to and from universities and colleges, a move which would have added 79,000 additional services by 2013.
Hodgson explained that the company realized they didn’t have the revenue and had to reevaluate what services could be provided in the new plan. While students won’t see those additional services this year, Hodgson said they are still looking to implement those services in the future when money is available.
TransLink’s financial situation has recently come under fire from a student group called Get on Board B.C., that focuses on funding issues and the need for rapid transit. “We’re thinking how funding is allocated to TransLink,” said Tanner Bokor, Get on Board spokesman and Alma Mater Society associate VP external. “We’re certainly not addressing TransLink as an organization, we think that there are governance issues in TransLink that play on to the funding issue.”
One advance in rapid transit is included in the plan — the Burnaby to Coquitlam Evergreen Skytrain line. Hodgson said the line is one of the main benefits for students in the new plan. Construction begins this year and is to be completed in 2016, adding seven stops.
Students at Douglas College’s Coquitlam campus will be gaining a Skytrain stop — a big transit gain for a campus where the majority of students commute by car.
Dave Taylor, communications director at Douglas College, said the station will make a tremendous difference for students.
“Our students need to get out there and transit would be the biggest and easiest way to do that,” he said.
Taylor projects that at least half of the campus’ 4,000 students will make use of the Evergreen Line, as they already are part of a mandatory U-Pass program. Aside from the benefits for Douglas College, SFU students could see an impact from the Evergreen Line in the future, as bus services get rerouted to account for a new Burquitlam station.
Though the Evergreen Line will certainly benefit students, the plan made no mention of a rapid transit system along the Broadway corridor — a topic that has incited action from thousands of students over the years.
The Broadway corridor is the main U-Pass route students use to commute to UBC. It is not mentioned in TransLink’s 40 year plan either.
But Hodgson said that doesn’t mean rapid transit along Broadway is off the table. “We’ve not progressed to the point yet where we’re able to include that yet in this plan,” he said. “We recognize there is a demand. Even with the great service we’re providing, capacity is a problem.”
TransLink is currently evaluating the route as part of a rapid transit study, called the Regional Transportation Strategy. That study will be undergoing consultations this spring and will be completed by August 2013.
Looking back on the plan, Hodgson says the company wasn’t able to target U-Pass routes this year, but still recognizes the need for transit for students moving forward.
“Given the financial situation we find ourselves in and some of the challenges we’re facing with funding, we’ve had to make some hard decisions.”
—with files from Laura Rodgers