Last week Mario Canseco published the latest Insights West poll that showed intending No votes edged ahead of Yes votes. It seemed to stem from the Translink’s Board decision to remove Ian Jarvis as CEO but, rather than pay severance (a lot of money to do nothing) they retained him as an advisor – and also appointed a temporary CEO. This action seemed to play into the hands of the CTF who have decided to target Ian Jarvis and his salary as evidence of “waste”. Now Translink seems to be paying two CEO salaries.
I am not sure if Canseco was actually in the field at the time this decision was made. But even so, a number of articles and blog posts have appeared around the issue. So rather than duplicate them I am going to summarise their findings. This should enable YES supporters to counter some of the most frequently heard talking points – nearly all of which are based on misinformation.
Firstly, the accusation that Translink is incompetent – and lags behind other systems
Source: Peter Lander, Business in Vancouver December 2014
TransLink’s … performance successes:
•A mode shift – out of cars into transit, walking and cycling – that is unmatched in North America. The number of trips by transit is up 80% since 2000.
•By far the highest per capita transit use among other cities our size in North America – three times more than Portland, the next highest city.
•The third-highest per capita transit use in North America, after only New York and Toronto.
•The lowest-operating-cost light rail network in the world, more than covering operating expenses from fare box revenues.
•The Canada Line built on time and on budget and beating revenue targets – projected to have 100,000 daily riders by 2013 but hitting 120,000 by 2011.
•An overall 7.4 out of 10 customer satisfaction rating in the last quarter.
Secondly that Translink is “wasteful” as evidenced by its executives’ salaries
“the items commonly cited as examples of TransLink’s storied wastefulness add up to a mere fraction of one per cent of its annual expenditures. In other words, the vast majority of the organization’s budget goes to the vital public services we rely upon it to provide”
source David Bancroft in Rabble with his source embedded
Actually, public sector CEOs get paid considerably less than equivalent private sector CEOs but the Vancouver Sun helpfully lists highest paid public servants in BC which shows Ian Jarvis as well down the list of the top 100. Not nearly as much as the CEOs of the port, airport, ICBC or BC Hydro. And certainly not nearly as much as the people who oversee my pension fund. (see note at end of this post)
This week I will be going to listen to Jeff Tumlin at SFU – again. I reported his talk here a couple of years ago. He is quoted by News 1130
“One thing that we have learned however is that the best thing to do to make your transit agency worse off is to de-fund them. That taking away money from them in order to demonstrate frustration only punishes the people who are reliant on the transportation system.”
Looking at all basic performance metrics, he says TransLink’s problems are far better managed than anywhere else.
Who is he? The principal at Nelson Nygard, one of America’s “most innovative consultants” (Price Tags)
I posted that on facebook – and it got one of the most vituperative responses when someone else copied it to their profile. So not my followers – and quite possibly the people who Norm Farrell identifies as paid trolls for the BC Liberals. By the way, I have the greatest of respect for the work he does on his Northern Insights blog. It just saddens me that he seems to have got caught up by the CTF rhetoric. But not to worry, Darryl de la Cruz rides to the rescue with some exhaustive analysis which shows what happens when you compare like with like. I doubt that the people who listen to the CTF will have the patience to plough through this stuff, but it essentially repeats what often has to be said to people who try to compare Translink’s region wide coverage, to other transit systems with a much more restricted remit.
And on February 25 Pete McMartin brings his MSM spotlight to bear on Daryl’s blog with this conclusion
The comparisons the No side are using are intentionally misleading and meant to cause anger.
As Peter Ladner pointed out TransLink is not on the referendum ballot – but if it was
“They’ve tightened operations over the past few years. I don’t think they’re wasteful,” said independent commissioner Robert Irwin after his 2013 review. Spending is “reasonable” and employee compensation is “reasonable when compared to other organizations of similar size,” concluded an independent 2012 provincial government audit, prompting then-minister of transportation Mary Polack to say, “Everyone agrees that TransLink provides a world-class service that is the envy of many jurisdictions.”
Voting NO cannot bring about change in Translink’s governance, which is actually their weakest point but one which the CTF seems to ignore. And, of course, is something that Christy Clark appears not to understand.
There have been some pretty dreadful decisions at Translink. The Golden Ears Bridge – which was as bad as the Port Mann at predicting toll revenues – sucks money out of revenues that ought to be supporting transit. The reorganisation of HandyDART, and subsequent freeze on service levels. Going to one contractor actually increased costs significantly and produced worse service. Trip refusals surged so they simply changed the way they collected the data. The Canada Line – which is now overcrowded but cannot utilise all the trains it has due to costs of its P3 contract. In fact, contracting out seems to cover all three problems I have identified here. And I would blame Cubic for the failure to deliver Compass on time if that did not let Kevin Falcon off the hook for his decision to impose unnecessary fare gates in the first place.
In fact most of the problems that beset Translink at the moment all have their genesis with the provincial government. Christy Clark has done one brilliant job: she has deflected all the criticism of her failure to authorize adequate resources for running the transportation system in BC’s largest metropolis onto an organisation that she herself controls. It is an appointed Board – with a bafflingly complex system of appointment to disguise the very limited range of qualifications of its appointees. No-one represents the users of the system, and there are only two of 20 Mayors on the board, both very recent appointments.
POSTSCRIPT I wrote that paragraph a day before this Pete McMartin column appeared in the Vancouver Sun
Voting NO is not going to change anything. (See this Stephen Hume opinion piece in the Sun for more)
Actually Voting YES might have exactly the same result – since we are not voting in a binding referendum but rather an advisory plebiscite. Christy can look at the result and claim it is not representative enough, or even claim poverty – given that there is a budget surplus of ~$1bn this year I doubt even she has the chutzpah to pull off that one, but blaming the Mayors for the current mess shows how she rolls.
And now a complete and up to date post of Translink myth debunking is on VanCityBuzz
Note: thanks to Norm Farrell for this information about the BC Investment Management Corporation
This occurred at roughly the same time that the BC Public Service Pension was effectively cut: pensioners were required to pay for MSP and Blue Cross coverage, which had previously been paid by the employer. We were told that this was necessary to protect the value of the pension fund. No mention was made of the increase being paid to BCIMC who manage the investment of the pension fund. Note that Doug Pearce in 2014 was making nearly as much in a week as Translink’s new temporary CEO makes in a month.