VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A provincial audit of TransLink has found another $41 million in potential savings, just one month after the transit authority announced a round of deep cuts. The minister responsible for transportation and infrastructure says TransLink has been too conservative when it comes to trimming the fat.
“As we conducted the audit, we told TransLink about many of the efficiencies we were finding,” says Mary Polak. “TransLink has already acted and has included many of them in its draft 2013 Base Plan, which identifies a total of $98 million in savings, bringing the total potential savings to $139 million per year.”
“This is good news but it’s still not enough to meet the future transit expansion needs of Metro Vancouver,” she adds.
Polak says mayors need to find funding options that garner public support in order to make the system work and then report back. Mayors have been adamant that property tax increases are not an option.
The company released its 2013 base plan last month and announced it would be cutting three quarters of the new service hours it had planned to add on bus routes. It also promised to take buses off under-used routes and put them on busier ones, while reducing the frequency of SkyTrain trips during off-peak hours.
“So we are not going to be cutting services without fully engaging communities and taking a hard look if that meets the needs of the transportation region,” says TransLink Board Chair Nancy Olewiler.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts says efficiencies can be a good thing, but she’s not sure how these cuts will affect service.
“I think only when we talk about cutting back services does it become problematic,” she says. “The audit has just come out. I’d like some time to do a full assessment and look at what that means in terms of services for the city of Surrey.”
Langley City’s Mayor says this audit suggests TransLink has been running an effective operation.
Peter Fassbender says there is often a lot of negativity associated with it. “So what it has proven to me is there is a base on which to build. That base is an efficient and effective transportation system.”
But with that he says every penny found needs to be put to better use. “It mean that TransLink board and management need to sit down and look at that and see what the gap still is and what we need in terms of providing additional support.”
He recognizes that service cuts greatly impact people’s lives.