Overall, the parameters and assumptions of TransLink's 2012 Moving Forward Supplemental Plan and Outlook (“The Supplement”) are reasonable.
The Supplement is legal for vote by the Mayors’ Council, in that it features all the elements to conform to the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act as amended in June 2010.
As agreed between the Province and the Mayors’ Council in July 2011, The Supplement depends on two new funding sources being enabled by legislation after The Supplement has been approved by the Mayors’ Council. These are (1) an increase in TransLink’s regional fuel tax, from $0.15 to $0.17 per litre, and (2) a permanent new funding source, yet to be identified and agreed upon, to start as early as 2013, if possible.
The Province’s willingness to legislate the first source is contingent upon the Mayors’ Council approving The Supplement’s proposal for a time-limited regional property tax increase to be levied in 2013 and 2014 only, after which it would be removed. The understanding is that TransLink would use this facility only if required, as a temporary substitute for the second permanent source, should the permanent second source not be confirmed by Fall 2012.
In the commissioner’s view, though there are associated risks, the funding strategy gives an adequate foundation for financing The Supplement. Based on the new funding sources being enabled, The Supplement projects an accumulated reserve that is substantial over the first three years, and adequate over the balance of the ten-year plan.
The Supplement also describes a smaller package of services and projects, called Scenario B, that TransLink would be able to deliver if the funding strategy’s permanent new source cannot be confirmed by Fall 2012, and it becomes necessary to levy the time-limited property tax for 2013 and 2014 without the assurance that a permanent new source will be available to replace it in 2015 and future years. Given trimmed expenditures, the Scenario B projections show satisfactorily that TransLink will be able to avoid overextending itself.
The Supplement’s forecasting assumptions of external variables—GDP growth, cost inflation, interest rates, fuel prices and regional fuel consumption—are generally reasonable.
The commissioner has no difficulty with TransLink's projection of revenue from the proposed new $0.02/litre fuel tax.
TransLink can be expected to ask the commissioner to approve a fare increase averaging 12% for 2013, as implied by its revenue projections.
The ridership projections are ambitious though achievable, and adequate to forecast TransLink’s takings at the farebox. Ridership estimates for the Evergreen Line appear overly optimistic: given the nature of the Millennium-Evergreen corridor, to realize the projections will require municipalities to foster land uses that promote transit usage.
The Supplement satisfies the Act in that it shows that investments in infrastructure and services committed by the end of 2014 can be maintained through 2021— by using only proposed revenue sources, by drawing on TransLink's accumulated surplus, and by borrowing within a proposed increased ceiling of $3.5 billion.
The Supplement leaves TransLink solvent and financially sustainable.
Consultations on The Supplement were extensive and, in the commissioner’s view, more than met the legal requirement.
Fit with Related Plans
The Supplement will secure and advance gains made over the past 10 years towards the goals of TransLink's own Transport 2040 strategic plan. In expanding transit capacity it partially responds to the call of Metro Vancouver's regional growth strategy for more services. Post-2016, the outlook is for erosion of gains, especially if a demand management strategy is not adopted in the meantime.
The Supplement would invest in specific infrastructure components, notably the Evergreen Line and two rapid bus lines, which feature in the Provincial Transit Plan.
The Supplement moves TransLink in the right direction towards the provincial target for mode share, but is far from achieving the very ambitious weekday transit mode share target of 17% by 2020 set in the Provincial Transit Plan.
TransLink has very limited control over greenhouse gas emissions. The provincial goal to reduce the 2007 level of these emissions from transportation sources by 17% in 2021 is bold. Neither The Base Plan nor The Supplement comes close to hitting the target.