Discussions about public transit in Metro Vancouver always seem to boil down to one thing: funding.
The need for transit will only increase with the region's population over the next 30 years - projected at one million, 80,000 in Richmond. But TransLink is strapped for cash.
"It's absolutely critical that TransLink find more sources of sustainable, reliable funding," said Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who sits on the Mayors' Council for Regional Transportation.
The Mayors' Council represents the viewpoints of the region. It appoints the commissioner and board of directors, who oversee the management of affairs.
TransLink is currently in the process of implementing its new fare gate system - which so far sits unused at Canada Line station in Richmond - as a way to reduce fare evasion, according to Jiana Ling, TransLink spokesperson.
However, the system has met with some controversy in its efficacy as a source of savings. Installation cost $171 million and maintenance is estimated at $12 million a year. Studies have shown four per cent of fares are evaded, which means an annual savings of only approximately $10 million per year.
The method of paying at the gates, the compass card system, has also come under fire. The minimum balance on the card must be $6 and if riders use cash on the bus, the transfer won't work at the gates, meaning they have to pay twice.
TransLink estimates about 6,000 riders pay the bus by cash and anticipates most of these riders will transfer to the compass system, according to Ling. However, critics say it's an attack on lower-income riders, who usually pay with coins.
"The card provides further discounts...for customers," wrote Ling. "[It] allows customers to load any fare amount and receive a discount.
"As for the $6, this is only a deposit that can be used when your card has run out of money. Having $6 on the card allows customers to tap into their reservoir, in case they forget to reload their card. The $6 ensures customers can travel three zones and get one last trip back home."
In the meantime, Brodie and the Mayors' Council have been proposing long-term, reliable funding solutions, which include a transportation improvement fee, a restructuring of the carbon tax system and tolls.
So far, the Ministry of Transportation, the main source of funding, according to Brodie, has dismissed them.
Instead, Premier Christy Clark and the ministry announced a referendum in early 2014 to determine where funding should go.
"The referendum is the complete abdication of the province's responsibility," Brodie said. "It's important to have a public perspective, but a referendum is not the way to do it." The coalition, Get OnBoard BC, is campaigning to engage the public leading up the referendum.
"It can be a good opportunity for a meaningful discussion and a way to get this moving forward," said Lee Haber, campaign director. "But there needs to be more action from the province."
The ministry has yet to determine how such a referendum will look.
Ideally, Haber would like to see a vision for the transit system before looking for funding solutions. "If you have a vision and a plan, then someone can say, 'this proposed bus route in my neighbourhood will help me move faster.
"Then people are more likely to support extra funding. Just raising taxes first won't work, people won't agree to it."
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