Prendergast’s departure another blow to transit expansion

The loss of Translink CEO Tom Prendergast to New  York, where he will head one of the largest systems in the world,  is another blow to our hard-luck transit riders, but should come as no suprise.

Recruited in July 2008, Prendergast oversaw a very comprehensive consultation on future transit needs that produced regional consensus on a 10-year, $450 million a year expansion plan.

 But the provincial government, which had designed this governance system and promised billions for transit before the May election, had changed course by the first anniversary of Prendergast’s appointment.

Not only did Victoria veto new funding options, it demanded new spending on the Evergreen line without saying how that expenditure would be funded. Then, to make sure its lack of confidence in Translink’s leadership was crystal clear, it instituted a review by the Comptroller General into every aspect of the system’s governance and executive compensation.

By last month, Prendergast was praying that the Translink Mayor’s Council would vote a minimum funding supplement to avert drastic cuts in transit services. Nor would Victoria offer a hint of reassurance about the outcome of the Comptroller General’s rushed review.

Public support for transit investments has never been higher, not surprising given the clear need. Canada Line ridership keeps rising, the B-Line is over capacity and and the Burrard Bridge trial has underlined the widespread support to move to more sustainable transit options.

But Metro Vancouver is losing momentum, time and leadership. Expansion is at a standstill, Translink is again under temporary management and Victoria’s intentions remain unknown.

Prendergast, however, is headed back to the Big Apple, where the city is making serious headway shaking up transportation.  It must be a relief.