Voice of beleaguered #transit riders missing in Translink funding debate

Where’s the voice of transit riders in the debate over funding Translink expansion?

Anyone who rides the system knows that most buses are bulging with riders. Finding a seat on any crosstown Vancouver route is a miracle, watching a loaded bus pass by is a routine occurrence.

With 30 percent of Translink routes experiencing daily trip levels well above safety and comfort benchmarks, transit riders should be demanding the funding increases. After all, fares are rising to the legal maximum while service levels stand pat.

But transit riders have no voice, leaving the debate to politicians wary of property tax increases, gas tax increases and Translink’s dysfunctional governance structure, a legacy of Kevin Falcon’s period as transport minister. (Frances Bula elaborates on her Globe story here.)

Translink’s current “service realignment,” which is moving buses from low ridership routes to those where traffic is heaviest, have a certain logic, but may be shooting the system in the foot over the longer term.

In suburbs like Westwood Plateau, where 25,000 residents once thought there would be regular transit service, the buses have yet to arrive in any numbers and car-oriented commuting behaviour is entrenched.

Further out in the suburbs, service frequency has been cut so badly that other potential riders are switching back to their cars.

The service improvements in Translink’s Moving Forward spending supplement are crucial, but so far, those who would benefit have been left out of the debate.

Is relief on the way? We’ll get a sense of the mood after a Mayor’s Council meeting Sept. 15. No vote is scheduled, but implementing the funding agreement is the only issue on the table.