Elimination of Translink’s planning director signals halt to transit investments

The aftershocks of last week’s devastating events at Translink — denial of a 2013 fare increase and a “challenge” to find tens of millions of dollars in efficiencies — continue to rock the region’s beleaguered transit agency.

Translink unions, currently seeking to bargain new agreements, are wondering who is in charge at Translink and how much of the “efficiency study” released last week will find its way into concession demands at the bargaining table.

Yesterday, Translink staff were notified that the position of Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy, held by Mike Shiffer, has been eliminated and will not be replaced. Shiffer has international experience and was leading work on long-term planning for future investments on the Broadway Corridor and in Surrey. Message to Shiffer: best of luck in your future endeavours.

Shiffer’s departure is part of a much wider restructuring of executive ranks set out in the same announcement. Message to riders: Translink is dead in the water for the foreseeable future.

Later yesterday, Translink rushed to confirm that it will, in fact, install faregates at all stations, despite the freeze in spending that was reported to be leaving two of the busiest Skytrain stations ungated. Here’s the text of that announcement:

TransLink would like to ensure that it is understood faregates are indeed planned for all stations on our system. There has been some discussion in the media about faregates in Metrotown and Main Street stations; these stations will have faregates in them; those gates will get phased in.

Our challenge is that Expo Line stations were not designed for gates, and they are particularly challenging to retrofit because of the way they were designed with multiple access/egress points. The stations also need significant retrofitting to improve and ensure adequate accessibility for everyone, as well as increase holding capacity given the surrounding residential and retail development and current and future volumes of passengers using them.

To be economically efficient and minimize impact on customers, our intention is to install gates as part of our overall retrofits and renovations. Doing the job right the first time will save TransLink millions of dollars and is thus a prudent decision in our view. The renovation work was planned to proceed in step with our  Moving Forward plan, but given the events of the past couple of weeks, it has been put on hold until we have more surety about funding and how to pay for it.

It should be stressed that the Compass Card program will proceed, and in the case of Metrotown and Main Street stations, there will be pole-mounted readers in place until the gates are installed.

We hope this helps to clarify TransLink’s intentions to gate all of our stations.