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BC: Monday AM QB--The All TransLink Edition

February 04, 2013
BC: Monday AM QB--The All TransLink Edition

I’m still hoarse from some Super Bowl festivities yesterday (as a Packer fan, I had to root hard against the evil 49ers), but it’s a perfect time for another edition of the Monday Morning Quarterback – five things the CTF B.C. office is pondering this week. And today, as a special treat, it’s an all-TransLink edition! Huzzah!

1. TransLink’s latest spending waste: a $100,000 seven-foot high poodle. Yes, the dog. That’s what passing for art in B.C.: a dog on a stick. For $100K. Unbelievable.

2. The Transit Police are busy wasting more of our money recruiting officers from the UK. From the Vancouver Sun:

TransLink’s Transit police authority is being criticized by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for looking to the United Kingdom to help fill six open positions.

CTF’s British Columbia spokesman Jordan Bateman said the force loses potential Canadian recruits to other, more respected law enforcement agencies.

“It’s not considered a prestigious police force, and I think they have trouble recruiting people,” Bateman said. “I question why unions were up in arms about temporary foreign workers in a mine, but they seem very quiet on bringing over U.K. police officers.

“It just reinforces, to me, we’re wasting 27 million bucks per year on this force.”

Bateman said “virtually every Vancouver police department recruitment class has some of these young Transit police officers,” adding two-thirds of Transit police duties revolve around fare evasion, which could become obsolete when the fare gates come into use by the end of this year.

Drennan said Transit police has ordered a freeze on adding new officer positions as the force “waits and sees” how the new fare gate system affects transit policing needs.

Transit police spend only a portion of their time catching fare evaders and focus instead on arresting people with outstanding warrants and investigating serious physical and sexual assaults, she said.

“As far as it being a boring job, I think if you talked to a majority of officers they would tell you something very different,” Drennan said. “There’s a lot of investigative work involved.”

Let’s talk facts: two-thirds of Transit Police files are for fare evasion. The average transit cop works on less than 10 serious and property crime files a YEAR – less than one a month!

As an Edmonton study into Vancouver’s Transit Police said: “When you put fully trained police officers in a transit environment, and realize fairly quickly that transit crime and disorder work is not that interesting.”

Bingo!

3. The Transit Police released a $5,000 study last week claiming fare gates won’t deter crime or fare evasion, which is so ridiculous it’s borders on ludicrous. Still, it shows how desperate the Transit Police are to look relevant in a post-fare gate world.

The study has a dearth of relevant information – including no comparisons to any system that had decades of free flow entrance before moving to fare gates.

Of course, if I were a muckraking political reporter, I might ask why two BC Liberal MLAs (John Martin and Daryl Plecas) are out directly contradicting the last four BC Liberal Transportation Ministers (Kevin Falcon, Shirley Bond, Blair Lekstrom and Mary Polak) on fare gates.

4. The independent Transit Commissioner released its report card on how TransLink is implementing the Commissioner’s efficiency recommendations. Basically, the bus company portion is working hard and getting the job done, while corporate and police costs continue to grow:

The Efficiency Review revealed a sharp increase in TransLink and CMBC corporate overhead costs and that they were high relative to Canadian Peer systems.  It noted that IT costs in 2010 represented one-third of TransLink’s total corporate costs and capital costs had almost doubled over the five year review period.  Furthermore, TransLink’s police costs had increased by 111%, and, while this was partly due to introduction of the Canada Line, CMBC’s transit security department had not been reduced in size since the introduction of the police. The Review recommended investigation of police cost reductions and overlaps with CMBC security, reductions in overhead and administration costs and a review of the IT program.

In 2012, an independent operational review of TransLink police was completed recommending a series of cost reductions, including overtime and vehicle reduction that have been implemented. The Progress Report also identified some reductions in internal contingencies by subsidiaries. However, TransLink corporate costs, including police, are increasing faster than the operating subsidiaries.  Compass Card and fare gate implementation (approximately $48 in million in net operating costs from 2013 to 2015) as well as IT costs (17% increase in operating costs over the Forecast Period and 75% in capital expenditures relative to 2012) stand out and are contrary to economies and restraint in operational spending.

5. Finally, I want to compliment (yes, Ken Hardie, COMPLIMENT) something TransLink has done for some time. The TransLink Twitter feed is closing in on 30,000 followers, and the team running that operation deserve a lot of praise. It’s cost-effective customer relations, and has been a big help to many people. If you’re a regular user of the transit system, following TransLink on Twitter will improve your experience severalfold.

Have a great week, everyone!

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