At what point is the government going to step in and say: “Enough is enough.”?

“…it is important that TransLink ensures that every dollar spent gets maximum value.

 To do so, it should tighten budgets to encourage fiscal tension and discipline in how it delivers its services.

It needs to become more cost focused by placing higher priority on frugality and productivity in its decision-making criteria.”

~ Translink Efficiency Review, March 2012


**** October 20th/2013 – the above link is no longer available on the Translink Commissions website – here is a working link( for now), that I found buried on the Translink site. Neither the Commissions site or Translinks make it easy for the average person to find these documents :

Noun 1. frugality - prudence in avoiding wastefrugality – prudence in avoiding waste

( otherwise know as : Thriftiness, conservation, moderation and good management)

If you haven’t heard already, in June of this year Translink consolidated three of their organizations into one grand head office in New Westminster.

“Derek Zabel, of TransLink’s media relations, said TransLink’s, the Transit Police’s and Coast Mountain Bus Company’s head offices will combine at the new Sapperton location in New Westminster on June 1.The new building’s lease will be $1.7 million a year, including operating costs, which will save a total of $2.6 million a year when TransLink officially occupies the new site “

Of course, we recently heard that Translink was left paying the $100,000 a month lease payment on their vacated Gateway premises – on a 6 year term – because they have not been able to locate another tenant to take over the lease.

“Jiana Ling with TransLink says they’re having trouble finding subtenants for a building near Gateway in Surrey. “It is the market right now. We are actively looking for a subtenant but the market in Surrey is a high vacancy rate.”

And just this week, CKNW reported that Translink has had to put up millions of dollars to remove liens from the new headquarters

Ironically, I was contacted  and informed by a source about these liens last weekend, and was waiting for a response from Translink when CKNW first ran the story on air Wednesday afternoon. As it turns out, Translink appeared to have sent the same response via email to NW, that they sent to me at the very same time.

The Translink Tenant Improvement Project, as it is officially named, should be subject to far more scrutiny than just the story on the liens.

Sources indicate that the  $ 4,789,374.89 in total liens are not only for originally contracted work, but also for Translink approved changes – which is where sources indicate the sources of the dispute on many payments have arisen.

Often in major construction projects, change directives are a source of dispute and occasionally litigation between contracters and owners – or in this case, organizations like Translink.  Sources indicate that Translink submitted change directives and the work was done, but when the sub-contracters started submitting their bills, Translink balked at payment.

Translink has now provided a letter of credit which guarantees payment of the liens, as required by the terms of their new lease, however in the end, taxpayers are left holding the bag -with more questions than answers as Translink has refused to address why their new premises required millions in dollars of renovations and improvements.

I emailed Translink’s media team last week, and asked why the new location required such extensive improvements – this is a new building after all – and what the total cost of the project was, since Translink states that they have already “paid all amounts it considers to be currently due and owing to Magil Construction.”

No answer. Didn’t touch either question in this emailed reponse from Translink spokesperson, Jiana Ling:

“The majority of the liens filed are a result of the dispute between Magil Construction and the companies Magil Construction has contracted with to perform the work.

Liens have been filed as per the BC Builders Lien Act. One court action has been initiated by a subcontractor against Magil Construction.

The lease terms obligate TransLink to post security in the event liens are filed on the leased property.

TransLink has paid all amounts it considers to be currently due and owing to Magil Construction.

The majority of the lien amount is not in dispute but represents payments withheld because Magil Construction has not complied with all of its contractual obligations.

With respect to your question regarding Gateway, TransLink has been actively seeking a sub-tenant for the Gateway location since 2012.  Many have expressed interest and a number of them have toured the space more than once.

So, let’s do a re-cap here.

We have an efficiency review done last year stating Translink needs to be frugal and tighten their budgets.

That same review states Translink corporate overhead is bigger than any of their peer organizations across Canada.

So Translink does something that appears to make sense and consolidate three of their organizations into one location, which they tell the public is going to save $2.7 million a year in lease payments. ( we won’t talk about the redundancy of costs involved in having Transit Police and Transit security in this post)

But considering Translink has not factored in the millions of $$ spent on this project… and  keep in mind,we still do not know the total cost of this Translink Tenant Improvement Project, only the liened amount… nor did they factor in the $1.2 million a year  in lease payments on empty offices they vacated to consolidate…. will Translink have saved any money at all in making this move to New Westminster?

What kind of facilities are in this new headquarters? Employee wellness centre? Lovely lunch room? Beautiful art?

Speaking of beautiful art… and keeping that statement about Translink needing to cut costs and be frugal…. Is it a frugal and good expenditure of funds to budget $600,000 dollars for art installations ? Wouldn’t residents prefer better service?

Where is the outrage over the expenditures on the improvements to these new premises? What exactly does this amount of money get you?

Where is the questioning of this revelation about the liens? When Translink is claiming they couldn’t do the $9 million dollar fix to allow transfers to be read at Skytrain because it wasn’t in the taxpayers best interest, one must ask if over $5 million dollars in improvements to the new headquarters in the taxpayers best interests as well.

One thing is clear- Translink is operating without any accountability to the provincial government, and most of all, to the public. I suggest Translink holds an open house so the public can see firsthand what all these $$$ paid for.

13 thoughts on “At what point is the government going to step in and say: “Enough is enough.”?

  1. Where’s former Minister Barry Penner to apply a BC Liberal expectation of ICBC standards to Translink management dilemma of “foisted upon you by previous political masters”:

    Barry. Penner: I understand your challenge of dealing with that shopping centre (Surrey Place Mall), because the whole project has been described as the fast ferry project on land. I’m not asking you to comment on that, but I realize you have a significant problem to deal with that was not your own making, that was foisted upon you by previous political masters.
    N. Geer: We’ll make the right business decision for our customers and properly manage it. It’s a wonderful building. I hate to use derogatory terms, because we’re attempting to lease it. When you attempt to lease it to a new customer and you use derogatory terms, it’s self-defeating. I don’t want to get involved in derogatory terms as we’re attempting to make a good business decision — if we could, Barry. search for “political masters”


  2. TransSTINK, and/or TransSINK is funny – just when you think they have WASTED the last LARGE amount of MONEY on nonsense, they out do themselves and WASTE EVEN MORE. I am sure they will give themselves VERY LARGE BONUSES… GOOD GRIEVE!!!!!


  3. Here is TransLink’s problem. The provincial governments, Social Credit, NDP, and the BC Liberals forced BC Transit and now TransLink to build with SkyTrain light-metro. Correction – the Canada Line is not Skytrain at all and is not compatible to operate with the rest of the Skytrain system; the Canada line is a heavy rail metro, built as a light metro and is only notable for the fact of being the only heavy rail metro that has less capacity than a streetcar!

    SkyTrain not only costs up to ten times more to build than light rail (TTC ART Study), it costs about 40% to 60% more to operate than SkyTrain. The BC taxpayer today has the pleasure of paying not only a lot more to build with SkyTrain, the taxpayer is paying a lot more to operate Skytrain. This is why light rail transit made SkyTrain obsolete in the 1980’s, as transit accountants with other transit agencies around the world did not sleep through their math classes as TransLink’s accountants have.

    But there is more, TransLink has not taken cars off the road and with every new Skytrain line built, the development that follows the mini-metro only increases traffic congestion as 50% to ^0% of the new residents in the newly developed highrise condos and apartments still drive.

    “Fast transit expands the city. When transit users with cars aren’t taking transit, they are driving greater distances and more often. TransLink formed in 1999 in Metro Vancouver is a botched attempt to solve road congestion with transit. Fast transit by TransLink has worsened road congestion and air pollution.
    After only five years of fast transit by TransLink, trips by drivers exploded to 62% from 57%, an increase of 150,000 drivers. TransLink operating transit in Metro Vancouver and in a desperate panic offered late night transit until 3:30 am to UBC, for example, and handed out cheap bus passes (presently $30 monthly cost for unlimited travel by university students compared with $170 monthly cost for unlimited travel by other transit users) to university students to offset the increase in trips by drivers.

    This reduced the percentage of trips by drivers to what it was before fast transit but did not take the cars off the roads. In Metro Vancouver, demand for transit is saturated and more fast transit such as sky train or rapid bus transit isn’t going to change the percentage of trips by drivers to any extent.” (Eric Chris, PE. – Not having transit is more environmentally sustainable than having transit in Vancouver)

    The real power behind Translink is the Premier and as the Premier and her puppy, the Minister of Transportation have done a disappearing act, one must assume that they are behind the the most recent blunders and are too cowardly to admit it or they don’t give a damn.


  4. A typo – line 16 should read 50% to 60% f the new residents……………

    And if the phone didn’t ring and if I had not lost concentration, I should have added that the reason TransLink is in financial difficulties is because of the SkyTrain mini-metro system, where the metro-Vancouver taxpayer has to pay 40% to 60% more to operate SkyTrain than LRT, if it had been built. In 1993, the annual subsidy for SkyTrain was $157 million (Cost of Moving people in the GVRD, GVRD Study) and today the annual subsidy to operate the three mini-metro lines is nearer to $300 million annually, and with the Evergreen line now under construction, Translink’s financial situation will only get worse. To day, the taxpayer has invested over $9 billion for three mini-metro lines, if we had built with LRT as originally intended, the taxpayer would have paid far less for more transit.

    Rapid transit 101, I think TransLink did not attend class.


  5. You have hit another home run Laila. I suspect TransLink continues to do what it does “because it can”. Of course that has little to do with results, efficiency or truth in advertising. Your fellow bloggers are all setting their hair on fire to what end? If one accepts TransLink’s version of affairs, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland must be so challenging to operate in that no other jurisdiction in “the world” can compare. We all know that is a load of manure. In political terms, we are well past the “best before” date of any politician that continues to support this spaceship called TransLink. It would be entertaining to track comments made by local politician’s in support of TransLink and put them out their for comment by your readers. A small step in the direction of change one hopes. Thank you to you for keeping the issue on “boil”…… I only wish there were more like you.


  6. Public transit is not “rocket science” and has been around for thousands of years, probably starting with ferrymen who charged for crossing a river.

    The first organized public transit system within a city, appears to have originated in Paris, France, in 1662, although the service in question failed a few months after its founder died; omnibuses are next known to have appeared in Nantes, France, in 1826. The omnibus was introduced to London in July 1829.

    The concept is simple, provide a conveyance and charge a fee for using it.

    The first passenger horse-drawn railway was opened in 1806 between Swansea and Mumbles in South Wales, United Kingdom and soon duplicated in cities around the world. The horse tram progressed to the steam and electric trams and the first subway opened in 1863 of the Metropolitan Railway, now part of the London Underground. Today there are thousands of cities around the world, that have public transit of one sort or another and the vast majority still adhere to the same principle of providing conveyance for a fee.

    TransLink’s problem is it has far too many bureaucrats, trying to reinvent the wheel and at the same time, trying to safeguard their jobs all on the taxpayer’s dime. As i have mentioned before, TransLink’s financial woes start with our Skytrain mini-metro and TransLink’s willful deceit in trying to hide this fact. That no one is building with SkyTrain anymore and that only seven such systems have been built in 40 years is swept under the carpet by the entrenched SkyTrain lobby within TransLink and the Ministry of Transportation.

    The result is what we see today, TransLink on the brink of bankruptcy; hubris with senior management; very bad judgement, fanciful transit planning based on extremely dated transit philosophy, and an ever growing public anger with Translink.

    Again, public transit is not rocket science, but the boys and girls at TransLink have so complicated things that it would seem easier to plan a trip to Mars, than provide affordable transit services in Metro Vancouver and hiring expensive spin doctors to fool the public is certainly not the way to improve things.


    1. “…it would seem easier to plan a trip to Mars…” (Zweisystem) and cheaper too with a lot less fuss.
      The problem is one that permeates every level (federal, provincial and municipal, elected or not elected, so-called boards, the whole darned lot) of the public service, the crowns (pseudo public service, sort of private enterprise) is that they believe they have entitlement to O.P.M. (Other People’s Money) and can spend it willy nilly because gosh there is more where that comes from and no one really has the brass to complain except on blogs, I am wondering whether from locally here in the lower mainland and throughout the rest of the province, if those frustrated with the way things are should start inundating all levels of officialdom with a mountain of letters and emails (letters would be better, emails tend to get deleted a lot) decrying this sad state of affairs. Maybe even phone calls to their offices in big volumes.
      I don’t know about anyone else by I am tired being considered a sucker by these “aluminum siding” con artists.


  7. Bravo ,Laila. And to cap off the week, Ms Liang added another nail to the coffin of this entity trying to justify the installation of public art that would supposedly make folks feel good, connected to their community whilst making Vancouver a world class city. The mayor of Delta was furious. They are still awaiting a bus to get into Vancouver. So while people are racing through the subway in Vancouver to try to position themselves for a bus that will likely be full and pass them by, they will feel warm and fuzzy? Her defense? It was put in the budget so it had to be spent . Stephen Quinn asked her if it had been put in, couldn’t it be taken out? No answer. If this is the best spin they can muster, more heads should roll..


  8. translink, or whatever they call themselves, is one big money pit for the taxpayers of B.C. The whole thing ought to be scraped. The executives are paid way too much, they are accountable to no one, they have run millions of $s of debt, etc.

    Translink, was established so the government didn’t have to show debt on their books. Then the fun began. The building of roads and bridges was at one time the responsibility of the provincial government and to it, it should return, along with rapid transit infrastructure. At one time provincial bureaucrats did the work. There isn’t any reason they can’t again. They would be responsible to the cabinet minister in charge. Real easy.

    The running of the buses ought to simply go back to a bus company. It worked once, it will work again. The cost of driving and transit continues to grow, for the consumer at such a rate getting to work is getting to be too expensive for many.

    Congestion has not been dealt with, more cars than ever are on the road, people are spending more time on transit than ever. At one time you could take a bus from WhiteRock to downtown Vancouver. Now you have to take a bus to sky train and then finally get there. It takes way more time and in the evening is far less safe.

    Translink works very well for those who rent space to the corporation, those who sell products to the corporation, the executives, but not so much for the taxpayers of B.C.

    The shell game with the buildings is an old one. The Mulroney gang perfected that game back in the day. The various branches ought to have stayed in their offices until their leases expired. Then a new building could have been built by the provincial government, which they owned. The cost, over the long term would have been less. The old game of renting office space is much to expensive, once you factor in all the extras.


  9. For that point to arrive, first the majority of BC’s voters will have to say (via votes):

    “Enough is enough! We want the greatest place in the world back and we want it back now!”

    That happening looks to be a ways off yet though, and in fact may of course never happen.


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