B.C. Premier Christy Clark recently shuffled her cabinet and named Peter Fassbender as the new minister responsible for TransLink.
Fassbender, a former three-term mayor of Langley and the former vice-chair of TransLink's mayor council was formerly the minister of education and represents the riding of Surrey-Fleetwood. He takes over the TransLink portfolio from Todd Stone after it was moved from the Ministry of Transportation.
Fassbender says there needs to be some fundamental changes to the organization and they have to happen quickly to restore public confidence.
"Number one I think that the organization should pause on the CEO search because the worst thing we can do is hire a CEO while we still have some of the key functional issues to deal with," said Fassbender.
TransLink recently put up a job posting seeking a new CEO who can expect to earn a $320,000 salary, plus bonuses, and an extensive benefits package. TransLink has long been criticised for generous executive pay packages, a criticism that fuelled the campaign to vote 'no' in a recent transit plebiscite.
Fassbender says moving forward, the major issues are restoring public confidence and exploring options for funding before the end of the year.
Restoring public confidence
When it comes to restoring public confidence, Fassbender wants to ensure TransLink's board meeting are much more open to the public.
"We need a strong board. We need a strong commitment from the board to be open and transparent with the public," he said, adding the public should be able to hear the debate that goes on at the board table.
"We need to look at the efficiencies within the system and I don't doubt for a second that the organization has been doing a lot of that but they have in my opinion not done a good communications job in getting that word out and assuring people the system is being well run."
Fassbender says he believes without any hesitation that TransLink has worked hard to provide a world class system but that confidence from the public, either real or perceived, is not where it needs to be.
"If we don't have the public confidence on the road to recovery and restoration by the end of this year I think we're going to be faced with some key challenges."
Fassbender says the province will provide its third of the share of funding to build major transit infrastructure in Metro Vancouver, and will work with the federal government to ensure it contributes its portion. It's up to the region how it wants to raise the remaining third but Fassbender favours a property tax to fund the region's transit system.
"Property tax quite honestly is fair and equitable because everyone who lives in a home or an apartment, whether they pay rent or they pay a mortgage, they're contributing to the transit system and they benefit from it," said Fassbender.
He suggested working with the development community and local governments to ensure that when new facilities are built around transit corridor that as property values increase then a portion of the revenues be dedicated towards building transit infrastructure.
Fassbender says he's not interested in raising the carbon tax to generate revenue for transit because the tax was designed to be revenue neutral. In addition, while some have discussed a regional carbon tax,Fassbender says that would be a challenge to implement.
He is also not a supporter of a vehicle levy because he says it's not fair and equitable to all parts of the region.
As for what parts of Metro Vancouver's transit system should be prioritized, he says rapid transit projects such as the Evergreen line are important but so are more buses.
"We need to look at it as an integrated system and we need to provide not just more rapid transit, which is really critical in Surrey and along the Broadway corridor, but we need to look at more buses and much more reliable service."