VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – TransLink‘s commissioner says you will not be paying 12.5 per cent more for a transit pass next year, but expect to pay a little more in the future.

Martin Crilly has rejected a proposed fare hike from the transit agency and is instead challenging it to find up to $60 million in savings in the next three years.

“The decision means that the price of FareSaver ticket books – which are used by many commuters – the price of those will be frozen, it will not increase,” says Crilly. “Cash fares, which last went up in 2008, will see increases up to 10 per cent because TransLink is allowed a basic 2 per cent per year increase.”

That means a one-zone transit ticket, which costs $2.50, will rise to $2.75 next year. A $3.75 two-zone ticket will go up to $4.10 and a three-zone pass, currently $5.00, will go up to $5.50.

Crilly says a review of TransLink has found an agency that is well-run, but expensive.

“Compared to Canadian peers, TransLink has an abundance of equipment and staffing that help to explain its generally higher costs and lower efficiency and effectiveness, even after accounting for the vast, spread-out terrain that TransLink serves,” he explains.

Crilly notes it costs around $130 an hour to run a vehicle in the TransLink system, $14 higher than other systems it was compared to.

“A huge portion of TransLink’s total cost is related to labour,” he adds. “We have said that [TransLink] has an abundance of staffing. Every time labour costs go up by one per cent, TransLink’s costs go up by $6 million, and it’s the same in any transit system.”

Crilly also thinks there is money to be saved in what he calls bus logistics, including slack time in bus schedules and rethinking HandyDART and community shuttles.

Consultant Bob Irwin says they have a simple suggestion.

“Utilize to the maximum the ability to use taxis and don’t use the high cost HandyDART services,” Irwin says. “Those are the sort of things we looked at in the HandyDART side of it.”

Crilly says rejecting TransLink’s proposed fare hikes will deny it between $15 and $28 million in funding next year. “We deliberately are increasing the financial pressure on TransLink and thereby encouraging it to minimize its costs.”

In an email statement, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis says it is still reviewing Crilly’s report. “The Commissioner confirmed we are well run and manage costs and that a fare increase is not unreasonable, but reduces our proposed increase at this time.”

TransLink Board Chair Nancy Olewiler says it has cut $30 million in costs over the past three years but is committed to finding more savings and providing quality service.

“We will take up your challenge to find cost savings beyond what we have already done or have underway,” she says in a letter to Crilly.

TransLink is already being challenged by the provincial government to come up with $30 million in savings to help pay for other transit projects to expand service.

North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton, the chair of the TransLink Mayors’ Council, agrees with Crilly the system is well-run, but adds it’s hurting.

“It’s straining at the seams. It needs to increase, just like most of the major cities in Canada, and I think the reason we’re all here is we’re trying to make sure that the dollars are spent in the best possible way,” Walton believes.

“Right now, there isn’t a workable, long-term sustainable funding for the expansion of public transportation in Metro Vancouver,” he adds. “We’re paid right up to the Evergreen Line.”

The province recently rejected a proposal from local mayors to bring in a new carbon tax and vehicle levy to help pay for transit.