TransLink held its annual general meeting today, where the board of directors tackled a number of issues in its annual report like salaries and ridership increases, fixes for the disabled community accessing fare gates, and more concerns on HandyDART.
The findings show the transportation authority shelled out $569 million for salaries, wages and benefits last year.
That’s 42% of its total $1.3 billion in expenses.
The report shows the $16 million, or 3% increase over 2014 is due to labour contracts, more staff for rail, and the roll out of the Compass card system.
Demand for service on the rise
Ridership was up 2.1 per cent for boarded passengers year over year, and the report shows TransLink has implemented “operational efficiencies” to cope with rising demand, despite no additional investment since 2010.
Disability advocates applaud fare gate fix
Disability advocates are cheering TransLink’s new long term plan to deal with the controversial issue of accessibility as it continues to roll out its $190-million Compass Card system.
A report coming to the TransLink board recommends the installation of special sensor-triggered gates at SkyTrain stations for disabled riders.
Tim Louis of the HandyDart Riders’ Alliance champions the work of new CEO Kevin Desmond.
“On his watch he has committed to simply and productively solving the problem.”
“Technology will allow me without ever removing my Compass Card from my pocket, or tapping it, which I am unable to do, to go through the gate.”
Desmond says it’s a small investment for human dignity.
“People with a disability of that nature that are willing ready and able and have the gumption and human spirit to make it through our system, on their own and independently and want to do that, from a stand point of human dignity, we need to make sure they’ve got that access.”
The report finds only 15-50 people can’t tap Compass Cards themselves.
The cost is up to $5-million.
HandyDART users want service brought in-house
Not everyone is happy; for the third time in six months, disabled HandyDART users flooded the board meeting demanding better service.
Users say the accessible transit service should be brought in-house.
Right now service is provided by American-owned MVT, although the contract is up at the end of the year.
Customers say the company is relying more on the use of taxis to keep up with demand, with one woman saying despite special training, drivers don’t have the sensitivities or ongoing knowledge of their unique needs.
Carolyn Bauer with the Vancouver Taxi Association defended the industry, saying taxis have transported 22,000 passengers, and received only 93 complaints.
The transit authority’s annual report shows HandyDART passengers totaled 1.3 million last year, a decline of 3.2 percent over 2014.
New CEO Kevin Desmond says a robust review is underway, and TransLink is considering bringing the service in-house.
Sex crimes on the rise
Translink’s CEO also says he’s concerned transit sex crimes are on the rise.
Transit Police say it recorded 342 sex offences on transit last year.
That’s more than doubled since 2011.
“The safety and security of our customers is my job number one, our job number one, so yes it is a concern and I’m confident the transit police working with those of us here at TransLink have our hands on it.”
However, Desmond says it’s likely due to an increase in reporting and better awareness.