Mr. Moneybags taking Surrey's taxes the other side of the Fraser
According to comments made to the Surrey Leader, Mayor Dianne Watts has revealed that Surrey sends roughly $144 million per year into TransLink’s coffers – that’s $44 million in property taxes and $100 million in gas taxes. The question is, do we see that money back in resulting transit services?
Based on preliminary calculations, the answer is a resounding no.
TransLink staff have mentioned that it costs roughly $8.5 million annually to operate a bus, running every 10 minutes, for 15 hours a day. These estimates were based on the planned King George B-Line that remains on the books indefinitely. On that basis, theoretically, Surrey is contributing enough money to pay for almost 17 B-Line routes.
As it stands, Surrey only has six bus routes that operate on frequencies higher than every 15 minutes. There are only 16 other routes that run in the City, all of which only run every half hour (I’m not counting rush hour only routes). So, we’re getting 22 bus routes, only six of which approximate service close to a B-Line. In other words, we’re getting royally screwed by TransLink.
On these numbers, I wanted to see if Surrey ran its own transit network, as has been discussed in City Hall chambers, how much coverage we could get with 16 B-Line routes. Here’s the result:
Yes, with what we are currently paying TransLink, we could nearly cover the entire Surrey in B-Line routes with a network that would capture close to the entire City’s population within a walking distance of 10 minutes. /mindblown
UPDATE: There have been comments regarding the aforementioned calculations. I most certainly admit that they are simply rough estimates using the data that is available – this is not a scientific analysis.
The SkyTrain Expo Line is at or above cost-recovery, meaning fares pay for its full operational expenses.
TransLink has also paid for the Golden Ears Bridge, a route that affects Surrey but does not originate in the City. Additionally, though the project cost upwards of $800 million, the tolls placed on the crossing are expected to pay for the bill. Thus it is excluded from the calculation as well. The Pattullo replacement is expected to follow a similar cost-recovery route.
TransLink contributes money to municipal roads through the Major Road Network fund. This fund has paid for a portion of the four-laning of Fraser Highway, which is still ongoing. According to the Engineering Department’s 10 Year Servicing Plan, it anticipates a contribution of $45 million from TransLink to pay for arterial road upgrades and expansions. Over ten years, that is a miniscule $4.5 million, which amounts to half the cost of a B-Line route as estimated above.
The B-Line route calculations were based on a static route length. Obviously, some are longer, while others are shorter, thus varying the amount of buses required to run at high frequencies and changing the total cost of operation. The calculations were based on the $8.5 million figure as a general average. Certainly, most of the routes I sketched out were of a long length, comparable to a King George B-Line.
One must not forget that these calculations exclude transit fares that Surrey contributes to the system. On average, the City maintains a 30% cost recovery on bus services, although rates are much higher on popular routes such as the 321 or 319.