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No mayor, no vote: UBC students criticize Translink structure

As The Tyee reported last week, Metro Vancouver politicians are concerned that a new ten-year funding plan for Translink is being developed without their input. However, for the University of British Columbia's student society, the real concern is that the 11,000 residents of the university and surrounding endowment lands will not be represented in the decision process at all.

Before Translink can adopt a plan that involves new funding sources, it must be approved by the Mayor's Council on Regional Transportation. The Council is the only way in which local politicians directly control the transportation authority, and it has very limited roles. It consists of municipal mayors and heads of First Nations within the region served by Translink.

For UBC residents, the problem is that they do not have a local elected government or mayor, and therefore do not have a representative on the Mayor's Council.

In response to last week's article, Tim Chu, the Vice President of External Affairs for the Alma Mater Society, UBC's student union, sent the following comments to The Tyee:

The Mayor's Council is missing a key piece of the puzzle - the University of British Columbia. The 10-year plan for Translink has such an enormous effect on Metro Vancouver and regional politicians should have a say on the plan; however, there are over 11,000 residents living on the UBC campus and surrounding area who are completely disenfranchised with the Translink's current governance structure. Despite projections of the campus population increasing threefold in ten years, UBC residents have no voice at the Mayor's Council.

The numbers definitely do not add up. The Municipality of Bowen Island only has 3,000 residents yet they are entitled to a seat on the Mayor's Council. UBC has a population of 11,000 and does not have a single representative. The most troubling issue is that UBC is not represented even though transit affects UBC to a great extent with over 50,000 commuters coming into the area daily and it is the second greatest transit destination in the region.

Translink's 10-year plan will affect us all and we definitely need the regional perspective to make the plan work for everyone. The Mayor's Council should have a say on the Translink plan, but the Mayor's Council also needs to make sure that all key players are involved—and that means including the 11,000 residents at the University of British Columbia.

Reached by phone, Chu explained that the Alma Mater Society would like to see an elected member of the Mayor's Council representing the campus and surrounding area.

“We feel that the Mayor's Council is probably the most appropriate body to include us into the Translink governance structure,” he said, although he noted that “obviously we have concerns about Translink's governance structure to begin with.”

A representative of the university administration would not be good enough, he added, because “a lot of students don't necessarily have a say in terms of UBC's administration.”

The university campus and endowment lands as well as some other unincorporated lands within the region (collectively known as Electoral Area A) are represented on the Metro Vancouver Board by a single elected director.

They do not otherwise have any elected local government -- services are provided by the region or the province, and the university has considerable control over land use planning.

Amelia Bellamy-Royds reports for The Tyee.

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