EXCLUSIVE: High car allowances for TransLink execs draws critics ire

While TransLink looks for millions of dollars for future transit projects, a Freedom of Information request by Global News shows the transportation authority is handing out substantial vehicle perks for seven executives.

According to the FOI, last year seven executives each received a monthly vehicle allowance of $950 to $1,200 to maintain their personal vehicles and get to their meetings.  When you include the executives parking expenses, the total bill equates to more than $94,000.

Critics are saying the car allowances are too high and encourage people to take their cars and abandon public transit.

“Some executives really need a $1,000 month in vehicle allowances? That seems like a ridiculous number,” says Jordan Bateman from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Most cars can be leased for much cheaper than that. There’s parking fees on top of that, it’s just really a head-scratching idea by these executives.”

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But TransLink vice president of communications, Colleen Brennan says the vehicle allowances are “the norm” and also in line with other organizations, in particular government agencies and Crown corporations.

“Having a vehicle is a requirement of the job when you’re an executive at TransLink because we serve a very large area,” Brennan told Global News.

“We have a number of meetings to get to, back-to-back meetings, so that’s a part of it.”

And yet another perk for the executives, which has critics shaking their heads, is the $100 a month given for a reserved parking stall located beneath TransLink’s new headquarters in New Westminster. Ironically the nearest Skytrain station, Sapperton, is located only blocks away from the transportation authority’s offices and is accessible via a covered walkway.

Bateman says this is a case of “do as I say, not as I do” from TransLink executives.

“I’m a big believer in leadership by example and TransLink just fails on that over and over again,” Bateman says.

“They already pay their executives far more than any other transit system in Canada pays theirs… and we’re talking about $95,000 split amongst seven people, who already all get paid more than $200,000 a year, one of whom gets more than $400,000 a year. They can afford to pay for their own vehicles.”

In September, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis made news when he made almost $84,000 in bonuses in 2013, which made his total compensation for the year $468,015. In comparison to the CEO of transit in Toronto, Andy Byford, who made $338,246 and Montreal’s Carl Desrosiers earned $327,369 plus benefits. In the United States, the transit general manager ¬†Neil McFarlane in Portland made $290,164 and Seattle King-County Metro CEO Kevin Desmond earned $191,375.

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NDP Transportation Critic George Haymen believes the TransLink executives shouldn’t have any allowances. Instead, it should be folded into their salary.

“[Salaries] should be open and it should be public,” Haymen says.

“There’s some irony that the transit system apparently doesn’t work well enough for Translink executives that they can get where they need to go from their offices in New Westminster, right next to the station.”

~ with files from Jordan Armstrong