TransLink is spending more than $100,000 extra each month until they find a subtenant for a lease they're locked into for the next six years.
Despite advocating austerity measures lately, TransLink has put itself in the position where it is not only paying the lease for its new New Westminster digs, it still has a lease with no subtenant at one of its Surrey office locations. In an effort to consolidate three head offices into one to save money, TransLink moved former offices in New Westminster, Burnaby and Surrey to its new location in Sapperton earlier this summer. Transit Police, TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company combined head offices in a 195,000-square-foot building in New Westminster's Brewery District. The previous combined rents were costing $9.6 million a year, and the former office space combined was 220,000 sq. ft.
The new head office in Sapperton is a 20-year lease, with the first year costing $6.8 million and the four subsequent years costing $8.6 million each, according to TransLink spokesperson Jiana Ling.
"The main reason to make the move was to consolidate everyone to save costs," she said. "We reviewed and adopted the best practice to create efficiencies and reduce travel time and improve productivity."
Ling also noted the realignment of the organization means having everyone under one roof improves collaboration between the different departments.
The landlord of the new space has given the transportation authority inducements of up to $10.5 million for the new space.
But that's where it ends for TransLink's savings in the move.
Two office spaces in Surrey have leases that do not expire until 2019, and only one of the locations has a subtenant.
The bus company's previous headquarters at Gateway Station has a base rent of $1.75 million a year, and TransLink is still searching for a subtenant.
"TransLink has been actively marketing and seeking subtenants," Ling told the Burnaby NOW. "A number of potential tenants have shown through and have expressed interest."
Ling said she could not provide a breakdown cost for the location as it could compromise TransLink's "negotiating position."
Although most of the bus company employees have vacated the space, a few still remain there, as well, Ling said. Also, the site has massive servers that are difficult to move.
"Certain departments are still at Gateway," she added. "For instance, our customer information department is still at Gateway. Mostly everyone from TransLink is here."
The lease at the Central City complex in Surrey also did not expire until 2019, but TransLink was able to find a subtenant.
However, the authority gave the new subtenant a $1.3 million inducement allowance, according to Ling.
One of the leased sites for Transit Police has expired. But the bus company's transit security and TransLink special projects departments now use the other former Transit Police location on Columbia Street in New Westminster.
Ling said TransLink's former head office space at Metrotown was vacated in June and the authority is required to pay about $389,000 for demolition work of the 82,000 sq. ft. space.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said it's shocking that TransLink still has a lease to pay in Surrey when the transit authority has known for a long time it would move into the new office this summer.
"TransLink could have simply said it would gradually consolidate all this space in one building," he said. "There's ways in which this could be done that might not suit the convenience of the bureaucrats but suits the convenience of the taxpayers' pocketbook."
Corrigan said the move does not make a lot of sense and it should have been openly debated to give the public a chance to have its say.
"They're supposed to be on an austerity campaign and prove they're doing what they're supposed to do," he noted. "The reality comes up that they've got leases in other buildings and they realize it'll cost a lot more than they thought, there's a lot more consequences, but they've made their mind up and nothing changes. ... It's simply a cost of them getting what they want. You really have to step back and wonder what is happening."
The Burnaby NOW attempted to contact Todd Stone, minister of transportation and infrastructure, but he was not available for comment.
A spokesperson for the ministry said "the upcoming transportation funding referendum will give taxpayers a say in how to pay for the transportation systems they rely on."
The referendum is slated to happen by the end of 2013.
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